Stories from PA History
Story Details
Pennsylvania Politics 1865-1930.
Between the Civil War and Great Depression, Pennsylvania was controlled by a succession of Republican party "bosses" that ruled in the service of private enterprise in both the state and the nation's capital. To win protection of their own rights and liberties, Pennsylvanians struggled with limited success against one of the nation's most powerful and infamously corrupt political "machines."

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Pennsylvania Politics, 1865-1930.
Chapter One: 1. Pennsylvania's Bosses and Political Machines
Chapter 2: Pennsylvania Under the Reign of Big Business
Chapter 3: The Struggle for Political Rights and Representation (Reformers and Critics)
Chapter Four: From the Progressive Era to the Great Depression

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon A. Mitchell Palmer (1872-1936) (Monroe) marker icon Andrew Carnegie [Steel] (Allegheny)
marker icon Avondale Mine Disaster (Luzerne) marker icon Daniel H. Hastings [Politics] (Clinton)
marker icon Desegregation of Pennsylvania Schools (Crawford) marker icon Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett (1833-1908) (Philadelphia)
marker icon Execution of Molly Maguires (Carbon) marker icon First State Game Lands (Elk)
marker icon George H. Earle III (Delaware) marker icon Gifford Pinchot [Politics] (Pike)
marker icon Henry Clay Frick [Pgh office] (Allegheny) marker icon Henry George (Philadelphia)
marker icon Henry M. Hoyt (Luzerne) marker icon Ida M. Tarbell (Erie)
marker icon J. Donald Cameron (Dauphin) marker icon J. Edgar Thomson (Delaware)
marker icon J. Horace McFarland (Dauphin) marker icon James A. Beaver (Perry)
marker icon James Maurer (1864-1944) (Berks) marker icon John F. Hartranft (Montgomery)
marker icon John K. Tener [Politics] (Washington) marker icon John S. Fisher (Indiana)
marker icon John W. Geary [Politics] (Westmoreland) marker icon John Wanamaker [Politics] (Philadelphia)
marker icon Joseph Ridgway Grundy (1863-1961) (Bucks) marker icon Joseph T. Rothrock (Chester)
marker icon Lattimer Massacre (Luzerne) marker icon Martin G. Brumbaugh (Huntingdon)
marker icon Matthew S. Quay (Beaver) marker icon Mira Lloyd Dock (Dauphin)
marker icon Mother's Day (Philadelphia) marker icon Nellie Bly (Armstrong)
marker icon Octavius V. Catto [Education] (Philadelphia) marker icon Packer Mansion [Politics] (Carbon)
marker icon Pennsylvania State Police [Politics] (Dauphin) marker icon Philander Knox (Fayette)
marker icon Railroad Strike of 1877 (Allegheny) marker icon Rhoads Opera House Fire (Berks)
marker icon Rossiter Strike Injunction (Indiana) marker icon Simon Cameron (Lancaster)
marker icon State Capitol (Dauphin) marker icon Terence V. Powderly (Lackawanna)
marker icon Thaddeus Stevens [Politics] (Lancaster) marker icon The 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike (Scranton) (Lackawanna)
marker icon The Lynching of Zachariah Walker (Chester) marker icon W.E.B. Du Bois (Philadelphia)
marker icon William A. Stone (Tioga) marker icon William B. Wilson [Politics] (Tioga)
marker icon William C. Sproul (Lancaster) marker icon William Strong (Berks)
marker icon Windber Strike of 1922-1923 (Somerset) marker icon Winfield S. Hancock [Politics] (Montgomery)
marker icon Work Accidents and the Law (1910) (Allegheny)

Lesson Plans for this Story
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Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text Terence Powderly, on John Siney at Avondale in 1869.
icon full text Governor John W. Geary, "Protest against the Evasion of Taxes by the Credit Mobilier of America", 1872.
icon full text Governor Henry M. Hoyt, "The Causes of the Panic of 1873," from his first inaugural address, 1879.
icon full text "The Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention Versus the State Officers," December 4, 1873.
