The last Democratic Speaker or President Pro Tem of the nineteenth century, Albert Gallatin Brodhead, was the son of Garrett and Cornelia Dingman Brodhead, born August 13, 1815 at Dingman’s Ferry, Pike County, Pennsylvania.[i] The descendant of famed Pennsylvania settler Daniel Brodhead, Albert was the nephew of United States Senator Richard Brodhead and a cousin of Henry Linderman, director of the United States Mint.[ii] Albert worked on his father’s farm in the summer and attended school in the winter. At sixteen, he relocated at Chestnut Hill, Northampton County (Monroe). There, he joined his uncle’s business firm, Brodhead and Brown. Daniel became a buyer for the establishment, and in 1837, he started his own mercantile partnership with W.H. Cool at Beaver Meadow, Coyningham, Luzerne County. Retiring from the prosperous business in 1841, Albert moved to Mauch Chunk, where he clerked for Judge Asa Packer.[iii] He married Anne Tolan of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania in 1838.[iv]
Becoming a close friend of Judge Packer’s during a seven-year clerkship, Asa allowed Albert leave to serve as a business assistant for the Faltzinger & Salkeld Foundry, a position which he resigned in 1850 for the more lucrative offer as superintendent of the Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company. The company merged with Packer’s Lehigh Valley Railroad Company in 1864. Brodhead’s mentor awarded the young businessman with an appointment as division superintendent of the new corporation, a position that he held for the remainder of his life.[v]
Among his many political accomplishments, efforts promoting the formation of Carbon County appear at the forefront. An old Cameron Democrat, Brodhead played a significant role in local, state, and national parties. He entered the political arena in 1857, served as Carbon County treasurer, and in 1869, represented his judicial district as a five-year associate district judge. Along the way, Brodhead exhibited characteristics of a War Democrat, shown as a frequent correspondent of Simon Cameron’s and the boss’s high-tariff ally.[vi] In one particular letter to Simon, A.G. expressed a measure of non-politicism, revealing to Cameron his anger with war politics. Brodhead encouraged each major political organization to “go for his country, and let parties and party names go to the dogs.”[vii]
In October 1869, the Carbon, Monroe, Pike, and Wayne District elected the judge to the Pennsylvania Senate. A brilliant accountant, Brodhead chaired William Wallace’s 1871 Retrenchment and Reform Committee. He served a three-year term but lost his seat to Edwin Albright after the 1871 apportionment combined Lehigh County with Carbon, allowing just one of the two seated senators to return to Harrisburg. He became Speaker of the Senate at the close of session, May 27, 1871, however lost to Quay Lieutenant James Rutan of Beaver on a 17-15, eighth-ballot decision.
Senator Brodhead never competed for a Senate seat thereafter but maintained close connections with the upper echelons of the Democratic Party. He was an “ardent admirer” and good friend to President Grover Cleveland and Governor Robert Pattison.[viii] Among his many civic contributions to Mauch Chunk, Judge Brodhead helped organize the local gas company, served in various capacities as an executive for the Linderman National Bank, was an elder and Sunday school teacher at the Presbyterian Church, and was a member of the Masons Lodge. The Honorable Albert Gallatin Brodhead Jr. died January 18, 1891 at Mauch Chunk. The Philadelphia Times noted that Albert was:
“A natural-born leader of men, careful and watchful of the rights of others, and a model of business integrity, Judge Brodhead was universally loved and esteemed in the town where he passed almost a half century of his career among a people who sought services and gave unreservedly their confidences.”[ix]
(Mathews & Hungerford, 1884).
[i] John W. Jordan, Edgar Moore Greene, and George T. Ettinger, Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, vol. II (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905), 260.
[iii] Ibid., 261.
[iv] Ibid., 262.
[v] Ibid., 261.
[vi] A.G. Brodhead, Philadelphia, to Simon Cameron, January 22, 1861, Roll 7, Cameron Papers.
[viii] Jordan, 261.
[ix] Ibid., 260.