Artifact of the Month

Did you ever wonder what treasures are hidden inside the many chests, cabinets, and desks in Sam Rayburn’s home? The "Artifact of the Month" offers an opportunity to see and learn about artifacts that are not normally on display within the house museum. We hope to give you further insight into the Sam Rayburn House, "Mr. Sam," and some of his friends and family.

Guest Bedroom Furniture

In 1934, a particularly severe thunderstorm destroyed part of the roof on the Rayburn house. While doing the necessary roof renovations, the Rayburn family decided to add on to increase the size of the house by approximately one-third. The additions included a first-floor guest room with an attached bathroom, as well as additional porches on the back of the house. On the second floor, “Mr. Sam” decided to expand his bedroom and add a second bathroom. After the expansion, the Rayburns purchased new furniture pieces and fixtures to fill the house, despite “Mr. Sam’s” reputation for being particularly frugal. Family members gave other pieces of furniture as Christmas presents that year. The new pieces included the chandelier and red drapes in the dining room, the settee and coffee table in the parlor, and the daybed in the sitting room.

“Mr. Sam” also purchased the matching suite of furniture in the guest bedroom following the renovations. The suite includes two beds, a chest of drawers, a dressing table and stool, and a nightstand made from burled walnut. Historical sources suggest that the guest bedroom furniture was purchased by “Mr. Sam” from a congressman who had just lost re-election. The congressman could not afford to ship his furniture back home, so “Mr. Sam” purchased it from him and had it shipped to Bonham. To avoid embarrassing the man, “Mr. Sam” kept the congressman’s identity a secret.

The new guest room served its purpose many times, as the Rayburns hosted numerous visitors. Perhaps the most famous visitors to sleep in the guest room were Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. The Johnsons, visiting in 1934, were among the first guests to stay in the guest room. The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Fred Vinson, and his wife Roberta also stayed in the new guest room.

During the holidays, the guest room proved essential. Christmastime at the Rayburn house was largely a family affair and served as the backdrop for a Rayburn family reunion each year. The Rayburn family was very close-knit and numerous, and every member of the family who was able to visit came to spend Christmas at the house. One member of the family, Sam’s sister-in-law, Loyce Rayburn, noted that around 21 family members attended Christmas dinner one year. Many of these relatives spent the night, sleeping in the guest room and on the sleeping porches.

Guests, whether family or not, were always welcome at the Rayburn house. The decision to build a guest room, complete with its own bathroom, as part of the 1934 expansions to the house demonstrated the hospitality of the Rayburns. The guest room, with its matching suite of furniture and bathroom, enabled the Rayburns to make their guests feel welcome and comfortable. A kind and generous man, “Mr. Sam” valued nothing more than his family, and any guest at the Rayburn house certainly would have been made to feel like a part of the family.

This artifact of the month was written by Sam Rayburn House Intern Sarah Robinson.

Photo Gallery

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  • Chest of drawers in the guest bedroom.