By Ray Smock
When I was the Historian of the U.S. House of Representatives, I was fortunate to meet up with a political geographer from West Virginia University, Dr. Kenneth C. Martis. He was working on an incredible project to map every Congressional election beginning with the First Federal Congress in 1789. This involved researching more than 30,000 elections. His work, The Historical Atlas of Political Parties in the United States Congress, 1789-1989 is a seminal work in America political history. We have a copy here at the Byrd Center if you ever want to explore the rich and complex history of political parties spread across national maps of the United States.
At the same time Martis was working on his project, my office and the Senate Historical Office were preparing a new edition of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-1789: Bicentennial Edition. This massive volume contains biographies of more than 11,000 persons who have served in the House and Senate during its first two centuries. We has many opportunities to share our information with Martis, and he, in turn, was able to help us correct many errors from earlier editions of the Biographical Directory.
The Senate Historian Richard Baker and I wrote a forward to Martis’s work and participated in a program at WVU when the atlas was published. We also helped arrange for a major bicentennial exhibition of Martis’s work at the Library of Congress.
All this is preface to the article by David Skinner from the summer issue 2023 of Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, where the work of Ken Martis, is “rediscovered” in a story well told. I hope you will read along about this remarkable work of scholarship, whose significance has not diminished with the passage of time.
The full article from The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities is available HERE.
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