Boies Penrose
United States Senator
from Pennsylvania
In office
March 4, 1897 – December 31, 1921
Preceded byJ. Donald Cameron
Succeeded byGeorge Pepper
Member of the
Republican National Committee
from Pennsylvania
In office
May 18, 1916 – December 31, 1921
Preceded byHenry Wasson
Succeeded byGeorge Pepper
In office
June 9, 1904 – May 1, 1912
Preceded byMatthew Quay
Succeeded byHenry Wasson
Chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania
In office
May 27, 1903 – April 26, 1905
Preceded byMatthew Quay
Succeeded byWesley Andrews
President pro tempore
of the Pennsylvania Senate
In office
May 9, 1889 – May 28, 1891
Preceded byJohn Grady
Succeeded byJohn P. S. Gobin
Member of the Pennsylvania Senate
from the 6th district
In office
January 4, 1887 – January 27, 1897[1]
Preceded byRobert Adams, Jr.
Succeeded byIsrael Wilson Durham
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the Philadelphia County district
In office
January 6, 1885[2] – June 12, 1885
Personal details
Born(1860-11-01)November 1, 1860
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedDecember 31, 1921(1921-12-31) (aged 61)
Washington D.C., U.S.
Resting placeLaurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyRepublican

Boies Penrose (November 1, 1860 – December 31, 1921) was an American politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who served as a Republican member of the United States Senate for Pennsylvania from 1897 to 1921. He served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the Philadelphia County district in 1885. He served as a member of the Pennsylvania State Senate for the 6th district in 1897 and as President pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate from 1889 to 1891.

Penrose was the fourth political boss of the Pennsylvania Republican political machine (known under his bossism as the Penrose machine), following Simon Cameron, Donald Cameron, and Matthew Quay.[3] He was the most powerful political operative in Pennsylvania for 17 years, supported Warren Harding in his nomination for U.S. president, and added the oil depletion allowance into the Revenue Act of 1913 to benefit oil producers. Penrose was the longest-serving U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania until Arlen Specter surpassed his record in 2005.[4]

Early life and education

He was born on November 1, 1860,[5] in Philadelphia, one of seven sons,[6] to Dr. Richard Alexander Fullerton Penrose and Sarah Hannah Boies.[7] He was born into a prominent Old Philadelphian family of Cornish descent.[8] The family traced their American origins to Bartholomew Penrose, a Bristol shipbuilder, who was invited by William Penn to establish a shipyard in the Province of Pennsylvania.[9] He was a grandson of Speaker of the Pennsylvania Senate Charles B. Penrose and brother of gynecologist Charles Bingham Penrose and mining entrepreneurs Richard and Spencer Penrose. He was a descendant of the prominent Biddle family of Philadelphia.[10]

Penrose attended Episcopal Academy[11] and Harvard University. He was almost expelled from Harvard due to poor academics but was able to improve his grades by Senior year.[12] He graduated second in his class in 1881. After reading the law with the firm of Wayne MacVeagh and George Tucker Bispham,[13] he was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in 1883.[14]

Pennsylvania legislature

He served as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for Philadelphia County in 1885,[11] and was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate for the 6th district in 1886. He served as president pro tempore from 1889 to 1891.[10] At the age of 26, he was the youngest state senator and at age 29, the youngest President pro tempore.[3]

Although Penrose wrote two books on political reform, he joined the political machine of Matthew Quay, a Pennsylvania Republican political boss.[15] In 1895, Penrose ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Philadelphia.[14] He was forced to withdraw from the race when his Democrat opponent released a photo of Penrose leaving a brothel at three o'clock in the morning.[13]

U.S. Senate and National Republican Party Committee

In 1897, the state legislature elected Penrose to the United States Senate over John Wanamaker.[3]

Penrose was a dominant member of the Senate Finance Committee and supported high protective tariffs. He had also served on the United States Senate Committee on Banking, United States Senate Committee on Naval Affairs, United States Senate Committee on Post Office and Post Roads, United States Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and United States Senate Committee on Immigration.[16] One of Penrose's most important legislative actions was adding the oil depletion allowance to the Revenue Act of 1913 which benefited oil producers including the Mellons and the Pews.[17] Penrose consistently supported "pro-business" policies, and opposed labor reform and women's rights.[15]

