Walnut Carved United States House of Representatives Desk, Doe & Hazelton, Boston, after a design by Thomas Ustick Walter, c. 1857, the crest centering a carved union shield flanked by volutes above the slanted writing surface and single drawer, on a base with carved supports ornamented with scrolled brackets, and star-carved bosses surrounded by beading, all joined by elaborately carved trellis back, ht. 36, wd. 29 1/2, dp. 20 1/2 in.
Provenance: John Covode (1808-1871), then to his family in 1873; then by descent in the family to the present owner.
Note: The Honorable John Covode was born on a farm in West Fairfield, Pennsylvania, of Dutch descent. His humble upbringing characterized his life as earnest, hardworking, energetic, and kind. Throughout his career, he remained a fervent supporter of public enterprise, specifically in the wool textile industry, and was known as a shrewd businessman and financier. He helped construct the Pennsylvania canal, and was an early advocate of the Pennsylvania railroad. By the 1840s, the political arena began to beckon. He ran as an underdog Whig candidate in his district in 1844, and despite the long odds against him, he showed well, and his political career was born. In 1854, he was elected to Congress as the representative from Pennsylvania's Nineteenth district, and was reelected in 1856, 1858, and 1860, 1862, and then, after retiring briefly from Congress, in 1866 and 1868. As a Congressman, in 1860 he led an effort to investigate corruption in Government, corruption which could possibly have led to the impeachment of President James Buchanan. The long process has become known as the "Covode Investigation." Though the situation looked bad for President Buchanan at times, and public opinion turned strongly against his administration, the revelations that came to light as a result of the Covode Investigation would not have led to an impeachment after all. In any case, the outbreak of the Civil War lessened the investigation's immediate impact. Still, Covode's efforts did bring to light corruption in the political process, especially in Kansas and Nebraska, and the Investigation and its findings elevated Covode's reputation to a national one.
Covode died in 1871 and was remembered as a man who, though his means as a young man were meager, was able to gain national recognition and fame while never losing sight of his responsibility to those whose origins were as humble as his own.
Literature: For more details on the life and work of the Honorable John Covode, see the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project at www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland.historyproject/vol1/chapter46covode.html, from which much of the above information is gleaned.
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