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–by Lauren Borchard

As I conduct research each day on Capitol and Congressional history for our fact-a-day Twitter and Facebook (follow us!), I run across some interesting stuff that doesn’t fit those formats. At some point, I started a list of members of Congress that had names that struck me as amazing for some reason—unusual, or rolled off the tongue in a pleasing manner, etc. Now, I bring them to your attention: short bios of congressmen who grabbed my attention simply through the names their parents gave them.

Members of Congress present Stedman with a cake buried with 85 candles for his birthday. (Library of Congress)

First up: Representative Charles Manly Stedman. Clearly, it was his middle name that won me over. However, a little research uncovers other fascinating facts about our hero: he was the last Civil War veteran, from either the Union or Confederate side, to serve in Congress, and at the time, he held the record as the oldest serving member of the House.

Stedman was born in NC in 1841 and lived in the state his entire life. He joined the Confederate army after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1861 but didn’t serve the entire war. By 1865, he had taught school for a year and been admitted to the bar. He started in politics in 1880 but continued to hold positions in law and business as well. He didn’t come to Washington as a member of Congress until March 4, 1911; he stayed until his death on September 23, 1930.

Photo of Henry Zenas Osborne (Library of Congress)

Of course, looking into Stedman means a researcher also discovers his counterpart, the last Union veteran to serve in Congress. Turns out he also has a pretty great middle name: Henry Zenas Osborne. Osborne was born in 1848 in New York and served in a New York regiment during the Civil War. Afterward, he worked in the newspaper business in various parts of the country and ended up in California, where he held several different public positions before being elected to Congress in 1916. He served from March 4, 1917 and died in office, having been elected to the next Congress, on February 8, 1923.

The two veterans had their picture taken outside the Capitol while both were in office, around 1921 (USC Library)

Stay tuned for the second part of this series coming later this week!

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