The United States Capitol

Object Details


The United States Capitol


John Plumbe, Jr. (American, born United Kingdom, 1809 - 1857)








8.9 x 11.9 cm (3 1/2 x 4 11/16 in.)

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"Mr. Plumbe's National Daguerrian Gallery at Concert establishment whose superior merits are well deserving the notice of all who feel an interest in the beautiful art of now engaged in taking views of all the public buildings," read the United States Journal newspaper in January 1846. By February, another Washington, D.C. paper noted that "Views of the Capitol...embellish the walls [of John Plumbe's gallery] and are the subject of universal commendation."

Plumbe's three views of the United States Capitol form its first photographic record. Here it is shown in an oblique view of the east front, with the White House visible in the far distance at the right. The Capitol, whose original building was begun in 1791 and took thirty-four years to construct, stands at the intersection of Pennsylvania, Constitution, and Independence Avenues. When Plumbe photographed it in the 1840s, before extensive expansions had begun, it was a relatively simple building but one that had already been altered by at least four architects. The early wings that then housed the House of Representatives and the Senate presently serve to connect the chambers with the central rotunda.