icon full text Governor John F. Hartranft, on The Railroad Strike, 1877.
icon full text Henry George, "The Central Truth," Poverty and Progress, 1879.
icon full text Henry George, "The True Remedy," Progress and Poverty, 1879.
icon full text Governor Robert E. Pattison, "A Plea for Civil Service Reform," 1885.
icon full text Andrew Carnegie, from "Wealth," North American Review, June 1889.
icon full text Andrew Carnegie, "Wealth," North American Review, June 1889.
icon full text Terence Powderly's "Prediction of What the World Would Look Like in 100 Years." Letter from December, 1892.
icon full text Nelly Bly, Interview with Emma Goldman, 1893.
icon full text John Wanamaker, "The Quay Machine Dissected," 1898.
icon full text W.E.B. Du Bois, "Negro Suffrage," 1899.
icon full text Governor Daniel H. Hastings, "The Status of the Public Schools," January 3, 1899.
icon full text Matthew Quay, from "Opening Speech at West Chester," October 1, 1900.
icon full text Lincoln Steffens, Excerpts from "Philadelphia: Corrupt and Contented," July, 1903.
icon full text Lincoln Steffens, Excerpts from "Pittsburg: A City Ashamed," 1903.
icon full text Political Platform of the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor, 1910.
icon full text Joseph Fels, "Free Trade and the Single Tax vs. Imperialism: A Letter to Andrew Carnegie," December 1910.
icon full text Governor John Tener praises his "Cossacks," 1911.
icon full text James Maurer, "Can Such Things Be In Pennsylvania?" Feb. 22, 1911.
icon full text J. Horace McFarland, “The Awakening of Harrisburg,“ 1914.
icon full text Extract from the 1915 Pennsylvania Workman's Compensation Act
icon full text Lavinia Dock, "The Young Are At The Gates," June 30, 1917.
icon full text Terence Powderly, on the death of Andrew Carnegie in 1919.
icon full text Oswald Garrison Willard, "Philander C. Knox-Dark Horse," 1920.
icon full text A. Mitchell Palmer, "The Case Against the 'Reds'," 1920.
icon full text John P. Guyer, from "Pennsylvania's Cossacks and the State's Police," 1923.
icon full text William M. Hard, "Pinchot for President?" October 31, 1923.
icon full text J. George Becht, "Progress in Education," 1923.
icon full text Governor Gifford Pinchot, from his Inaugural Address, 1923.
icon full text Henry Raymond Mussey, "Andrew Mellon's Ignorance," May 28, 1924.
icon full text Frank R. Kent, "Pinchot vs. Pepper vs. Vare," The Nation, April 14, 1926.
icon full text Frank Butler, "Coal and Iron Justice," The Nation, October 16, 1929.
icon full text William S. Vare, from "Vindication of Politic Bosses," 1933.
icon full text James Maurer, "Rubber Stamp Legislators," 1938.
icon full text James Maurer, "My Social Philosophy," 1938.
icon full text Interview with Margaret Jerles, granddaughter of William B. Wilson, 2005.

1865 The American Civil War ends.
1867 Former General John W. Geary (R) becomes the first of five Civil War officers elected governor of Pennsylvania; Simon Cameron returns to U.S. Senate and emerges as the first boss of Pennsylvania's powerful state Republican Party.
1868 Death of Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, a leader of Radical Reconstruction in the House of Representatives.
1868 Anthracite coal strike in northeastern Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania legislature passes the Coal and Iron Police Act, which enables companies to employ private police that enjoy all the powers of public law enforcement officers.
1869 Pennsylvania becomes the first state to pass mine safety legislation. Soon afterwards, 111 miners die during the Avondale mine disaster.
1869 Philadelphia school principal Ebeneezer Bassett becomes the United States' first African-American diplomat when President Ulysses S. Grant appoints him minister to Haiti.
1870 African Americans, denied the right to vote in Pennsylvania since 1838, receive it with ratification of the 15th Amendment.
