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The US Senate gavel

The ivory gavels of the United States Senate (Source:

Sessions of the US Senate are presided over by a senator who acts as—unsurprisingly—the Presiding Officer (something along the lines of our Speaker). He or she is in charge of enforcing the rules of the Senate and maintaining order. The latter is usually done through the use of a special gavel.

The Vice Presidents of the USA often used to preside over the Senate and in 1954, the then VP, Richard Nixon, when presiding over a heated debate on nuclear energy, gave his ancient gavel a mighty whack which led to it breaking. Due to the ceremonial instrument being specially fashioned out of ivory, a ready commercial replacement was not easily found. But the message did go out for one.

Just after 2 PM. on November 17, 1954, the then vice president of India, Dr. Radhakrishnan entered the US Senate and was introduced to his counterpart. Noting that India had modelled its democratic institutions on those of the United States, he presented Richard Nixon with an instrument without which a presiding officer would be ineffectual—a gavel. He hoped the gavel would inspire senators to debate "with freedom from passion and prejudice".

The new gavel (also made of ivory) continues to be in use today. While designed as a replica of its predecessor, it features an additional floral pattern.