This six-arm gas chandelier made by the Philadelphia firm of Cornelius & Baker in 1859 features military figures, helmets, breast plates, shields, weapons, dragons, and olive branches. Popular stereoviews, which document the U.S. Capitol in the mid-1800s, show the same model chandelier hanging in the Senate extension.
Historically, the Capitol was illuminated by natural light, candles, and oil-burning fixtures. When the Senate extension was built in the 1850s, interior gas lighting was fast becoming the national standard, and rooms and corridors were outfitted with gas pipes and light fixtures. In keeping with Victorian taste, these fixtures often combined embellishments such as statuettes, animals, mythical beasts, scrolling foliage, draped chains with pendants, and etched glass globes which were necessary to temper the harsh light from the gas jets. Decorative finishes, meant to mimic metals such as brass, bronze, copper, and silver, added complexity and reflected the flickering light of the gas flame.
To illuminate the new Senate extension, over 145 gas-burning chandeliers were purchased and installed by January 4, 1860, when the Senate officially occupied the newly constructed wing of the Capitol. All of the fixtures came from Cornelius & Baker, which was the largest manufacturer of gas fixtures in the United States and renowned for its high-quality lighting fixtures.