That tiny hammer is called a gavel. It’s typically made of wood and paired with a base on which it can be hit. Why do judges use gavels? To maintain order in the courtroom, of course! After all, emotions can run high during a trial. If the gavel comes out, it’s because the judge is asking for things to quiet down.
However, movies and courtroom dramas have given many people the wrong impression. Contrary to popular belief, judges don’t use gavels all that often. They’re more likely to use their voices to quiet a room.
In fact, outside of the U.S., gavels are nearly absent altogether. They’re not even that common in U.S. courtrooms. Many judges do receive gavels as gifts for special occasions or to recognize accomplishments, but few actually use them.
However, there are a few other places in which those tiny hammers are put to use. One example is in clubs and organizations. Many of these use a gavel to signal the beginning or end of a group meeting.
The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives also use gavels. Each Speaker of the House chooses their own gavel. In The Senate, though, the same one is used by every Vice President.
The Senate gavel is unique—it’s made of ivory and has no handle. Instead, it’s an hourglass shape that’s held in the presiding officer’s hand. The original gavel was broken in 1954 during a debate. The nation of India gifted The Senate a new one that same year.
Are you Wondering about the history of gavels? It’s a bit mysterious. Some believe their use goes all the way back to Medieval England, but no one can say for sure. Still, they were certainly in use by 1789 when John Adams opened the first session of the very first U.S. Senate.
Do you dream of using a gavel to quiet a courtroom? Maybe you’ll be the one to bring them back into fashion. Or perhaps these tiny hammers are truly things of the past. We’ll let you be the JUDGE of that!