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Is it a crown? The story behind the silver display in front of Pelosi during State of the Union

That silver display in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during President Joe Biden's State of the Union has quite a bit of history.

What was the silver display that was sitting in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during President Joe Biden's State of the Union to Congress Tuesday night? People on social media were asking about it.

"Is that a silver liquor bottle on Pelosi's desk?" asked one person on Twitter.

"What is that silver thing in front of Nancy Pelosi?  It kinda looks like a crown," asked another.

According to the House of Representatives website, it's a coin-silver inkstand that is placed in the rostrum before the speaker calls each session of the House to order. It was created sometime around 1815 by Jacob Leonard. 

"The inkstand is considered the oldest surviving artifact of the House and was made between 1810 and 1820," the House website said. "Although its origins are mysterious, it most likely came into the House around 1819. The inkstand is stamped with the mark of J. Leonard, a Washington silversmith and watchmaker."

Credit: AP
President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of Calif., look on. (Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

The House said the inkstand contains three replacement crystal inkwells and is adorned on both sides by swags and eagles. "The feet of the tray take the form of fasces with snakes winding around them, classical symbols of unity and wisdom, respectively."

Pelosi sat next to Vice President Kamala Harris, behind Biden during the speech. It marks the first time two women sat on the dais during a State of the Union address. Last year's speech, delivered to a mostly empty House chamber due to COVID-19, was not technically considered a State of the Union.


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