A 400-pound gavel? The story of a symbol of congressional power and its heavy-handed abusers.Breaking News
tags: political history, Congressional history
When Nancy Pelosi became House speaker for the second time Thursday, her new power was symbolized by the gavel handed to her by the new minority leader.
In transferring the gavel — a mallet made of lacquered maple — the Republicans let go of one the oldest symbols of legislative power in Washington.
“In the speakership,” said Sam Rayburn, the Texas Democrat who held the office longer than anyone else, "the gavel becomes almost part of the office. It’s habit. Any gavel you use has a lot of sentiment attached.”
That is, until it is shattered.
Throughout American history, speakers have pounded their gavels so hard in search of order that — metaphor alert! — they wind up smashing the gavel itself into smithereens.
This is not the fault of the House carpentry shop, whose workers have diligently and expertly produced the mallets for decades, but rather a legislative process that often veered out of control in a world before microphones.
comments powered by Disqus
- What Happens When SCOTUS is This Unpopular?
- Eve Babitz's Archive Reveals the Person Behind the Persona
- Making a Uranium Ghost Town
- Choosing History—A Rejoinder to William Baude on The Use of History at SCOTUS
- Alexandria, VA Freedom House Museum Reopens, Making Key Site of Slave Trade a Center for Black History
- Primary Source: Winning World War 1 By Fighting Waste at the Grocery Counter
- The Presidential Records Act Explains How the FBI Knew What to Search For at Mar-a-Lago
- Theocracy Now! The Forgotten Influence of L. Brent Bozell on the Right
- Janice Longone, Chronicler of American Food Traditions
- Revisiting Lady Rochford and Her Alleged Betrayal of Anne Boleyn