The Senate
of 1860
In July 1860, Mathew Brady used his trademark method to create composite portraits of the Senate and the House of Representatives of the Thirty-sixth Congress. On a five-by-six-foot board, he assembled portraits of the members of each group in concentric circles, with the appropriate official at the center: Vice President John C. Breckinridge for the Senate and Speaker William Pennington for the House. Brady then photographed each construction and sold the resulting prints for five dollars each. For its first audiences, this chaotic mosaic of unrelated heads and features accurately reflected the discordant government on the eve of secession. As the New York Times reported, "We have before us the actors in the political drama now enacting on the federal stage, grouped with all the stars, stock and supernumerary performers. . . . We see them in contrast with each other, and never tire of the study."

Mathew Brady Studio
Albumen print
44 x 36.5 cm (17 5/16 x 14 3/8 inches) sheet size
1198.0006 (165-CO-68)
National Archives & Records Administration