|Cambridge, MA||May 7, 2014|
Born: January 6, 1811 in Boston, Massachusetts
Spouse: Alice Mason Hooper Sumner (m. 1866-1873)
Primary Political Affiliation: Republican Party
Senatorial Term: 1851-1874
Died: March 11, 1874 in Washington, D.C.
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Interment: Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The table marked with a book in the center of this image was the Senate desk of Charles Sumner. It was at this spot, on May 22, 1856, that Congressman Preston Brooks ferociously beat him with his walking stick. Sumner’s infirmities were so severe that he did not return to the Senate until three years after the caning. That same year, 1859, was the last in which the Senate convened in that chamber. The renovated semi-circular room is now a featured stop on some U.S. Capitol tours.
The Boston organization Revolutionary Spaces, which operates the Old State House and Old South Meeting House, possesses the cane used in Congressman Brooks’s attack on Senator Sumner. I worked as a part-time visitor experience staffer at Rev Spaces in 2023, and I successfully requested to have the artifact removed from storage for a brief viewing. Here, Collections Manager Lori Erickson holds the cane to show me and my coworker, Tomas. The original stick was carved of gutta-percha and broke during the attack. Therefore, only the metal handle is original. The replacement stick is made of ebony.
Wineapple, Brenda. The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation. New York: Random House, 2019.