He created the development of "squeeze bills", in which he would have Pennsylvania colleagues enter bills into the Pennsylvania legislature that were negative toward major industries, such as railroads and banks, and promised to remove the bills after receiving sufficient political contributions from those industries.[3]

Penrose was elected Chairman of the State Republican Party in 1903, succeeding fellow Senator Matthew Quay.[18] A year later, Quay died, and Penrose was appointed to succeed him as the state's Republican National Committeeman.[19] He was the most powerful political operative in Pennsylvania for the next 17 years[20] and enabled figures like Richard Baldwin to advance through loyalty to his organization.[21]

In the 1912 presidential election, Penrose strongly supported incumbent President William Howard Taft over former President Theodore Roosevelt. After a campaign that consisted of heavy attacks on Penrose, Roosevelt won the state in the 1912 election, although Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the national vote.[22] Penrose was also a major supporter of Warren Harding, and helped the Ohio Senator win the 1920 Republican nomination.[23] Penrose's role in Harding's election helped earn Pennsylvanian Andrew W. Mellon the role of Secretary of the Treasury.[15]

In 1912, Penrose was forced out of power by the progressive faction of the party led by William Flinn.[24] Penrose did not stand for re-election to his national committee post. However, following Flinn's departure from the party to support Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party, Penrose was able to garner enough support to return to his post as national committeeman and would remain in the position until his death.[25][26]

In 1914, Penrose faced his first direct election (following the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment). He publicly campaigned for the first time in his life and defeated Democrat A. Mitchell Palmer and Progressive Gifford Pinchot.[15]

In November 1915, Penrose accompanied the Liberty Bell on its nationwide tour to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco to raise money for World War I.[27][28]

Personal life and business

Penrose was six foot four inches tall and was nicknamed "Big Grizzly". He had a huge appetite and was known to have a dozen eggs at breakfast and a full turkey at lunch.[12] He won a $1,000 bet in an eating contest of 50 oysters and a quart of bourbon that sent his opponent to he hospital.[29] He did not like people watching him eat and had screens set up to provide privacy when he dined at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia.[30]

Penrose was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed mountain exploration and big-game hunting. He was one of the 100 original members of the Boone and Crockett Club.[31] According to his hunting guide, W.G. (Bill) Manson, they had to spend a lot of time to find a horse big enough to carry Penrose and his custom saddle. The horse was called "Senator." After Penrose stopped riding, the horse was retired to pasture because no standard saddle would fit him.[32]

He never married and was known to boast of his love of prostitutes, stating that he didn't "believe in hypocrisy".[28]

In 1903 Boies, along with his brothers and father, invested in the formation of the Utah Copper Company.[33]

Death and legacy

Boies Penrose tombstone in Laurel Hill Cemetery

Penrose died on December 31, 1921,[14] in his Wardman Park penthouse suite in Washington, D.C. in the last hour of 1921, after suffering a pulmonary thrombosis.[16] He was interred in the Penrose family grave section of Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.[10]

Following Penrose's death, his lieutenant Joseph Grundy became one of the leaders of the Republican machine, but no one boss dominated the party as Penrose and his predecessors had.[23]

Mount Penrose in the Dickson Range in southwest-central British Columbia is named after Penrose.[34]

A bronze statue of Penrose by Philadelphia sculptor Samuel Murray was erected in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's Capitol Park in September 1930.[35]


