These chairs are believed to be from the set of 262 chairs commissioned by Congress and designed by Quartermaster-General Montgomery C. Meigs in 1857 for the newly-renovated chamber of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Capitol. The chairs were manufactured by either Bembe and Kimbel in New York or the Hammitt Desk Mfg. Co. in Philadelphia. The interior renovations were part of the extensive expansion of the U.S. Capitol from 1851-1865 by the architect Thomas U. Walter.
In 1859, the House of Representatives sold these chairs at public auction. Several were purchased by the well-known Washington photographers Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner for use in portraits. In 1860, Brady photographed Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad in one of the chairs.