Dome Restoration Project Necessitates Rotunda Closure April 12 through April 28. Click here for more information.
"... a slow-moving giant hulk of a barge ... a form dressed completely in black, out of whose collar rose an enormous round, clean-shaven baby face." A ghost haunting the House? No, that's how a colleague described Representative Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine.
Reed revered the House, dismissing the Senate as "a place where good Representatives go when they die." During the 1880s, he complained about the inability of any House majority to act. But as Speaker, Reed foiled long-established delaying tactics by calmly ruling against members trying to stall the proceedings. Members feared Reed's quick, acid tongue in debate. His rulings once provoked a near riot on the floor, but his efforts made the Speaker once again the House's moving force and allowed the House to act.
"In my opinion there never has been a more perfectly equipped leader in any parliamentary body at any period."
— Senator Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts, recalling House Speaker Thomas Reed, 1910
Unhappy with his work, Sargent confessed, "I could have made a better picture with a much less remarkable man."
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
An 1890 cartoon lampoons Speaker Reed as an autocratic king extinguishing debate in the House.
Brown Brothers, Sterling, PA
Speaker Reed redefined and enforced the rules of the House. He is depicted here as a ringmaster restraining two of his most vocal adversaries, Democratic Representative James Hamilton Lewis of Washington, and Populist Representative Jerry Simpson of Kansas.
Collection of the U.S. Senate, Center for Legislative Archives