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Manuscript Group 171
1703-1916 (bulk 1851-1916)
48 cu. ft.

Governor's papers and private papers of Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker (b. 1843, d. 1916) who served as governor of Pennsylvania from 1903-1907. A prominent Philadelphia lawyer, judge, and president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from 1900 to 1916, Pennypacker authored more than fifty books and publications including Settlement of Germantown and The Autobiography of a Pennsylvanian. Born in Phoenixville, Chester County, on April 9, 1843, he was descended from Hendrick Pannybakker, a Dutch émigré who was a surveyor for William Penn. His grandfather, Mathias Pennypacker, served as a member of the General Assembly and president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and helped write the state Constitution of 1837. His father, Isaac Pennypacker, was the first burgess of Phoenixville and held a professorship at the Philadelphia Medical College. His mother, Anna Marie Whitaker, came from a family that owned a local ironworks.

In 1862 Pennypacker taught in a one-room schoolhouse in Mont Clare, Montgomery County and in 1863 he enlisted in Company F of Pottstown, 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Regiment during General E. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania. In 1865 he earned his bachelor of laws degree at the University of Pennsylvania and established his own law practice. In 1866 he was elected president of the Bancroft Literary Union and in 1868 was chosen president of the Law Academy of Philadelphia. In 1886 he was appointed to the Philadelphia Board of Education, admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1887 and in 1889 Governor Beaver appointed him judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia. He became president judge in 1897 and was reelected in 1899. During his presidency of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from 1900 he wrote prolifically on early local and state history, English common law, the Supreme Court, genealogical topics, and did several biographies. He also amassed more than ten thousand volumes in his personal library and self-mastered Latin, French, Greek, Italian, and Dutch. His polished intellect, public experience, and the fact that his cousin was U. S. Senator Matthew Quay, made him one of the most powerful Republicans in Pennsylvania.

In 1902, Pennypacker defeated John P. Elkin, the Republican state attorney general, for the gubernatorial nomination. The Quay and Boies Penrose political machine were accused of buying votes from Elkin supporters, which they denied. In the general election, Robert Pattison, the only Democrat to serve as governor between the Civil War and 1935, sought a third non-successive term after serving 1883-1887 and 1891-1895. Pennypacker, however, picked up the endorsements of veterans, agricultural interests, the popular former governor and Civil War hero James Beaver, and President Theodore Roosevelt, who publicly proclaimed that Pennypacker's defeat would be a "national calamity."

Easily defeating Pattison in the general election, during his tenure he signed into law the Child Labor Act of 1905 that set the minimum age for factory and mine work at fourteen and prohibited most night work. Governor Pennypacker also created the Pennsylvania State Police that quickly earned a reputation for efficiency and integrity, even drawing public acclamations from President Theodore Roosevelt. An ardent conservationist, Pennypacker appointed Joseph Trimble Rothrock as the first commissioner of forestry and as a result of his efforts, half a million acres of land were preserved, twelve thousand acres was set aside for use as game land, tree nurseries were established, and the first school for state foresters was opened at Mont Alto, Franklin County. In 1903 Governor Pennypacker signed legslation creating the Division of Public Records in the State Library and in 1905 also signed legislation authorizing the creation of a State Museum to house the accumulated artistic, historical, and natural treasures of the state. In addition, during his tenure Pennsylvania levied new taxes on out-of-state corporations that mined and exported Pennsylvania coal. This increased tax revenue financed eight thousand miles of paved roads in the state.


PA State Archives Hours, Directions, & Fees Research Topics Online Catalog Land Records