Looking Back at 61 years of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society

July 1962 marks an historic milestone – the founding of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society – an organization dedicated to fostering informed citizenship and preserving the history of the nation’s Capitol. Over the years, the U.S. Capitol Historical Society has continually expanded its activities. From conducting educational tours and hosting scholarly symposia and webinars to managing a digital resource hub for middle school teachers, the Society plays a vital role in educating the public about the Capitol, its institutions, and national history.

On July 17, 1962, a group of fifteen men and women, inspired by a shared love for history, convened at the U.S. Capitol and aspired to preserve the Capitol’s storied past. During the meeting, Representative Marguerite Stitt Church put forward a compelling idea – creating an organization with “the purpose of presenting information about the Capitol and the work done therein.” The attendees unanimously approved the idea, naming the organization “the U.S. Capitol Historical Society.”

At the Society’s second meeting on July 31, the group was determined to create an inclusive and accessible community. Representative Fred Schwengel strongly believed that the Society belonged to all the people and should be as open as possible to encourage widespread participation from individuals with a shared passion for history. Within three months, the founders elected a strong leadership team with Representative Schwengel assuming the role of President and respected figures such as historian Allan Nevins and Senator Hubert Humphrey as Vice Presidents. Together, they drafted a comprehensive constitution, elected officers, devised a plan for financial stability, prepared a publication strategy, and obtained tax-exempt status.

As we celebrate 61 years of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, we look back at its remarkable journey, and we eagerly anticipate the new and creative ways we will continue to enlighten and engage audiences with the fascinating history of the Capitol. Here’s to many more years of preserving our shared history and inspiring future generations!