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Fine Large-format Photograph of the Capitol

(CAPITOL, WASHINGTON, D.C.). United States Capitol

no publisher, c. 1870

Albumen print, mounted. 15 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. Mount darkened, some darkening and minimal surface wear to image, but generally in very good condition.

This dramatic photograph of the United States Capitol shows the building ca. 1870, after the completion of the new dome and the extensions. The view shows the east side of the building, as seen from the northeast. There are signs of construction evident in the image, and a number of people and two horse-drawn carriages are visible.

The photograph was taken within a few years of 1867, when the cheek blocks beside the Senate steps were installed. The photograph shows the rails for a street car system, for which termini were constructed on the Capitol grounds.

Thomas Jefferson insisted the legislative building be called the “Capitol” rather than “Congress House.” The word “Capitol” comes from Latin and is associated with the Roman temple to Jupiter Optimus Maximus on Capitoline Hill. The name, which followed the example of Virginia’s House of Burgesses’ “Capitoll” authorized in 1699, signified the national aspirations for a republic steeped in the ancient Roman virtues of citizenship and self-government.

During the Civil War some objected to continued construction of the building, but Lincoln insisted it continue, saying, “If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign we intend the Union to go on.” On March 4, 1865, Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address from the East Portico, visible here, declaring, “With malice toward none, with charity for all …”

The U.S. Capitol is, apart from the Statue of Liberty, the greatest symbol of America and perhaps the nation’s most famous and most important single building.