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What was that silver display in front of Pelosi during Biden's address?

People spotted a silver display in front of the House Speaker during Biden's address and immediately were asking what it was. It 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 address to Congress Wednesday night? Lots of people were Googling it and asking on social media.

"Actual question: I don’t know what the silver thing right in front of Speaker Pelosi is," asked James Fallows.

"It looks like a crown?" asked another person.

"A martini set?" asked another.

"An inkwell or something?" asked Joe Burling.

Bingo.

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."

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 on the rostrum behind President Biden during the joint address. Although Pelosi has sat there before as Speaker of the House, it marks the first time two women have sat on the dais during a presidential address, as Harris is the first woman to hold the office of vice president.

Credit: House of Representatives
Before the Speaker calls each session of the House to order, this coin-silver inkstand is placed on the rostrum.