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Manuscript Group 340
BENJAMIN L. FORSTER COLLECTION
1835-1917, 1931, 1944, & undated
.5 cubic feet


Benjamin Forster (1835-1918), the son of General John Forster (1777-1863) and Margaret Snodgrass Law (1809-1891), was born into an old, established Harrisburg family, with his relatives being some of the region's first settlers. He studied law and was admitted to the bar on 22 January 1858. After law school Forster served as a law clerk in the State Attorney General's office under Democratic Governor Robert E. Pattison, and at one time ran for Congress as a Democratic candidate. He also followed his father, a veteran of the Whiskey Rebellion and the War of 1812, into military service. At the age of twenty-seven he served as a second lieutenant in the Civil War in the Independent Artillery Company of the Militia from September 11-27, 1862. Forster lived at 7 South Front Street in Harrisburg for much of his life and Forster's Island in the Susquehanna River is believed to be named in honor of him. When Forster died at age eighty-four he was considered the oldest member of the State Bar Association. He was survived by two children, Mrs. William R. Duncan and D. Douglas Forster.

By far the most extensive group of documents in the collection are military telegrams and correspondence. They mainly concern Pennsylvania National Guard business and administrative issues, with the correspondence being both incoming and outgoing through the Adjutant General's office of the Commonwealth. Of particular interest are three Civil War era telegrams and a telegram to Pennsylvania Republican Governor William A. Stone requesting militia to be sent to the "coal region." This is apparently a reference to the United Mine Workers strike of 1902. There are also military telegrams dated 1917 dealing with supplies and organization of the National Guard in Harrisburg, including correspondence with Generals Joseph Hartranft and Daniel Hastings. Also present in the collection are: four incoming letters to Benjamin Forster dated from 1886-1914, while he was a practicing attorney in Harrisburg; miscellaneous items concerning the legal and political interests of Forster, including a copy of John Forster's final will and a court petition regarding unsatified mortgages upon John Forster's lots in Harrisburg; and envelopes addressed to the Adjutant General. In short, these documents appear to have been collected by Benjamin Forster due to his interest in military life. Yet his collection ironically tells us very little about him or the Forster family.






PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Finding Aids for Collections Land Records