Presiding over the Hall, Carlo Franzoni's 1819 sculptural
chariot clock, the Car of History depicts
Clio, the Greek
muse of history.
The National Statuary Hall Collection in the
United States Capitol is composed of statues donated by individual states to honor persons notable in their history. Limited to two statues per state, the collection was originally set up in the old Hall of the
House of Representatives, which was then renamed
National Statuary Hall. The expanding collection has since been spread throughout the Capitol and its Visitor's Center.
With the addition of New Mexico's second statue in 2005, the collection is now complete with 100 statues contributed by 50 states, plus two from the
District of Columbia, and one for all the states, a statue of
Rosa Parks. Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, and Ohio have each replaced one of their first two statues after Congress authorized replacements in 2000. In 2022, Kansas became the first state to replace both of its statues; it will soon be joined by Arkansas and Nebraska.
The concept of a National Statuary Hall originated in the middle of the nineteenth century, 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.
Cliff Fragua, right, poses at the unveiling and dedication of the Po'pay statue in September 2005. The statue is the 100th in the collection.
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
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:
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; it did not pass.
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.
special actArchived March 12, 2021, at the
Wayback Machine of Congress,
Pub. L.109–116 (text)(PDF), signed on December 1, 2005, directed the Joint Committee on the Library to obtain a
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 the Hall. Though located in Statuary Hall, Parks' statue is not part of the Collection; neither Alabama (her birth state) nor Michigan (where she lived most of her later years) commissioned it, and both states are represented in the Collection by other statues.
In 2002, Delegate
Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a bill in Congress to allow the
District of Columbia to place two statues in the collection, in parity with the 50 states. While the bill was not enacted, the district commissioned two statues, one of abolitionist
Frederick Douglass, the other of D.C. master planner
Pierre L'Enfant, and housed them in
One Judiciary Square in hopes of eventually placing them in the Capitol. A 2010 version of the bill to accept D.C.'s statues stalled after House Republicans began adding amendments in an attempt to soften D.C.'s gun laws. A 2012 compromise bill led to the placement of the statue of Douglass, but not L'Enfant, on June 19, 2013. Norton continued to pursue legislation to move the second statue to the Capitol. The statue of L'Enfant was later placed in the Capitol in February 2022.
national debates about Confederate statues and monuments, Democrats in Congress introduced bills in 2017 to remove statues of people who served in the Confederacy from the National Statuary Hall Collection, but the legislation made no progress. Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia have passed resolutions to remove statues of individuals with Confederate ties, although Alabama retained a second statue of a Confederate veteran. North Carolina and Arkansas have authorized replacing statues of
Jim Crow-era politicians with racist views.
Dennis Chávez, the first person of Hispanic descent to be elected to a full term in the U.S. Senate, represents New Mexico. Saint
Junípero Serra, born in
Spain, was a Spanish-era founder of the California mission system.
A 2000 change in the law allows a state to remove a previously placed statue from the collection and replace it with another. Since then, eight states have replaced statues and other states have either considered or passed legislation calling for replacing one or both of their statues.
its statue of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith with
one of the African-American
civil rights activist and educator
Mary McLeod Bethune on July 13, 2022, pursuant to a 2018 state law. The Smith statue was to have been moved to the
Lake County Historical Museum in
Tavares, after residents of
St. Augustine, his birthplace, expressed no interest. However, at a County Commission meeting on July 24, 2018, about 24 residents spoke against, and none in favor, of bringing the statue to Lake County. Chairman Sullivan assured the crowd that the commission would tell the Historical Museum "that there is no longer a want or desire to bring this statue to Lake County".
Kansas replaced its
statue of George Washington Glick with
Dwight D. Eisenhower in 2003. The Glick statue now resides at the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka. Almost 20 years later, in 2022, the Kansas legislature approved replacing the
John James Ingalls with
one of female aviation pioneer
Amelia Earhart in the same 1999 resolution that authorized replacing their statue of George Washington Glick with one of Eisenhower, but progress on the project was stalled by funding and paperwork delays. The Ingalls statue was replaced overnight on July 26 and the Earhart statue was unveiled on July 27 of the same year. It is unknown what will happen with the Ingalls statue now.
Nebraska: In 2018, the Nebraska legislature passed LB 807, calling for the replacement of both of the state's statues, which date to 1937. The statue of
J. Sterling Morton is to be replaced with one of novelist
Willa Cather. Sculptor
Littleton Alston was commissioned to create the Cather statue, with installation planned for May 2020.
North Carolina: On October 2, 2015, North Carolina governor
Pat McCrory signed a bill replacing the
Charles Aycock with one of Reverend
Billy Graham. However, the replacement was delayed because the statues must represent deceased individuals; Reverend Graham did not die until February 2018. One week after Graham's death, McCrory's successor,
Roy Cooper, submitted a formal request for replacement of the Aycock statue. The North Carolina Statuary Hall Selection Committee issued a request for proposals for the statue indicating a desired completion date of September 2020.
Virginia: A state commission suggested to the Governor to replace Virginia's
Robert E. Lee with one of civil rights activist
Barbara Johns in December 2020. The statue of Lee was removed on December 21, 2020, and the installation of Barbara Johns's statue is pending.
Washington: Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill in April 2021 that starts the process to replace Washington's
Marcus Whitman statue with one of
Billy Frank Jr.
Considered for replacement
California: A resolution to replace California's
Junípero Serra with one of astronaut
Sally Ride passed the state senate in April 2015, but the vote in the state assembly was placed on hold as the date for Serra's canonization as a saint approached. Governor
Jerry Brown declared in July 2015 that the Serra statue would stay in the Capitol "until the end of time."