The Brumidi Corridor celebrates America's "dreamers and doers", exemplifies the journey through time of the American conception of progress and democracy. From the "classic paradigm of the American character...Benjamin Franklin" (Fjellman, 43), to the mechanical invention of the Wright brothers, and finally the representations of the space program, of a new frontier of freedom and consumption, the artworks of the corridor are visual representations of democracy, progress, and technology in America.
In 1873, Brumidi created lunettes to honor the Committee on Patents, which at the time occupied the room on the east end of the north corridor of the first floor of the Senate wing. Franklin appears over the door of the room then assigned to the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads. Pictured in his study, with scientific instruments and books surrounding him, Franklin represents the first marriage of democracy and progress in the American imagination. Franklin is the prototypical American inventor, a tinkerer and explorer, heavily involved not only in scientific pursuits but in politics and nation-building as well. In him Americans found their first model for democracy, an icon and idea which informs American thought about democracy to the present day.
John Fitch, the inventor of the first practical steamboat, appears, along with Fulton and Franklin, in the portion of the Brumidi Corridors known as the Patent Corridor. He is yet another model of American practicality, inventiveness, and hard work. Seen laboring over his model, he could be considered the ideal of American democracy: using ingenuity and his own inventive mind, he seeks to create a vehicle (literal and figurative) for progress.
The Wright Brothers and Lindbergh
Created by an unknown artist during the 1930s, the Wright brothers lunette and Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis in the north corridor represent the first modern iteration of technology in the corridor--and the first indication that the association of progress and democracy was moving into a new arena. The closing of the frontier in the early 1890s created a difficulty in the American equation of democracy with progress; those who ventured into new frontiers, the inventors and explorers reminiscent of Franklin, were hailed as the new bearers of democracy.
The Moon Landing
The Challenger Crew
The space program, portrayed in the north corridor by Allyn Cox in 1975 and Charles Schmidt in 1987, is the modern iteration of democracy and progress through technology. New frontiers must be explored, it is believed, to bring the benefits of democracy to new arenas--and to reaffirm the belief that if America is always moving forward, always progressing, that the ideals implicit in democracy will be honored and fulfilled.