Question of the Week
Boies Penrose became a successful politician for which political party?
Answer: The Republican Party
November 1 marks the birthday of Boies Penrose, known as “Big Grizzly,” who served in the U. S. Senate for 24 years. Penrose was born in 1860 in Philadelphia and lived at 1331 Spruce Street with his father and mother, Dr. Richard A. F. Penrose and Sarah H. Boies. Penrose attended Harvard University where he was almost expelled; however, his grades improved during his senior year and he managed to graduate with honors. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1883, but shortly after started what become a lifelong political career.
Penrose was a commanding presence and was embraced by ward leaders in Philadelphia. He was a large man at six-feet-four-inches tall with a voracious appetite (reportedly eating a dozen eggs for breakfast and an entire turkey for lunch). He was also known for his appetite for politics, becoming a powerful boss of the Republican Party. His first position was as a Pennsylvania state representative, which he held from 1884 to 1886. After that, he was elected a state senator; and during his tenure, he was elected president pro tempore of the state senate. In 1895, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. He was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1987, a position he held until his death in 1921. He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
HSP's library has several sources on Senator Penrose including Biography of the late Boies Penrose and family (Wo* .562 v.1), Boies Penrose: Symbol of an Era (Gp .34953), and Power and Glory: The Life of Boies Penrose (Gp .34951). More images of him can be found in the Society portrait collection (#V88) and the Philadelphia Record photograph morgue (#V7).
Image: Senator Penrose in Philadelphia, greeting a group of boys, photograph (circa 1910)
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.