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Hon. Selucius Garfielde
Hon. Selucius Garfielde
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpbh.00410
Representative Martha Griffiths
Representative Martha Griffiths
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.02968

Pictures of Congress: An Overview

Prints and Photographs Division



Introduction

The Prints & Photographs Division has many photographs, prints, and cartoons depicting past members of Congress. The images were acquired primarily through copyright deposit, gift, and transfers from other units of the Library of Congress, including from papers held by the Library of Congress Manuscript Division. The division generally does not receive images directly from Congress.

The collections include relatively few portraits of Congressmen who served before 1850 and generally do not include photographs from the current Congress. Pictures of Congressional hearings can be found in the Harris & Ewing Collection (1930s-1940s) and in the CQ/Roll Call Collection (1990s), but are otherwise sparse and generally not specifically identified.

This reference aid provides search tips for locating images of individual Congress people and group portraits. It highlights Prints & Photographs Division collections that are particularly strong for such images and suggests additional sources for locating portraits.

Search Tips

Virginia Delegation (50th Congress)
Virginia Delegation (50th Congress)
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b35391

Not all images of Congress people are digitized or individually described. In the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, some images are described item by item, while others are described in groups.

Generally, making a visit to the Prints & Photographs Reading Room is the best means for reviewing the holdings for relevant images. (See our "Information for Researchers" document for information about visiting the reading room and service from a distance.)

Gathering biographical information about the individual can be helpful in searching for images, especially: variant names, state represented, dates in office, key legislation in which the person participated, and activities in which he or she engaged. As individuals are not always identified in photographs showing activities, it is helpful to have an identified portrait, possibly from a published source, to use as visual reference in order to recognize the individual in question.

Even when images have been individually described, many descriptions rely heavily on information that is on or with the image; full names and dates are not always present in the description. When searching the online catalog, start by searching the person's first and last name. You may find additional images by using these techniques:

  • Try searching the person's last name paired with the appropriate title and its abbreviation:
    • Senator (Sen.) (example: Sen. Cameron)
    • Representative (Rep.) (example: Rep. Butler)
    • Honorable (Hon.) (example: Hon. Chas. Randall--including the spelled-out name "Charles" in your search would not retrieve the items where his name was abbreviated)
    • Congressman/Congresswoman
  • Try searching by the person's title and the state he or she represented. Occasionally a photo will omit the person’s name entirely and just list their title and the state they represented (example: Senator from New York)
  • Try the subject heading “legislator” sometimes followed by "United States" or the name of the state the person represented.
  • Try looking for a group or composite photo (they do not always identify everyone pictured).
    • Search for the particular session using both the numeral and number spelled out (i.e. 55th Congress and Fifty-Fifth Congress) because either may be used.
  • If your search brings up too many images, including a year with the search terms can help narrow down the results.

Selected Collections

Mr. Morse of Massachusetts. Drawing by Thomas Nast, published 1890
Mr. Morse of Massachusetts. Drawing by Thomas Nast, published 1890.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3b15014

These Prints & Photographs Division collections are particularly strong for images of Senators and Representatives. They are listed in rough chronological order. Beside each collection name is the time span for which it is strongest. Links to further descriptions of the collections are included.

