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Safe, U.S. Senate Financial Clerk


TitleSafe, U.S. Senate Financial Clerk
Artist/MakerHall's Safe and Lock Company
Date1870-1880 ca.
MediumIron, nickel, brass, inlaid wood interior
Dimensions h. 70 x  w. 48 x  d. 28 in. ( h. 177.8 x  w. 121.9 x  d. 71.1 cm)
Credit LineU.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number51.00024.000


  • Object Description
  • In 1880, the U.S. Senate purchased this safe from the Cincinnati, Ohio firm of Hall's Safe and Lock Company for $1,270. The secretary of the Senate's financial clerk secured payrolls and other valuables for the Senate for more than half a century in this nearly six-foot high and four-foot wide safe.

    Hall's advertised its safes as fire and burglar proof. The model purchased by the Senate features an advanced keyless permutation lock patented in 1870 that operates with a sequence of letters, numbers, or symbols. Its massive door protects a spacious interior with a secondary interior safe, shelves, drawers, slots, and cash racks for storage. Four wheels allow the hefty unit to be rolled.

    Both the interior and exterior of the safe are highly ornamented in late 19th-century style with etched metal, inlaid wood, as well as painted and gilded surface ornamentation. "United States Senate" in gilded lettering runs across the front of the safe, and the back is adorned with a custom-painted medallion of Justice, Liberty, and Legislation surmounted by an eagle—a depiction of the Senate seal of that day.

    Until the 1970s, the secretary's financial clerk paid Senate employees in cash, necessitating the storage of large sums of money. The Hall's safe was likely used until 1935, when the Senate Financial Room relocated from room S-224 of the U.S. Capitol to room S-233 and a new safe was purchased. The Hall's safe was auctioned as excess property in the 1970s. In 2008, after being stored in the owner's garage for nearly thirty years, the four-ton safe was offered to the Senate.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
  • Inscription (verso, top right to center): HALL'S / SAFE & LOCK CO. / NEW YORK / AND / CINCINNATI; and (recto, top center, in gold paint) UNITED STATES