Violence in the Capitol: The Beating of Charles Sumner and Jan. 6, 2021

From Tropics of Meta – The Caning of Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate: White Supremacist Violence in and Pixels

But in the mid-nineteenth century, conditions for obtaining second-hand glimpses of dramatic public events were strikingly different. There is no Zapruder film of President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865; no hand-held video of John Wilkes Booth leaping from the presidential box at Ford’s Theater; no audio recording of the embittered actor shouting “sic semper tyrannis!” Long before the existence of pocket cameras and phones of any sort, it fell to artists to interpret such events for American citizens, turning written accounts into lithograph images.

Nine years before Lincoln’s murder, no one present in the Chamber of the U. S. Senate on May 22, 1856, possessed the technology to capture the turmoil created by the brutal caning of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. No recording exists to confirm the attacker’s claim that Sumner “bellowed like a calf” as blows rained down on his head.

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