Item #7234 The Electoral Commission. From the Original Painting. . . Fassett, photog., artist C. Adéle Fassett, amuel, ontague.
The Electoral Commission. From the Original Painting.
The Electoral Commission. From the Original Painting.

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The Electoral Commission. From the Original Painting.

Washington D.C., 1878. Gedney, photo-lith., 466 Penn. Ave. Washington D.C. Albumen print, 4.2” x 5”, plus margins. CONDITION: Very good.

A scarce photograph of Cornelia Adele Fassett’s noted painting of the meeting of the Electoral Commission of 1877, accompanied by a broadside key.

The 1877 Electoral Commission was a temporary body created by Congress to resolve the disputed 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. Tilden won 184 electoral votes of the 185 required to win, while Hayes won 165. However, twenty electoral votes from four states—three of which were the southern states of Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana—were unresolved. After both parties claimed victory, the responsibility for resolving the competing claims rested with Congress. The Electoral Commission consisted of fifteen members: five from both the House and the Senate, and five from the Supreme Court; eight members were Republicans and seven were Democrats. The Commission ultimately voted along party lines to award all twenty disputed votes to Hayes, assuring his electoral victory by a margin of 185 to 184. However, Democrats controlled the House and filibustered to prevent a vote on the count. Eventually a back room deal was cut, known as the Compromise of 1877, in which the Democrats agreed to the election of Hayes in exchange for promises to the South of Federal aid in various forms as well as the withdrawal of remaining troops in the former Confederacy, the latter provision effectively spelling the end of Reconstruction. Congress met in a joint session on 2 March 1877 and affirmed the decision, officially declaring Hayes the winner by a single vote.

Fassett’s painting, The Florida Case Before the Electoral Commission is an impressive piece of work, accurately depicting 260 prominent Washington figures participating in or attending the hearing. In the summers of 1877 and 1878, Fassett set up a temporary studio in the U.S. Capitol’s Supreme Court Chamber to paint the group portrait. While the federal government did not commission the work, she was granted special access to record the historic event and created the work independently. The architectural features are accurate; however, she took some artistic license and infused the work with her political leanings by depicting individuals who did not actually attend the hearings, including Frederick Douglass (far-right, below center), Mary Clemmer Ames (lower-right corner), an advocate for women’s suffrage and equality, and fellow painter Imogene Robinson Morrell (on the main floor). The photographer Samuel Montague Fassett (1825–1910), Cornelia’s husband, first photographed Frederick Douglass in 1864; Cornelia depicts Douglass in a similar profile view, likely having used her husband’s photograph as a reference. Among the sixty women shown in the work are the artist herself (lower foreground, right of center), holding her sketchbook, and seventeen female journalists pictured in the press gallery. The other women are wives or daughters of politicians. The painting was purchased by Congress in 1886 to be hung in the Capitol, where it remains today.

Born in New York, Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett (1831–1898) was an artist best known for the Electoral Commission painting and portraits of political figures of her day. Fassett studied art in New York City and in Europe, her major success coming after she moved to Washington D.C. in 1875. Her reputation as a hostess resulted in her receiving an unprecedented number of political commissions for a woman. Her many prominent sitters included Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield. In her later years Fassett took up miniature painting.

Canadian-born photographer Samuel M. Fassett (1825–1910) is best known for having taken one of the earliest known photographs of Abraham Lincoln on 4 Oct. 1859 in Chicago in the Gallery of Cooke and Fassett. The photo was considered by Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln as the best likeness of her husband. In 1865, following Lincoln’s assassination, Fassett also took a striking photo of the President’s hearse in Springfield, Illinois. After moving to Washington D.C. with Cornelia, Samuel worked as photographer to the Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department.


Key to Mrs. Fassett's Picture, the Electoral Commission. [J. F. Gedney, 1878.] Illustrated broadside, 13.75” x 11”. CONDITION: Good, minor tears and creasing at top.

The illustrated "Key to Mrs. Fassett's Picture, the Electoral Commission" identifies the 196 figures in the painting and includes facsimile autographs of the commissioners. The key was produced by the firm of J. F. Gedney in the same year that Fassett completed her group portrait.

A scarce photograph and broadside documenting the work of a noted female artist of the nineteenth century.

REFERENCES: Abraham Lincoln at; Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett at; Electoral Commission United States [1877] at; The Florida Case before the Electoral Commission at; Key to Mrs. Fassett's Picture. The Electoral Commission at

Item #7234

Price: $850.00