John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, 1843
Courtesy of Library of Congress

A year after leaving office, John Quincy Adams won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts. During his seventeen years as a congressman, "Old Man Eloquent," as Adams was called, actively supported the antislavery movement and promoted the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution. Adams was the only former president to serve in the House, and Andrew Johnson the only one to serve in the Senate.

In 1844, John Quincy Adams received this ivory cane from Julius Pratt & Company of Meriden, Connecticut, for his efforts to end the gag rule, which prevented discussions in the House of Representatives about the abolition of slavery.
This British sovereign is one of the original coins bequeathed to the United States by Englishman James Smithson to found an establishment in Washington, D.C., dedicated to "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Smithson left not only his fortune to this purpose, but also his collection of minerals and his scientific library. John Quincy Adams’ support was instrumental in Congress’ decision to establish the Smithsonian Institution in 1846.