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Piece of local history given new life at River Museum

The chair used by the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from West of the Mississippi has received new life through recent conservation. The Henderson chair, nicknamed for David B. Henderson, was used during his time as Speaker of the House in the 56th and 57th Congresses.

The chair was originally donated to the Dubuque County Historical Society in 1965 by the Carnegie-Stout Public Library. In recent months, the River Museum was able to have the chair conserved, preserving the chair for the next century or more.

“The goal of artifact conservation is to bring a piece back to its original state while retaining as much of its original material as possible. The Henderson chair is one of the most historically significant pieces in the Dubuque County Historical Society’s collections,” said Cristin Waterbury, Director of Curatorial Services. “Its state of deterioration and historical significance made it a priority for conservation. That said, we could not have conserved this piece without significant community support.”

Donors to the project included Premier Bank, Tom and Charlice Woodward, Jack and Lynn McCullough, Fred and Tracy Fisher, Poppy Conlon and Jason Benson, Timothy and Nancy Butler, and Laura Merrick.

Premier Bank’s President and CEO Jeff Mozena said, “Premier Bank has been a long-standing supporter in preserving the rich history of Dubuque through iconic objects that depict our past, and also continue to share stories about those who helped make a name for our key city. The Henderson Chair and David B. Henderson’s story are no exception.”

About David B. Henderson

David B. Henderson started his political career around 1871, and in 1880, he was delegate-at-large to the Republican National Convention, chairman of the Iowa delegation, and leader of the Blaine supporters. He was chosen secretary of the National Republication Congressional Committee in 1882 and was nominated the same year for Congress.

Henderson was elected as a Republican to the 48th through 57th Congresses (March 4, 1883 - March 3, 1903). He was seen as Speaker of the House Thomas B. Reed’s right-hand man. Henderson was a supporter of high protective tariffs; liberal pensions for Civil War veterans, widows, and orphans; rural mail delivery; and laws to prevent the growth of monopolies.