As the House prepares to end the 2023 Regular Session with a motion to adjourn “Sine Die” — Latin for “without day” — Sergeant-at-Arms Russell Hosford will join Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Damien Kelly in the Capitol Rotunda where they will ceremoniously drop handkerchiefs at the same time, a custom that started 100 years ago and, at the time, served a very specific purpose.
The Florida Legislature in 1923 looked vastly different from what it does today.
When the House and Senate met in their respective Chambers in what we now call the Historic Capitol, the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate had no way to see or communicate with each other as they presided.
The Chambers did not face each other, as they do today, nor did those leaders have access to telephones at the rostrum, or the benefit of being able to watch each other on the Florida Channel.
As the 1923 Regular Session was winding down, House Speaker L.D. Edge and Senate President Theo T. Turnbull pledged to each other that they would adjourn Sine Die at the exact same time. But how could they do this without being able to see or talk to each other?
That’s when the two leaders devised a plan. Each Sergeant-at-Arms would walk straight out of their respective Chambers while staying in the light of sight of their boss, and each Sergeant was able to see the other. Then, as the Speaker and President struck their gavel down following their motions to adjourn Sine Die, the Sergeants would each drop their handkerchief, ensuring that Speaker Edge and President Turnbull would honor their word.
Even though the House and Senate Chambers have been facing one another since 1947, and today, House Speakers and Senate Presidents have the ability to call, text or watch each other on the Florida Channel, the handkerchief drop remains a tradition in the Florida Legislature.