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    Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett (2) Journals spanning the years January 1878 through May 1888. Painter and portraitist Cornelia Adele Strong Fassett (1831-1898) is known for her portraits of political figures of the mid to late-19th century, including Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Hayes, and Garfield; Vice President Henry Wilson; members of Congress; Supreme Court Justices; notables of the day such as photographer Mathew Brady; et al. She makes note of her sitting with President Hayes, dated July 8 (page 73): "Received a message from the President that he would give me a sitting today. at 11 A. M. Went to the Capitol at 9. and found all my things under lock and them out and had everything in order for the President who came an hour late fortunately. He was accompanied by his son Webb, and a lady friend...The sitting was for an hour and a half...The President was very chatty and cordial...July 9...Went to the Capitol and prepared for the second sitting of the President who came at a little past 10 A. M, and remained until eleven...July 10th...The President came early, with his third son, and spent an hour or more..."

    She is best remembered, however, for her piece, "The Electoral Commission in Open Session," (circa 1879). Inspired by the events following the 1876 presidential election, which was declared a tie and referred to a commission of fifteen men for a final decision, Fassett got permission from the government to set up a studio in the Supreme Court chamber during the summers of 1877 and 1878 where she would paint a "group portrait" of the proceedings. The painting, which took several years to complete, is full of 258 well-known Washington figures of the time, not all of whom actually attended the meetings. Several of the faces are based on portrait photographs taken by her husband or Mathew Brady. She makes mention of the Electoral Commission and her work on the painting throughout these journals, a small sampling of which follows: "June 27 [1878]...Miss James insisted on paying me in advance for a photo-copy of 'The Electoral Commission.' The first money received from my labor, and I received it as an augur of future success...July 1...sketched more figures in my foreground...July 8...[While painting President Hayes' portrait] Senator Windom and his brother-in-law Mr Douglass called...and a very lively conversation was kept up between them and the President for some time. The subject matter being my picture of the Commission and the people represented in it..."

    Several years after the completion of her painting, Congress debated whether the government should purchase it from her. A handwritten copy of a bill proposed to the Committee on the Library is attached to page 112 (journal entry dated March 31, 1884) in the second journal and reads: "...the same committee reported an amendment intended to be proposed to the sundry civil appropriation purchase the painting of the Electoral Commission of 1877, by Mrs. C. Adele Fassett...appropriating $15,000 for that purpose..." The purchase, however, was ultimately rejected as Fassett records on March 3, 1885: "Today or rather last night the Senate...reversed its action of last winter, and rejected the painting of 'The Electoral Commission' by a vote of 25 yeas to 31 Nays!" The government ultimately bought the painting the following year for $7,500 (half of her original asking price) and placed it in the northeast corner of the Senate wing in the Capitol.

    Also, a Fair Copy of a Copyright Certificate for "The Electoral Commission," one page, 8.5" x 11", on Library of Congress Copyright Office letterhead, Washington, May 21, 1878, announcing that "...Mrs. S. M. Fassett...has deposited in this Office the title of a Photograph the title or description of which is...The Electoral Commission."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2012
    4th-5th Thursday-Friday
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