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What we know about the inkstand in front of Nancy Pelosi during the State of the Union

The inkstand is considered to be the oldest surviving artifact of the House of Representatives, dating back to the early 1800s. Pelosi had it placed in front of her during President Biden's first State of the Union.
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
The inkstand is considered to be the oldest surviving artifact of the House of Representatives, dating back to the early 1800s. Pelosi had it placed in front of her during President Biden's first State of the Union.

Curious as to what is the silver-looking artifact sitting in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during President Biden's State of the Union address?

It's a coin-silver inkstand, and it's considered to be the oldest surviving artifact of the House of Representatives — dating back 1810-1820, according to the chamber's archives. Traditionally, before the speaker calls each session of the House to order, the silver inkstand is placed on the raised platform.

Created by J. Leonard, a Washington silversmith and watchmaker, historians say that it has been a part of the House since 1819 — but that its origins are mysterious.

The House says the inkstand contains three replacement crystal inkwells and is "adorned on both sides by swags and eagles." Each foot of the tray has a snake winding around it, representing both unity and wisdom.

Rep. Pelosi sat next to Vice President Kamala Harris on the rostrum during Biden's address. While Pelosi has sat behind the president as Speaker of the House during a State of the Union address, tonight marks the first time two women were seated on the platform behind the president during the speech.

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