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National Statuary Hall Collection

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National Statuary Hall Collection

The National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol comprises statues donated by individual states to honor persons notable in their history. Originally set up in the old Hall of the House of Representatives, renamed National Statuary Hall, the expanding collection has since been spread throughout the Capitol.

With the addition of New Mexico's second statue in 2005, the collection is now complete with 100 statues contributed by 50 states. Alabama, California, Kansas, and Michigan each replaced one of their first two statues a few years after Congress authorized replacements.

A special act of Congress, Pub.L. 109–116, signed on December 1, 2005, directed the Joint Committee on the Library to obtain a statue of Rosa Parks and to place the statue in the United States Capitol in National Statuary Hall in a suitable permanent location. On February 27, 2013 Parks became the first African American woman to have her likeness in Hall.



The concept of a National Statuary Hall originated in the middle of the nineteenth century, even before the completion of the present House wing in 1857. At that time, the House of Representatives moved into its new larger chamber and the old vacant chamber became a thoroughfare between the Rotunda and the House wing. Suggestions for the use of the chamber were made as early as 1853 by Gouverneur Kemble, a former member of the House, who pressed for its use as a gallery of historical paintings. The space between the columns seemed too limited for this purpose, but it was well suited for the display of busts and statuary.

On April 19, 1864, Representative Justin S. Morrill asked: "To what end more useful or grand, and at the same time simple and inexpensive, can we devote it [the Chamber] than to ordain that it shall be set apart for the reception of such statuary as each State shall elect to be deserving of in this lasting commemoration?" His proposal to create a National Statuary Hall became law on July 2, 1864:

[...] the President is hereby authorized to invite each and all the States to provide and furnish statues, in marble or bronze, not exceeding two in number for each State, of deceased persons who have been citizens thereof, and illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services such as each State may deem to be worthy of this national commemoration; and when so furnished the same shall be placed in the Old Hall of the House of Representatives, in the Capitol of the United States, which is set apart, or so much thereof as may be necessary, as a national statuary hall for the purpose herein indicated.

Originally, all state statues were placed in National Statuary Hall. However, the aesthetic appearance of the Hall began to suffer from overcrowding until, in 1933, the situation became unbearable. At that time the Hall held 65 statues, which stood, in some cases, three deep. More important, the structure of the chamber would not support the weight of any more statues. Therefore, in 1933 Congress passed a resolution that:

the Architect of the Capitol, upon the approval of the Joint Committee on the Library, with the advice of the Commission of Fine Arts, is hereby authorized and directed to relocate within the Capitol any of the statues already received and placed in Statuary Hall, and to provide for the reception and location of the statues received hereafter from the States.
Under authority of this resolution it was decided that only one statue from each state should be placed in Statuary Hall. The others would be given prominent locations in designated areas and corridors of the Capitol. A second rearrangement of the statues was made in 1976 by authorization of the Joint Committee on the Library. To improve the crowded appearance of the collection, thirty-eight statues were rearranged in Statuary Hall according to height and material. Statues representing ten of the thirteen original colonies were moved to the Central Hall of the East Front Extension on the first floor of the Capitol. The remainder of the statues were distributed throughout the Capitol, mainly in the Hall of Columns and the connecting corridors of the House and Senate wings. Legislation was introduced in 2005 that would authorize the collection to include one statue from each U.S. Territory, and another bill introduced in 2010 provides for participation by the District of Columbia.

Each statue is the gift of a state, not of an individual or group of citizens. Proceedings for the donation of a statue usually begin in the state legislature with the enactment of a resolution that names the citizen to be commemorated and cites his or her qualifications, specifies a committee or commission to represent the state in selecting the sculptor, and provides for a method of obtaining the necessary funds to carry the resolution into effect. In recent years, the statues have been unveiled during ceremonies in the Rotunda and displayed there for up to six months. They are then moved to a permanent location approved by the Joint Committee on the Library. An act of Congress (2 U.S.C. § 2132), enacted in 2000, permits states to provide replacements and repossess the earlier one.

Replacement of statues

A 2003 change in the law allows a state to remove a previously placed statue from the collection and replace it with another. Since this change, four states have replaced statues, and two others are in the process of doing so:

Kansas replaced its statue of George Glick with one of Dwight D. Eisenhower in 2003. The Glick statue now resides at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka.
George W. Glick, Governor

Currently Kansas has plans to replace John James Ingalls with Amelia Earhart.

California replaced its statue of Thomas Starr King with one of Ronald Reagan in 2009. The King statue now stands in the California State Capitol in Sacramento." Rev. Thomas Starr King

Alabama replaced its statue of Jabez Curry with one of Helen Keller. The Curry statue now resides at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Jabez L. M. Curry, U.S. Congress

Michigan replaced its statue of Zachariah Chandler with one of Gerald Ford in 2011. The Chandler statue is now in the atrium of Constitution Hall in Lansing, Michigan. Zachariah Chandler, Mayor, U.S. Senator and Secretary of the Interior

Ohio is replacing its statue of William Allen. A panel recommended Thomas Edison to be the subject after a public vote.

Iowa is replacing its statue of James Harlan with one of Norman Borlaug, who is considered the founder of the Green Revolution.

Sculptor Charles Niehaus had more sculptures in the collection (eight) than any other artist. Even though his Allen and Chandler statues were replaced, Niehaus's six remaining works is still a record.