Gov. Samuel Pennypacker (b. 1843 - d. 1916)

The State Police and Conflict with the Press

Term 1903 - 1907


Photograph of Gov. Pennypacker in HSMC's collection

Born in Phoenixville, Samuel Whitaker Pennypacker spent his young adult life studying law. In 1902, Pennypacker defeated Robert Pattison to become the 23rd governor of Pennsylvania.


Drawing courtesy of Pennypacker Mills.

As governor, Pennypacker addressed problems created by the industrial revolution, such as the Coal and Iron Police. Prior to the 20th century, Pennsylvania only had local law enforcementLarge manufacturing companies hired private police, known as the Coal and Iron Police, to secure their property. However, without oversight, many of these private police were used to end strikes. Governor Pennypacker believed private police were unconstitutional and thus created the Pennsylvania State Police to replace themThis statewide police force was one of the first of its kind in the United States.

 P81769 2    P81610

Ribbon and Pin Courtesy of Pennypacker Mills

Prior to Gov. Pennypacker's term, on February 2, 1897, the Pennsylvania Capitol burned. The building was estimated to be worth $1 million but was only ensured for $200,000. During his time in office, Gov. Pennypacker oversaw the rebuilding of the Capitol, which later became the subject of a price gouging scandal. This trowel was used in the dedication ceremony for the new Capitol.

trowel   trowel 2

Large steel presentation mortar trowel used by Gov. Pennypacker to lay the memorial box in the corner stone of the new Capitol building in Harrisburg in 1904. Courtesy of Pennypacker Mills.

Governor Pennypacker had a poor relationship with the press during his time in office. Tired of being drawn as a parrot by political cartoonist Charles Nelan, the Governor passed the Salus-Grady law in 1903. This law banned cartoons that depicted people as animals. According to Governor Pennypacker, the law was designed to make the press more accountable and less driven by newspaper sales. The press claimed the law was a violation of their first amendment rights and proceeded to depict the Governor and other politicians as non-animal objects. The Salus-Grady bill was ultimately repealed in 1907 after Governor Pennypacker’s term ended.


Libel Law Cartoon courtesy of Pennnypacker Mills


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