The Mace of the United States House of Representatives is one of the oldest symbols of the United States government.
In one of its first resolutions, the U.S. House of Representatives of the 1st Federal Congress (April 14, 1789) established the Office of the Sergeant at Arms. The first Speaker of the House, Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, approved the Mace as the proper symbol of the Sergeant at Arms in carrying out the duties of this office.
The current Mace has been in use since December 1, 1842. It was created by New York silversmith William Adams, at a cost of $400, to replace the first one that was destroyed when the Capitol Building was burned on August 24, 1814 during the War of 1812. A simple wooden Mace was used in the interim.
The design of the Mace is derived from an ancient battle weapon and the Roman fasces. The ceremonial Mace is 46 inches high and consists of 13 ebony rods – representing the original 13 states of the Union – bound together by silver strands criss-crossed over the length of the pole. Atop this shaft is a silver globe on which sits an intricately cast solid silver eagle.
For daily sessions of the House, the Sergeant carries the silver and ebony mace of the House in front of the speaker in procession to the rostrum. When the House is in session, the mace stands on a cylindrical pedestal of green marble to the Speaker's own right. When the House is in committee, it is moved to a pedestal next to the Sergeant at Arms' desk. Members entering the chamber know with a glance whether the House is in session or in committee.
When the body resolves itself into Committee of the whole House on the State of the Union, the Sergeant moves the mace to a lowered position, more or less out of sight. In accordance with the Rules of the House, on the rare occasions when a Member becomes unruly, the Sergeant at Arms, on order of the Speaker, lifts the Mace from its pedestal and presents it before the offenders, thereby restoring order.
When a confrontation on the House floor becomes unruly, the tradition is that, upon direction of the Speaker, the Sergeant at Arms will step between the combatants with the Mace. Usually, because the members are able to edit the Congressional Record before it goes to print, there is no mention of the actual use of the Mace in this capacity. The use of the Mace was threatened on July 29, 1994, when Rep. Maxine Waters failed to stop speaking after she was accused of insulting Rep. Peter T. King.