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Congressmen Who Signed Thirteenth Amendment Abolishing Slavery
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Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,...shall exist within the United States....

[THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT]. Photomontage of the Congressional supporters of the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States. Composite oval albumen photograph, 13¾ x 16 in., credited in negative, on the original mount, 18⅛ x 20¼ in. New York: G. M. Powell and Co., 1865. Manuscript annotation on verso: “George May Powell / Great National Picture / Photograph of Members of United States House of Representatives and the Senate who voted Aye on Resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States so as to prohibit slavery. Passed Senate April 1864. Passed House of Representatives January 1866 [1865]. Abraham Lincoln – president.”

Inventory #27106       Price: $1,950

This intriguing composite photograph depicts the Senators and Congressmen who voted in favor of the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as well as President Abraham Lincoln (bottom center) and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin (top center). In the center is Speaker of the House Schuyler Colfax of Indiana, surrounded by individual images of members of the House of Representatives. In two outer ovals appear individual images of the Senators who voted for the Amendment.

When the Amendment passed Congress, Schuyler Colfax signed the amendment as Speaker of the House, and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin signed it as the President of the Senate. Colfax considered February 1, 1865, the day he signed the House resolution, the happiest day of his life. Although he did not need to do so, President Abraham Lincoln added his approval and signature on February 1, making it the only successful amendment signed by a U.S. President.

This composite photograph was available as early as August 1865, when Powell was advertising for male and female “canvassers” to sell it, promising earnings as high as $125 to $200 per month. It became very popular as “The Great National Picture” and the “Anti-Slavery Constitutional Amendment Picture.” Hailed by The Liberator as “a triumph of art,” the editors insisted that it “should be framed by every loyal family.”[1]

This composite photograph was still offered for sale at the National Fair in Washington, D.C. in June 1866. A local newspaper declared, “The likenesses are excellent, and as the picture is patented and not for sale at other places of resort in this city, it would be wise for all interested in it to avail themselves of this opportunity to secure a great national historical picture, interesting not for the present only but also for all time.” A Massachusetts newspaper praised it a few months later as “an elegant parlor ornament.”[2]

Historical Background
As the culmination of wartime measures against slavery, the Thirteenth Amendment completed the destruction of slavery in the United States. Passed by the U.S. Senate in April 1864, it did not pass the House of Representatives until January 31, 1865, by a lame-duck session of the 38th Congress before many members gave up their seats to new members in March 1865. Fearing that his Emancipation Proclamation might not withstand a legal challenge, President Abraham Lincoln urged the House to pass the amendment in his December 6, 1864, annual message, and he lobbied several members directly to support the measure. On January 31, 1865, the amendment passed the House by a vote of 119 to 56, with 8 members abstaining, meeting the required two-thirds majority by only two votes. Speaker of House Colfax announced, “The constitutional majority of two thirds having voted in the affirmative, the Joint Resolution is passed.” After Colfax’s announcement, “a moment of silence succeeded, and then, from floor and galleries, burst a simultaneous shout of joy and triumph, spontaneous, irrepressible and uncontrollable, swelling and prolonged in one vast volume of reverberating thunder....” 

Secretary of State William H. Seward forwarded this amendment to the states on February 1. Eighteen states ratified the amendment in February 1865, and when Georgia became in December 1865, the twenty-seventh state to ratify, the Thirteenth Amendment became part of the U.S. Constitution.

Several commemorative copies of the Thirteenth Amendment were created and signed by various combinations of Senators and Congressmen, and at least eleven were signed by Lincoln as well. There are no known copies signed by each of the 38 Senators and 119 Congressmen who voted for the amendment. For a census of signed copies, see our website.

For brief biographical sketches of all Senators and Congressmen who voted for the Thirteenth Amendment, see our website.

George May Powell (1835-1905) was born in New York. He worked as a statistician in the Treasury Department during the Civil War and served in one of the Washington, D.C. militia regiments composed of government employees. His 1863 essay “Facts and Figures for the Hour” favorably compared American wartime excise taxes with those of other countries at peace, and became an 1864 Republican campaign document. He was also an inventor, developing new weaponry and camp equipment during the Civil War, and helping to provide prosthetics for Civil War veterans after the war. In 1868, he founded the Evangelistic Press Association, for which he served as secretary and manager. Powell became involved in several publishing companies and social reform issues. In 1873, he led a topographical corps to Egypt and Palestine to create Sunday School maps, and the following year, he organized the American Forestry Commission. In 1881, he married Martha B. Hughes (1857-1921). He ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the Prohibition Party ticket. He was also active in the temperance, Sabbath, and international peace movements.

Condition: Scattered dots of toning on mount; high contrast image with excellent clarity.

[1] New-York Daily Tribune, August 3, 1865, 3:4; The Liberator (Boston), November 10, 1865, 180:4.

[2] Daily Morning Chronicle (Washington, DC), June 22, 1866, 2:5; Waltham Free Press (MA), December 7, 1866, 2:5.

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