In transferring the gavel -- a mallet made of lacquered maple -- the Republicans are letting go of one the oldest symbols of legislative power in Washington.
"In the speakership," said Sam Rayburn, the Texas Democrat who held the office longer than anyone else, "the gavel becomes almost part of the office.
"Without sound amplification, the speakers really had to pretty insistently rap that gavel to bring the House to attention," Matthew Wasniewski, the House historian, said in an interview.
On June 22, 1906, Speaker Cannon was trying to push members toward considering a bill when, according to the House historian, he "banged the gavel hard enough to knock off the head, which landed between the clerks on the lower tier of the rostrum."
And then there was John Nance Garner, a gavel breaker of extraordinary distinction.
At the annual town meeting following the fire, Warren Baldwin, on behalf of his father, presented the Town Moderator Paul Dempsey with one of the gavels to be used to conduct Millbury's future town meetings.
(2) Millbury Historical Society President Frank Gagliardi tells the tale of the historic Old Town Hall gavel, recently returned to the town.