1871 Octavius Catto is killed in Philadelphia while attempting to register black voters. Republicans win control of the city. They will control the city for more than seventy years.
1873 Ratification of a state constitution, designed to curb widespread political corruption, which doubles the size of the legislature and limits the governor to one four-year term.
1876 Pennsylvania Railroad President Thomas Scott helps engineer the nomination of Rutherford B. Hayes as the Republican candidate for president.
1877 Thirty die in Pittsburgh and Reading during the great Railroad Strike.
1877 At the request of Governor Hartranft, President Rutherford B. Hayes becomes the first president to authorize federal troops to intervene in a strike.
1877 Twenty Irish miners associated with the Molly Maguires are tried and executed in northeastern Pennsylvania in one of the most infamous political trials in American history
1878 Labor organizer and Greenback Labor party candidate Terence Powderly is elected the mayor of Scranton. The next year Powderly becomes head of the Knights of Labor.
1879 Eight persons, including three state legislators, are indicted and jailed for taking bribes from the Pennsylvania Railroad to pass a riot bill whereby state compensated the Railroad for $4 million damage from strike of 1877.
1879 Henry George publishes Poverty and Progress.
1880 Pennsylvania General James A. Beaver turns down offer to be James Garfield's vice presidential running mate; Garfield defeats Democratic candidate Winfield Scott Hancock, another Pennsylvanian, in the general election.
1881 Pennsylvania legislature passes a law, widely ignored, outlawing school segregation
1881 The Pennsylvania legislature passes a bill outlawing school segregation in the Commonwealth.
1883 A split between Republican Party regulars and reformers leads to the election of Democrat Robert Pattison as governor. Patterson becomes the first Democratic governor since William Fisher Packer stepped down from office in 1861.
1887 The Pennsylvania legislature elects Matthew Quay to U.S. Senate. He succeeds J. Donald Cameron as boss of the state Republican Party; the Pennsylvania legislature passes a state equal rights bill.
1888 Pennsylvania boss Matthew Quay runs Benjamin Harrison's successful national campaign for the presidency.
1889 Andrew Carnegie publishes The Gospel of Wealth, which argues in favor of an unregulated free market system, asserting that the wealthy, superior in wisdom and talent, can do better for workers than government or the workers can do for themselves.
1891 Robert Pattison (D) again becomes governor; Pennsylvania adopts the use of the secret ballot for elections.
1895 Daniel Hasting (R) becomes Governor.
1897 The old state capitol in Harrisburg burns to the ground.
1897 Coal and Iron Police deputies under Sheriff James Martin fire upon 400 unarmed marching miners in Luzerne County, killing nineteen and wounding thirty-six in the infamous Lattimer Massacre.
1897 Boise Penrose is elected to the U.S. Senate.
1898 John Wanamaker makes an unsuccessful bid for governor, campaigning against the "Quay Machine." Matthew Quay is indicted for misappropriating state funds and loses his seat in the U.S. Senate.
1899 Publication of W. E. B. Du Bois The Philadelphia Negro.
1901 Appointed to the State Forest Reservation Commission by Governor William Stone, Myra Dock becomes the first woman to serve in Pennsylvania state government.
1901 Andrew Carnegie sells Carnegie Steel to J. P. Morgan, who forms U. S. Steel; the Pennsylvania legislature re-elects Matthew Quay to the United States Senate
1902 Horace McFarland and Mira Dock lead the effort to clean up and modernize the city of Harrisburg. The Harrisburg Plan will later become a model for urban renewal in cities around the nation.
1902 150,000 Pennsylvania anthracite coal miners stage what at the time was the largest strike in American history.
1903 Samuel Pennypacker (R) elected Governor; Lincoln Steffens publishes articles on the corrupt city machines in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that become two of six chapters in The Shame of the Cities following year.
1904 Publication of Ida Tarbell's The History of the Standard Oil Company; Boies Penrose succeeds Matthew Quay as boss of the state Republican Party.
