This chair is one of a set of 262 commissioned in 1857 for the newly-renovated chamber of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Capitol. The interior renovations were part of architect Thomas U. Walter's extensive expansion of the Capitol building from 1851 to 1865. Designed by Quartermaster-General Montgomery C. Meigs, the chairs were manufactured by both the Bembe and Kimmel Company of New York and the Hammitt Desk Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. This chair is identical to two others that sold at Christie's New York, June 22, 1994, lot 277 and October 21, 1994, lot 95. All three chairs can be attributed to the same company, either Bembe and Kimmel or Hammitt Desk Manufacturing Company.
Two additional chairs represent the work of another company and feature minor variations in the proportions of the shield in the crest rail, the shape of the top of the stiles, and the treatment of the molded arm supports and handholds. One of these examples was sold at Christie's New York, January 25, 1986, lot 360. Another example is in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum and is illustrated in Robert Bishop, Centuries and Styles of the American Chair 1640-1970 (New York, 1972), p. 395, fig. 690).
In 1859 the House of Representatives sold chairs from the collection at public auction where several were purchased by the well-known Washington photographers Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner for use in portraits. In 1860, Brady photographed Abraham Lincoln seated in one of these chairs, and the portrait is illustrated by Robert Bishop (Ibid., p. 394, fig. 687).