  • Biographical File (1800-1950) - Original and copy photographs and prints, filed by the individual's last name. A section at the end of the file, for group portraits, includes some items field as "Biog--Group Portraits--Legislators" [view catalog record]
  • Cartoon collections - Relevant collections Include Cartoon Prints, American (bulk 1780s-1870s); Cartoon Drawings (1880-1980); Herblock Collection (1946-2001).
  • LOT 7011 [Graphics File] (1780s-1880s)--Originals and copies of non-photographic images pertaining to the Congress of the United States from its inception to about 1880. [view catalog record]
  • Brady-Handy Collection (1855-1910, bulk 1860-1880) - Photographs made and collected by the studios of Mathew B. Brady and his nephew Levin C. Handy. Searching by last name, without a first name, sometimes yields more comprehensive results. [view collection information/search]
    Senators Andrieus Jones, Gov. Frank Lowden, Sen. Medill McCormick, Sen. Henry W. Keyes. Photo by National Photo Co., ca. 1919.
    Senators Andrieus Jones, Gov. Frank Lowden, Sen. Medill McCormick, Sen. Henry W. Keyes. Photo by National Photo Co., ca. 1919.
    http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/npcc.00576
  • C.M. Bell Collection (1873-ca. 1916) - Photographs by a Washington, D.C. studio. The collection is primarily composed of glass negatives. The negatives are being digitized (2014); current access is through microfilm. [view catalog record]
  • National Photo Company Collection (1850-1945; bulk 1909-1932) - Photographs made and collected by a Washington, D.C., news photo service. Searching by last name, without a first name, sometimes yields more comprehensive results. [view collection information/search]
  • McClees' Gallery of Photographic Portraits of the Senators, Representatives & Delegates of the Thirty-fifth Congress (1859) [JK1012 .M35 1859 Case X - served by appointment, only]. [view catalog record; view individual images]
  • George Grantham Bain Collection (1860-1937, bulk 1910-1920) - Photographs made and collected by a New York City news photo service. [view collection information/search]
  • Specific Subjects File ( 1850-1980, bulk 1870-1960) - Original and copy photographs. Some filed under the heading: Congress, U.S. [view catalog record]
  • Senators Albert Barkley, Prentiss Brown, and James Byrnes with Vice President Jack Garner, seated. Photo by Harris & Ewing, ca. 1938
    Senators Albert Barkley, Prentiss Brown, and James Byrnes with Vice President Jack Garner, seated. Photo by Harris & Ewing, ca. 1938.
    http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hec.24748
    Harris & Ewing Collection (1905-1945) - Photographs made by a Washington, D.C., studio. Searching by last name, without a first name, sometimes yields more comprehensive results. Includes congressional activities. [view collection information/search]
  • New York World-Telegram & Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (1880-1967, bulk 1920-1967) - Photographs and illustrations made and collected by a New York City newspaper. Images that are online are primarily those for which researchers have purchased reproductions. Original images are stored off site and are retrieved by consulting an in-house finding aid and submitting a paper call slip. Five days advance notice generally required to view originals. In the Biographical section of the finding aid, search by last name of the individual. In the Subject/Geographical section, see the heading: United States--Congress--House or Senate [view collection overview]
  • Congressional Portrait Photograph Collection (1940 -1979) - Portraits of 1,200 individuals. The U.S. Congress Joint Committee on Printing assembled the images to illustrate the Congressional Pictorial Directory, also called the Pocket Congressional Directory. No members after the 95th Congress (1977) are included. [view catalog record]
  • Yanker Poster Collection (primarily 1960s-1980s) - Includes some campaign posters for candidates for House and Senate, searchable by their names and by "United States" and "Legislators." [view collection information/search]
  • Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm announcing her candidacy for presidential nomination. Photo by Thomas J. O'Halloran (U.S. News & World Rerpot), 1972 Jan. 25.
    Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm announcing her candidacy for presidential nomination. Photo by Thomas J. O'Halloran (U.S. News & World Report), 1972 Jan. 25.
    http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsc.01264
    U.S. News & World Report (1952-1986, bulk 1955-1979) - Photographs made and collected by the magazine. Images that are online are primarily those for which researchers have purchased reproductions. Original images are on site. Consult the accompany card index by last name to locate relevant "job" numbers. Jobs are stored in the reading room, usually as black-and-white contact sheets. [view collection overview]
  • CQ/Roll Call Photograph Collection (1987-2000) - Photographs made and collected by Congressional Quarterly and Roll Call, including Congressional activities, as well as portraits. Catalog records for Roll Call photo assignments can be searched in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog by including "roll call" in the search, and contact sheets can be viewed in the reading room. Congressional Quarterly images are still being prepared for public service (2015) [view catalog record]
  • Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg Collection - "How They Changed Our Lives: Senators as Working People" (2006-2009) - Portraits of United States senators paired with textual summaries of key bills they passed. One hundred of the senators were active in the 109th Congress (2005-2007), with 13 portraits added for new members in the 110th Congress (2007-2009). [view catalog record; view collection overview]

Supplementary Indexes and Finding Tools in the Reading Room

  • Biographical Index (1800-1950 bulk) - A card index in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room that lists images found in the division's Biographical File and elsewhere in the division's holdings.
  • ALA Portrait Index - An index to portraits published in 1,181 books and periodicals. Useful for locating published portraits of congressmen who were in office in the 18th or 19th centuries. Full citation: Browne, A.L.A. Portrait Index: Index to Portraits Contained In Printed Books And Periodicals. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906. The index is available online via the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/alaportraitindex00lane and via the HathiTrust.org: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/004478929?type[]=all&lookfor[]=a.l.a.%20portrait%20index&ft=ft. The publications it indexes are also sometimes available through HathiTrust.org and other full text databases.

Rights Information

Rights to the images vary. Please consult our Rights and Restrictions Information page for guidance on assessing rights and risks of using an image from Prints & Photographs Division holdings, and for rights information for specific collections.

Related Resources - Other Institutions' Collections, Web Sites, and Reference Tools


Compiled by: Jonathan Eaker, Reference Assistant, August 2014; last updated: January 2015.
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  February 4, 2021
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