Updated July 8, 2020.
It’s Museum Monday! If you’ve been to the United States Capitol before, you know it’s not only a Federal Government building, it’s also a big museum. From statues to artwork to artifacts, there is a lot to take in! Each state in the Union has contributed to the museum that is the U.S. Capitol Building over the years, and since my home state is Tennessee, I wanted to give it the spotlight today! I recently got together with a Tennessee Congressperson’s office for a special tour of Tennessee’s part in the U.S. Capitol. Come see what we found!
Every state has contributed at least two statues to the U.S. Capitol to be displayed for all to see, but Tennessee has a sneaky few extra ties to statues from other states as well! Here’s the rundown of Tennessee’s statues… and then some.
Andrew Jackson, “Old Hickory”
I have a great admiration for General Andrew Jackson, also known as “Old Hickory.” Not only is he the hero of the Battle of New Orleans and the only president under whom the United States operated with a balanced budget, he also beat a would-be assassin with his cane–and won. He was also just 12 during the American Revolution when he was captured by the British for acting as a courier for the American Military, making him the only president who was formerly a prisoner of war. He was a pretty awesome. And he earned his place in the Capitol.
General John Sevier was the first governor of the state of Tennessee, U.S. Senator, and U.S. Representative. He and Andrew Jackson developed a bit of a rivalry, but now they both silently occupy the Capitol on their own merit, and things are a little more peaceful between them. He was also a trustee of what is now the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Fun fact: I went to high school in Tennessee with a Sevier descendant!
Surprise! Sam Houston earned his place in the U.S. Capitol on behalf of Texas, but he was from Tennessee and served under General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812. In fact, he was Governor of Tennessee from 1827-1829!
James K. Polk was a member of the House of Representatives and Speaker of the House before he became president, and there is a plaque in the floor of the Old House of Representatives marking the place where his desk was located.
East Tennessee has a pink-hued limestone that has been labeled “pink marble,” and it has been used all over D.C.–including the Visitors’ Center at the U.S. Capitol! It polishes easily and is such a unique color, so when you walk in, don’t forget to look down!
Assassination Attempt on Jackson
The first assassination attempted on a U.S. President happened here at the U.S. Capitol, and it happened to Andrew Jackson in January 1835. President Jackson was walking out of the Capitol’s East Portico (the side facing the National Mall) after a Congressman’s funeral. A man named Richard Lawrence pulled out a gun, only for it to misfire. He pulled out a second gun, which also misfired.
These were the days before the Secret Service, so Jackson had to fend for himself. He charged toward Lawrence and beat the man with his cane! Tennessee Representative Davy Crockett and a Navy Lieutenant subdued Lawrence quickly thereafter. For more info on this account, click here.
Want to visit for yourself? Check out How to Visit the U.S. Capitol!
If you’re a fellow Tennessean, I hope this post made you swell with pride! If you’re from any of the other 49 states, I hope you will take some time to ask about your state’s contributions on your next visit to the U.S. Capitol!
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