Historical Highlights

The first Speaker of the House, Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania

June 04, 1801
The first Speaker of the House, Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg, Collection of U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania was elected the first Speaker of the House on April 1, 1789. He served two non-consecutive terms as Speaker.
Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania—the House of Representatives’ first Speaker—died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. From a distinguished Pennsylvania Lutheran family, Muhlenberg was educated in Germany, and became a Lutheran minister in 1770. Several factors favored his election on April 1, 1789, as House Speaker. First, he had practical experience as the presiding officer of the Pennsylvania legislature. Second, the selection of Muhlenberg was something of a political compromise that powerfully symbolized sectional balance for the new republic: President George Washington of Virginia, was a southerner; Vice President John Adams of Massachusetts, was a New Englander; and Speaker Muhlenberg was from the Mid-Atlantic. Third, Muhlenberg’s physical bearing also conveyed dignity and authority. Columbian Magazine observed that his “rubicund complexion and oval face, hair full powdered, tamboured satin vest of ample dimensions, dark blue coat with gilt buttons, and a sonorous voice, all corresponding in appearance and sound with his magnificent name.”

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