This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
The private office of the Vice-President, which is known as the Vice-President's room, is directly east of the marble room. It is not ordinarily open to the public. Upon its eastern wall hangs a portrait which is probably the best of Washington in the possession of the government. It was painted by Rembrandt Peale, the son of Charles Willson Peale. The studies were made when the former was but eighteen years of age. Washington sat on three occasions out of respect for the artist's father. The young painter, however, seems to have been more agitated than inspired by the honor. His original sketch has been lost, though the present painting, which was executed in 1828, long after Washington's death, preserves its best remembered points. The artist always worked with Houdon's bust before him. The painting was much admired, both in the United States and in the principal cities of Europe, where it was exhibited in 1829. In 1832, the Senate, by a unanimous resolution, appropriated $2,000 for its purchase. Chief Justice Marshall spoke of it as " more Washington himself than any portrait I have ever seen " ; Judge Peters gave it a better testimonial, " I judge from its effect on my heart".
Upon the mantle is a French gilt clock of exquisite workmanship, which was purchased during the administration of Polk and Dallas. The bookcase on the western side of the room dates from the time of Buchanan. In a small closet in the southeast corner of the room hangs an antique gilt mirror, which tradition says was purchased by John Adams, the first Vice-President of the United States, when the seat of government was in New York city. If this be true, the glass, no doubt, has many times reflected the features of the immortal Washington. Two brackets upon the eastern wall hold busts of Henry Wilson by Daniel C. French (1885) and of Lafayette Foster by C. Caverley (1878), former Vice-Presidents of the United States.
In this room one Vice-President passed away and another received the oath of office as President. Here Henry Wilson died; here on the 22d of September, 1881, in the presence of General Grant and of a few of the justices of the Supreme Court, Garfield's Cabinet, the Senators and Representatives, the oath of office was administered to Chester A. Arthur by Chief Justice Waite. The inaugural was very short. Two days earlier, Arthur had taken the same oath at his residence, No. 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, at two o'clock a.m., in the presence of John R. Brady, a justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York.
Henry Wilson suffered a congestive chill November 10, 1875, while taking a bath in the Senate bathroom, and was carried immediately to the Vice-President's room. Twelve days later, at twenty minutes after seven in the morning, he passed away. He had awakened at seven seemingly refreshed and hopeful. In a few minutes, however, there was a change. His breath came shorter and shorter, his head fell back on the pillow,—a moment—and he was gone. While thoughtfully musing during his last minutes upon his election to the Vice-Presidency, he unconsciously uttered his dying words: " If I live to the close of my present term there will be only five who have served their country so long as I." " The room this morning," records the Star, " was in a state of great confusion, showing the lack of female nursing and attention. At the head of his bed on the right was a small desk on which were numerous bottles of medicine, glasses and other articles. On the left and between the bed and the closet was an easy chair and an ordinary arm chair on which were lying some of his clothing. At the foot of the bed was a large screen used to protect the Vice-President from the draft from the door or window, or if desired from the heat of the grate. On a table in the centre of the room were a few books and some cards of callers of yesterday. Several letters, some opened and some unopened, were lying on the table and a letter partly finished was among them".
A post-mortem examination, most horrible in its details to the eyes and ears of the uninitiated, found the cause of death to be apoplexy. At ten o'clock on the morning of the 25th, the casket was placed in state in the rotunda. Marines in full uniform composed the guard of honor; the one at the head and the one at the foot at " parade rest," as motionless as statues. Strangely enough, much disrespect to the departed was evinced and permitted. The National Republican says : " Men stood about the rotunda with hats on, smoking cigars and pipes; nurses occupied the seats, while their charges played hide-and-seek among the crowd, and several parties of women went so far as to spread out the lunch they had brought with them and eat it within sight of the remains. All this was most unseemly and should have been prevented by the police, but was allowed to pass unnoticed. It was estimated that fully twenty-five thousand persons viewed the remains".
On the morning of the 26th, the casket was lifted by soldiers detailed from the Ordnance Corps of the army, and borne to the Senate Chamber. President Grant, his Cabinet and a distinguished gathering were present. At ten-thirty o'clock Mr. Ferry, President of the Senate, arose and said : " Appropriate funeral services will now be held." Chaplain Byron Sunderland then read selections from Scripture, after which Rev. Dr. Rankin delivered a discourse. The Chaplain offered prayer and the services closed with the benediction. As each delegation was called by the Sergeant-at-Arms, it passed quietly out of the hall and took the place assigned to it in the procession. The remains left the city at the Baltimore and Potomac depot, where six years later Garfield was shot.