Question of the Week

Boies Penrose became a successful politician for which political party?

Sunday, 10/28/12

 

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)

Comments

Boies Penrose

Bizarrely, I am actually researching a war memorial album for a small town in England from the First World War.

I have a thread of an enquiry which links the compiler of the war memorial album - an uncertified assistant teacher called Susannah Knight in 1921 with a letter she sent to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1936 (for which she got a reply and a formal signature for our album, and Senator Penrose, who Susannah claimed to have had as a friend in 1921 when she visited the USA.

I can send you digital copies of the relevant materials. It is within the bounds of possibility - When she visits the USA Nov-Dec 1921 she DOES gain the signatures of President, Vice President, 71/96 Senators and 72 of the House of Reps AND most of the cabinet including Herbert Hoover.

This sounds unlikely but is quite true.

I am interested in checking how strong her association was with Penrose in 1921 and if a collection of his correspondence exists.

Curiously, of the 700 identified signatures so far (there are thousands of the "great and the good of the era as well as 770 entries and photographs of the town's dead) Penrose's signature has not yet emerged.

I would be grateful of a reply.

Best Wishes,

Adam Cree

Boies Penrose

Your research certainly sounds interesting. In terms of your inquiry, we don't have a collection of Penrose's correspondence, but we have a number of collections that may contain his letters. Your best bet is to contact our Research by Mail department (researchbymail@hsp.org or 215-732-6200 ext. 222). You can send your question directly to them or talk with someone in that department.

There's no need to send us anything, however, if you are interested in donating to us digital copies of the relevant Penrose papers, please contact Director of Archives Matthew Lyons (mlyons@hsp.org or 215-732-6200 ext. 301).

Thank you for reading and commenting!

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