Speakers of the House of Representatives

The primary role of the Speaker of the House is to preside over the House of Representatives. The speaker is chosen by majority vote of that body, usually along strictly partisan lines.

For many years, the speaker was an extremely powerful figure, especially during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. Holders of the office exerted great influence through their power to appoint House members to committees and by their seat on the Rules Committee, where they shaped the House agenda and framed the later debates.

Republican Thomas B. Reed of Maine earned the nickname “Czar” Reed during the 1889-1891 session, when he heavy-handedly increased the speaker’s powers. Insurgent Republicans and Democrats joined forces in 1890 to tame Reed.

Another powerful speaker, Republican Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois, was perhaps the most dictatorial of all. He served in Congress for nearly 50 years, but the height of his influence occurred during the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. “Uncle Joe,” as he was called, routinely and unilaterally halted much progressive legislation. The “Revolution of 1910” saw Cannon's and subsequent speakers' powers diminish; notably his removal from the Rules Committee and reduced capacity to make committee appointments.

During the 1970s, further reform of the office was made under a movement to modify the seniority rules for the House.

Today the speaker remains one of the most potent political figures in Washington. He has the power to make appointments to special committees and can doom bills with his authority over scheduling floor debates. The speaker is also responsible for assigning bills to committee and sometimes makes a selection based upon his belief that a particular committee chairman will either promote or kill the bill.

The Speaker of the House is third in the presidential succession line, behind the president and vice president.

The complete list of speakers below is divided into three time periods:

Congress

Speaker

State

Date Elected

1st

Frederick Muhlenberg

Pennsylvania

April 1, 1789

2nd

Jonathan Trumbull

Connecticut

October 24, 1791

3rd

Frederick Muhlenberg

Pennsylvania

December 2, 1793

4th

Jonathan Dayton

New Jersey

December 7, 1795

5th

Jonathan Dayton

New Jersey

May 15, 1797

6th

Theodore Sedgwick

Massachusetts

December 2, 1799

7th

Nathaniel Macon

North Carolina

December 7, 1801

8th

Nathaniel Macon

North Carolina

October 17, 1803

9th

Nathaniel Macon

North Carolina

December 2, 1805

l0th

Joseph B. Varnum

Massachusetts

October 26, 1807

11th

Joseph B. Varnum

Massachusetts

May 22, 1809

12th

Henry Clay

Kentucky

November 4, 1811

13th

Henry Clay

Kentucky

May 24, 1813

13th

Langdon Cheves

South Carolina

January 19, 1814

14th

Henry Clay

Kentucky

December 4, 1815

15th

Henry Clay

Kentucky

December 1, 1817

16th

Henry Clay

Kentucky

December 6, 1819

16th

John W. Taylor

New York

Nov. 15, 1820

17th

Philip P. Barbour

Virginia

December 4, 1821

18th

Henry Clay

Kentucky

December 1, 1823

19th

John W. Taylor

New York

December 5, 1825

20th

Andrew Stevenson

Virginia

December 3, 1827

21st

Andrew Stevenson

Virginia

December 7, 1829

22nd

Andrew Stevenson

Virginia

December 5, 1831

23rd

Andrew Stevenson

Virginia

December 2, 1833

23rd

John Bell

Tennessee

June 2, 1834

24th

James K. Polk

Tennessee

December 7, 1835

25th

James K. Polk

Tennessee

September 4, 1837

26th

Robert M.T. Hunter

Virginia

December 16, 1839

27th

John White

Kentucky

May 31, 1841

28th

John W. Jones

Virginia

December 4, 1843

29th

John W. Davis

Indiana

December 1, 1845

30th

Robert C. Winthrop

Massachusetts

December 6, 1847

31st

Howell Cobb

Georgia

December 22, 1849

32nd

Linn Boyd

Kentucky

December 1, 1851

 

top of page

Congress

Speaker

State

Date Elected

33rd

Linn Boyd

Kentucky

December 5, 1853

34th

Nathaniel P. Banks

Massachusetts

February 2, 1856

35th

James L. Orr

South Carolina

December 7, 1857

36th

William Pennington

New Jersey

February 1, 1860

37th

Galusha A. Grow

Pennsylvania

July 4, 1861

38th

Schuyler Colfax

Indiana

December 7, 1863

39th

Schuyler Colfax

Indiana

December 4, 1865

40th

Schuyler Colfax

Indiana

March 4, 1867

40th

Theodore M. Pomeroy

New York

March 3, 1869

41st

James G. Blaine

Maine

March 4, 1869

42nd

James G. Blaine

Maine

March 4, 1871

43rd

James G. Blaine

Maine

December 1, 1873

44th

Michael C. Kerr

Indiana

December 6, 1875

44th

Samuel J. Randall

Pennsylvania

December 4, 1876

45th

Samuel J. Randall

Pennsylvania

October 15, 1877

46th

Samuel J. Randall

Pennsylvania

March 18, 1879

47th

J. Warren Keifer

Ohio

December 5, 1881

48th

John G. Carlisle

Kentucky

December 3, 1883

49th

John G. Carlisle

Kentucky

December 7, 1885

50th

John G. Carlisle

Kentucky

December 5, 1887

51st

Thomas B. Reed

Maine

December 2, 1889

52nd

Charles F. Crisp

Georgia

December 8, 1891

53rd

Charles F. Crisp

Georgia

August 7, 1893

54th

Thomas B. Reed

Maine

December 2, 1895

55th

Thomas B. Reed

Maine

March 15, 1897

56th

David B. Henderson

Iowa

December 4, 1899

57th

David B. Henderson

Iowa

December 2, 1901

58th

Joseph G. Cannon

Illinois

November 9, 1903

59th

Joseph G. Cannon

Illinois

December 4, 1905

60th

Joseph G. Cannon

Illinois

December 2, 1907

61st

Joseph G. Cannon

Illinois

March 15, 1909

62nd

James Beauchamp Clark

Missouri

April 4, 1911

63rd

James Beauchamp Clark

Missouri

April 7, 1913

64th

James Beauchamp Clark

Missouri

December 6, 1915

65th

James Beauchamp Clark

Missouri

April 2, 1917

66th

Frederick H. Gillett

Massachusetts

May 19, 1919

67th

Frederick H. Gillett

Massachusetts

April 11, 1921

68th

Frederick H. Gillett

Massachusetts

December 3, 1923

69th

Nicholas Longworth

Ohio

December 7, 1925

70th

Nicholas Longworth

Ohio

December 5, 1927

71st

Nicholas Longworth

Ohio

April 15, 1929

72nd

John N. Garner

- - - Books You May Like Include: ----

The House: The History of the House of Representatives by Robert V. Remini.
The first-ever narrative nonfiction history of the House of Representatives, by the National Book Award-winning historian Robert Remini, one of the pr...
Henry Clay: The Essential American by David S. Heidler.
The epic life and times of one of the most important political figures in our history. He was the Great Compromiser, a canny and colorful legislator a...
Mr. Speaker!: The Life and Times of Thomas B. Reed The Man Who Broke the Filibuster by James Grant.
James Grant’s enthralling biography of Thomas B. Reed, Speaker of the House during one of the most turbulent times in American history—the Gilded Age,...