Skip to main content

Explore the Senate Chamber Portraits

There are six large and unique portraits displayed in the Senate Chamber. An early published tour of the Capitol Building in 1879 states that, "In the Senate, at the right of the President's chair, is a full-length portrait of the immortal Lafayette . . . At the left is a full-length portrait of Michigan's '[Civil] War Governor', Austin Blair; painted by our Michigan artist, Prof. Alvah Bradish." These two portraits are now hanging in the same location as they were when the Capitol was dedicated in 1879.

One of the primary reasons these two paintings have such prominent positions in the Chamber is that the memories of the Civil War were fresh in 1879. This war had a tremendous impact on the citizens of Michigan and a place of honor was given to these two famous war heroes, one state and one national.

At the back of the Senate Chamber, the portraits of Governor Henry A. Crapo and Russell A. Alger are located on the northeast wall. The portrait of State Senator Eva M. Hamilton is located on the northwest wall.

All of these individuals were featured in portraits that hung in the Senate Chamber prior to the restoration in 1989. All of them, except Hamilton, are earlier period portraits with a long history in the Chamber. They were painted before the Capitol Building was built or when it was still very young. Much effort was exerted in conserving these historic works and their ornate frames. While all of the frames are very valuable, the Detroit Institute of Arts said the frame for the Alger portrait is as valuable as the portrait itself. These elaborately framed works of art enhance the restored Chamber as they are monuments to Michigan's history.

Marquis de Lafayette - (1757-1834): A national war hero, Lafayette never set foot in Michigan. The presence of his picture in the Senate Chamber is due to the respect with which the Revolutionary War and its heroes were regarded by Michigan's early leaders.
Austin Blair - (1818-1894) (Governor 1861-1864): Republican from New York, who moved to Jackson to practice law. Michigan's "Civil War Governor", he opposed slavery and secession. In 1842, while temporarily residing in Eaton Rapids, he was elected Clerk of Eaton County.
Henry H. Crapo - (1804-1869) (Governor 1865-1868): Republican from Massachusetts, who moved to Flint, where he rose from humble origins to become mayor and a successful lumber baron.
Russell Alexander Alger - (1836-1907) (Governor 1885-1886): Alger was born in Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio. He was orphaned at twelve and worked on a farm; attended Richfield Academy in Ohio and taught school for two winters. Later, he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and began practice in Cleveland, 1859.
Eva McCall Hamilton - (1871-1948) (State Senator 1921-1922): Republican from Grand Rapids, Michigan; she was Michigan's first woman legislator to be elected as a State Senator. She was a teacher. Governor Charles Osborn commended her in a letter on 3/30/1912 for her efforts in the "woman's suffrage cause", when he wrote, "I think no one has done better work for the cause than you." She was elected in 1920 in the first election in which women were allowed to vote.