1905 Pennsylvania legislature creates the Pennsylvania State Constabulary in response to the scandalous behavior of Coal and Iron Police during the 1902 coal strike.
1906 President Roosevelt dedicates the new Capitol building in Harrisburg. Its architect, contractor, and the state treasurer and state auditor are indicted and jailed for inflating costs by $7.7 million.
1909 Pennsylvania corporate lawyer Philander K. Knox becomes President William Howard Taft's Secretary of State. Knox then formulates the policy of "dollar diplomacy," which guides American foreign policy.
1910 James Maurer of Reading becomes the first Socialist elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.
1911 Suffragist Alice Paul leads open-air meetings in Philadelphia to build public support for a state and federal suffrage amendment while working on her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.
1911 John Tener (R) elected Governor; State Board of Education established, along with minimum salaries for teachers.
1912 Educator and former college president Martin Brumbaugh becomes the first Ph.D. elected governor of Pennsylvania. During his term, Brumbaugh vetoes an unprecedented 400 bills to curb special interest legislation in the state.
1912 For the first time since 1860, Pennsylvania does not cast its votes for the Republican candidate for president. Instead, it gives them to former president Theodore Roosevelt, running on the Progressive Party ticket.
1913 Sixteenth Amendment to U.S. Constitution is adopted for the direct election of senators, in part to prevent Boies Penrose from being re-elected by the Pennsylvania State legislature; creation of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
1913 Pennsylvania Democratic congressman and labor leader William Wilson becomes first Secretary of Labor; the Sproul Highway Bill places 9,000 miles of roads under state jurisdiction.
1914 Boise Penrose retains his seat in the Senate after campaigning publicly for the first time; Congress designates the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day, culminating a campaign begun by Philadelphian Anna Jarvis almost a decade earlier.
1915 Pennsylvania legislature passes the state's first workman's compensation law.
1915 The Pennsylvania State Federation of Labor releases Pennsylvania Cossacks,a publication documenting abuses committed by the Pennsylvania State Constabulary during labor strikes across the state.
1916 Creation of the National Park Service culminates long campaign led by Harrisburg's Horace McFarland to preserve the nation's natural wonders.
1917 The U.S. enters World War I.
1917 Harrisburg's Lavinia Dock and twenty other Pennsylvania suffragists, the most from any state, are arrested and jailed for participating in "Silent Sentinel" demonstrations outside the White House.
1919 President Woodrow Wilson appoints Pennsylvania Congressman A. Mitchell Palmer as Attorney General. Palmer then leads the infamous Palmer Raids of 1919 and 1920.
1919 William Sproul (R) elected Governor; Prohibition and Women's Suffrage adopted by constitutional amendment although Pennsylvania endorses neither.
1920 Pennsylvania Governor William Sproul turns down Warren G. Harding's offer to be his running mate in the upcoming presidential election.
1921 Pittsburgh multi-millionaire banker Andrew Mellon becomes Secretary of the Treasury, from which office he shapes the nation's financial policies during the Roaring Twenties.
1921 The death of Boise Penrose, the last of Pennsylvania's Republican state bosses.
1922 The first women were elected to the State House. All Republicans, they were: Sarah Gerturde MacKinney, Alice M. Bentley, Rosa S. DeYoung, Sarah McCunde Gallagher, Helen Grimes, Lillie H. Pitts, Martha G. Speiser, and Martha G. Thomas
1923 Newly elected governor Gifford Pinchot impanels a commission to investigate abuses by the State Police.
1924 President Calvin Coolidge loans Marine Corps general Smedley Darlington Butler to the city of Philadelphia to enforce Prohibition. (He fails.)
1925 Flora M. Vare of Philadelphia becomes the first woman to serve in the Pennsylvania Senate.
1926 Republican William Vare wins U. S. Senate seat over Democrat William Wilson, but is denied his seat when Governor Gifford Pinchot, whom Vare had beaten in the Republican primary, refuses to certify the election.
1927 Socialist J. Henry Stump is elected the mayor of Reading.
1929 The beginning of the Great Depression.
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