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Isaac Bassett, by Freeman Thorp, 1876

The Senate honored long-serving Assistant Doorkeeper Isaac Bassett with this portrait. The painting was a testimonial of the senators' personal regard and appreciation. When he learned of the gift, Bassett proclaimed, "I must confess that I never was so embarrassed in my life before."

Collection of the U.S. Senate

Isaac Bassett, by Freeman Thorp, 1876

Eyewitness to History 1831-1895

Isaac Bassett walked the Senate halls for 64 years. Appointed a page in 1831 by Daniel Webster, Bassett served later as messenger and then as Assistant Doorkeeper before his death in 1895. In his later years, reporters and visitors often sought out the old man, eager to hear stories of the Senate's "golden era."

Bassett is famed for turning back the clock—literally—to let senators pass last-minute laws. His true legacy, however, is on paper. Planning to write a memoir, Bassett kept careful notes, clipped news items, and wrote short vignettes of people he'd met and events he'd seen. Bassett died before finishing it. Fortunately, the manuscript survives, a rare firsthand account of the 19th-century Senate.