See also



  1. ^ Cox, Harold (2004). "Pennsylvania Senate - 1897-1898" (PDF). Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.
  2. ^ Sharon Trostle, ed. (2009). The Pennsylvania Manual (PDF). Vol. 119. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of General Services. ISBN 978-0-8182-0334-3.
  3. ^ a b c d Beers 1980, p. 53.
  4. ^ Goldstein, Steve (November 1, 2005). "Specter is Pa.'s longest-serving U.S. senator/ He breaks Boies Penrose's record". Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  5. ^ "Penrose, Boies (1860-1921)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  6. ^ Hudson, Samuel (1909). Pennsylvania and Its Public Men. Philadelphia: Hudson & Joseph. pp. 32–33. Retrieved December 19, 2023.
  7. ^ Leach, Josiah Granville (1903). History of the Penrose Family of Philadelphia. Philadelphia: Wm. F. Fell Company. p. 121. Retrieved December 18, 2023.
  8. ^ White, G. Pawley, A Handbook of Cornish Surnames. (Boies Penrose mentioned by name)
  9. ^ Noel & Norman 2002, p. 1.
  10. ^ a b c "Pennsylvania State Senate - Boies Penrose Biography". Retrieved February 20, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Boies Penrose". Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  12. ^ a b "Boies Penrose became a successful politician for which political party?". Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  13. ^ a b Bell, Robert R. (1992). The Philadelphia Lawyer: A History 1735-1945. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press. p. 229. ISBN 0-945636-26-1. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  14. ^ a b c "Boies Penrose United States Senator". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved December 17, 2023.
  15. ^ a b c d "Chapter Four: From the Progressive Era to the Great Depression". Explore PA History. WITF. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
  16. ^ a b "Senator Boies Penrose Dead," Indianapolis Sunday Star, January 1, 1922 at p. 1, retrieved 2012-10-15.
  17. ^ Beers 1980, p. 42.
  18. ^ "Quay's Push Cut The Ice". The Youngstown Vindicator. May 27, 1903. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  19. ^ "News Summary". The Ottawa Free Trader. June 10, 1904. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  20. ^ Beers 1980, pp. 41–42.
  21. ^ Kaylor, Earl C. (1996). Martin Grove Brumbaugh: A Pennsylvanian's Odyssey From Sainted Schoolman to Bedeviled World War I Governor, 1862-1930. Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, Inc. p. 300. ISBN 0-8386-3689-6. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  22. ^ Abernethy, Lloyd (April 1962). "The Progressive Campaign in Pennsylvania, 1912". Pennsylvania History. 29 (2): 175–195.
  23. ^ a b Kennedy, Joseph S. (October 26, 2003). "Grundy's legacy in Pa. For decades, he was a force in the GOP". Retrieved November 25, 2014.
  24. ^ "T.R. Sweep In Pennsylvania". The St. Joseph News-Press. May 2, 1912. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  25. ^ "Ford Ahead Of T.R. In Philadelphia Vote". The Baltimore Sun. May 18, 1916. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  26. ^ "Pinchot Hits Assessment Of Office Holders". The Reading Eagle. June 11, 1922. Retrieved January 28, 2012.
  27. ^ "Liberty Bell Attracts Crowd in Greenville During 1915 Stop". Greenville Advocate. July 3, 2007.
  28. ^ a b Fried, Stephen. "How the Liberty Bell Won the Great War". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved December 19, 2023.
  29. ^ Noel & Norman 2002, pp. 11–12.
  30. ^ Beers 1980, p. 48.
  31. ^ Fraley, John. "A grizzly attack on Mount Penrose". Hungry Horse News. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  32. ^ Dapp, Rick. "Did You Know?". MH Magazine. Retrieved December 20, 2023.
  33. ^ Charles Caldwell Hawley (2014). A Kennecott Story. The University of Utah Press. pp. 37–40.
  34. ^ "Mount Penrose". Peak Visor. Retrieved December 21, 2023.
  35. ^ "Bronze Maintenance". Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2009.


U.S. Senate Preceded byJ. Donald Cameron U.S. senator (Class 3) from Pennsylvania 1897–1921 Served alongside: Matthew Quay, Philander Knox, George Oliver, William Crow Succeeded byGeorge Pepper Political offices Preceded byNelson AldrichRhode Island Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance 1911–1913 Succeeded byFurnifold SimmonsNorth Carolina Preceded byFurnifold SimmonsNorth Carolina Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance 1919–1921 Succeeded byPorter McCumberNorth Dakota Preceded byJohn Grady President pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate 1889–1891 Succeeded byJohn P. S. Gobin Pennsylvania State Senate Preceded byRobert Adams, Jr. Member of the Pennsylvania Senate for the 6th District 1887–1897 Succeeded byIsrael Wilson Durham Party political offices Preceded byMatthew Quay Member of the Republican National Committee from Pennsylvania 1904–1912 Succeeded byHenry Wasson Chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania 1903–1905 Succeeded byWesley Andrews Preceded byHenry Wasson Member of the Republican National Committee from Pennsylvania 1916–1921 Succeeded byGeorge Pepper Preceded byNone1 Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania(Class 3) 1914, 1920 Notes and references 1. The 1914 election marked the first time that all seats up for election were popularly elected instead of chosen by their state legislatures.
Chairmen of the United States Senate Committee on Post Office and Civil Service