Born in Philadelphia, October 17, 1828, John Lamon was the son of George and Catherine Lamon of Kensington.[ii] John followed his German immigrant father, pursuing the weaving trade, receiving his education at the Harrison Grammar School.[iii] He apprenticed with Neafle and Levy at 18, pursuing the “ship trade,” a vocational interest that lasted until 1843, when he received an appointment as a sergeant in the police department under Marshal John Keymer. He remained at that post through 1856, marrying first wife Mary in 1849, the two settling near Lamon’s childhood home in Kensington.
Sergeant Lamon resigned from the police department in 1856 to accept a more lucrative position as meter inspector for the Northern Liberties Gas Company, returning to the force in 1860. Initially commanding a security guard for President Lincoln’s inaugural tour speech at Independence Hall, Feb. 1861, he provided the same service again at Lincoln’s June 16, 1864 speech at the Great Sanitary Fair.[iv] [v]
Mayor Henry promoted Lamon to the Philadelphia detective unit in early 1863, selected as Chief of Detectives in 1865, a position he held four years until he was relieved of command by Mayor Fox. Chief Lamon, meanwhile, received notoriety as the man who cracked the sensational Dorcas Magilton murder case.[vi] The successful investigation placed John in the public eye and launched his political career.
Leaving the force in 1869, J. Fletcher Budd appointed Lamon, Deputy Collector of Internal Revenue, a position he held until 1870 when he successfully bid for a Republican seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He served in the lower house from 1871 through 1872, graduating to the state Senate, 1873-1880. Senator Lamon attained the president pro tempore ad interim post on June 6, 1879.
Lamon served as a member of Elisha Davis’s Railroad Committee, taking over leadership with Davis’s 1878 departure, chairing the committee during the 1879 Riot Legislature. A mainstay on the Municipal Affairs Committee, he served as its chair in 1876. John revealed staunch support for Quay initiatives and typically followed the voting line of Tom Cooper and succeeding caucus leader John Grady. He, nevertheless, defied leadership in voting against the Cameron-Quay line on the coal-weight standardization bill. Senator Lamon presented the 1879 nomination of J.D. Cameron for the U.S. Senate, advocating a high tariff, coal operator rights, and anti-organized labor legislation. On the other hand, he supported the Workman’s Pay Law and the railroad rate-fare equalization and passenger safety measure. The senator favored granting women inclusion as corporate officers and supported the first medical malpractice bill in the mid 1870s. Late in his Senate career, Lamon assumed a role as liaison for Philadelphia commercial coal marketing interests and municipal affairs.
After losing an 1880 bid for re-nomination, John served as Philadelphia’s mercantile appraiser for nine years, subsequently accepting an appointment as Superintendent of Police under Director (later Mayor) Stokely.[vii] He resigned from public life briefly in 1891, recalled as Superintendent of Police from 1895 through 1900.[viii] The Honorable Senator Lamon served thereafter as president of the Pneumatic Fire Alarm Telegraph Company until failing eyesight caused his resignation. A Freemason, Senator Lamon was a member of Shekinah Lodge 246, F and AM; Royal Arch Masons, Keystone Chapter 175; and the Columbia Club. For many years, he held sizable stock interests in the Second and Third Street Passenger Railway Company and the Continental Passenger Railway, serving as a director on both boards.[ix] He also chaired the board of the Pennsylvania Cold Storage Company. The Honorable John Lamon passed away at home on January 26, 1916.[x]
[i] Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), January 26, 1916.
[ii] Smull’s Legislative Handbook 1879 (Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart State Printers), 665; also: 1830 Philadelphia Census, Kensington, 249; also: 1850 Philadelphia Census, Kensington, 383.
[iii] Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), January 26, 1916.
[iv] Inquirer (Philadelphia), January 27, 1916.
[v] Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), January 26, 1916.
[vi] Public Ledger (Philadelphia), May 21, 1867; also: New York Times, August 16, 1867.
[vii] Evening Bulletin (Philadelphia), January 26, 1916.
[viii] Philadelphia City Directories, 1890, 1895, 1900.
[ix] Last Will and Testament of John Lamon, File 633, Book 378, page 89; Philadelphia City Archives.
[x] Evening Bulletin.