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The Catafalque

The Catafalque

The catafalque is a platform that supports the casket of all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

The catafalque is a platform that supports the casket of all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

The catafalque was hastily constructed in 1865 to support the casket of Abraham Lincoln while the president's body lay in state in the Rotunda. The catafalque has since been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda, as listed below. When not in use, the catafalque is kept in a specially constructed display area in the Exhibition Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center.

No law, written rule, or regulation specifies who may lie in state; use of the Rotunda is controlled by concurrent action of the House and Senate. Any person who has rendered distinguished service to the nation may lie in state if the family so wishes and Congress approves. In the case of unknown soldiers, the president or the appropriate branch of the armed forces initiates the action.

Senators and representatives have lain in state on the catafalque elsewhere in the U.S. Capitol, and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase was placed on the catafalque in the Supreme Court Room in the Capitol on May 11, 1873. The catafalque has been used in the Supreme Court Building for the lying in repose of former Chief Justice Earl Warren on July 11–12, 1974; former Justice Thurgood Marshall, January 27, 1993; former Chief Justice Warren Earl Burger, June 28, 1995; former Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., July 28, 1997; Justice Harry A. Blackmun, March 8, 1999; and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, September 6–7, 2005. It was also used in the Department of Commerce building on April 9–10, 1996, for the lying in state of Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown.

The catafalque is a simple base of rough pine boards nailed together and covered with black cloth. Although the base and platform have occasionally been altered to accommodate the larger size of modern coffins and for the ease of the attending military personnel, it is basically the same today as it was in Lincoln's time. Presently the catafalque measures 7 feet 1 inch (216 cm) long, 2 feet 6 inches (76 cm) wide, and 2 feet (61 cm) high. The attached base is 8 feet 10 inches (269 cm) long, 4 feet 3-1/2 inches (131 cm) wide, and 2 inches (5 cm) high. The platform is 11 feet 1 inch (338 cm) long, 6 feet (183 cm) wide, and 9-1/4 inches (23.5 cm) high. Although the cloth covering the catafalque has been replaced several times, the style of the drapery is similar to that used in 1865.

A list of those who have lain in state on the catafalque in the Capitol Rotunda appears below:

Name Lay in State

Abraham Lincoln

April 19-21, 1865

Thaddeus Stevens

August 13-14, 1868

Charles Sumner

March 13, 1874

Henry Wilson

November 25-26, 1875

James Abram Garfield

September 21-23, 1881

John Alexander Logan

December 30-31, 1886

William McKinley, Jr.

September 17, 1901

Pierre Charles L'Enfant
(re-interment)

April 28, 1909

George Dewey

January 20, 1917

Unknown Soldier of World War I

November 9-11, 1921

Warren Gamaliel Harding

August 8, 1923

William Howard Taft

March 11, 1930

John Joseph Pershing

July 18-19, 1948

Robert Alphonso Taft

August 2-3, 1953

Unknown Soldiers of World War II
and the Korean War

May 28-30, 1958

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

November 24-25, 1963

Douglas MacArthur

April 8-9, 1964

Herbert Clark Hoover

October 23-25, 1964

Dwight David Eisenhower

March 30-31, 1969

Everett McKinley Dirksen

September 9-10, 1969

J. Edgar Hoover

May 3-4, 1972

Lyndon Baines Johnson

January 24-25, 1973

Hubert Horatio Humphrey

January 14-15, 1978

Unknown Soldier of Vietnam Era

May 25-28, 1984

Claude Denson Pepper

June 1-2, 1989

Ronald Wilson Reagan

June 9-11, 2004

Gerald R. Ford, Jr.

December 30, 2006–January 2, 2007

Daniel K. Inouye December 20, 2012