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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection, LC-DIG-cwpbh-04365


Photo credit:

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Brady-Handy Collection, LC-DIG-cwpbh-04365

 

Hendrick B. Wright

Born: April 24, 1808, Plymouth, Luzerne County, PA.  Died: September 2, 1881, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, PA. Member of the House: Luzerne and Wyoming Counties, 1841-1843.  Affiliation: Democrat, Greenbac

Hendrick Bradley Wright was born on April 24, 1808, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  In 1829 he entered Dickinson College, but left in 1831 before graduating.  He returned to Wilkes-Barre and began studying law with John N. Conyngham.  He was admitted to the Luzerne County bar on November 8, 1831.  Wright began his law career in Wilkes-Barre, and was appointed Luzerne County District Attorney in 1834.  In June of 1835 Wright was elected and commissioned colonel of the Wyoming Volunteer Regiment of the 2nd Brigade, 8th Division of the Pennsylvania Militia.  He held this position until 1842. Wright was a member of the town council of Wilkes-Barre in 1837 and 1840, and from May of 1838 to May of 1839 he was the burgess of the borough.  Wright married the former Mary Ann Bradley Robinson in 1835, and the couple had 10 children.  Their first children were twins, Charles Robinson and Ellen Hendrick, both of whom died in 1836 before their first birthday. The couple had had 8 more children: Joseph, Anna Augusta, Mary Elizabeth (Hawley), Ellen Hendrick (Graeme), Caroline Griffin, Hendrick Bradley, George Riddle, and Charles Robinson.

Wright was elected to the Pennsylvania House as a Democrat in 1840 and served in 3 consecutive sessions from 1841-1843. In his first term in office, he served on the Judiciary Committee and advocated for prison reform, speaking in favor of the abolition of the solitary confinement of prisoners as well as opposing the imprisonment of debtors. Wright was elected the 68th Speaker of the House on January 3, 1843.  During his Speakership, Act 150 of 1843 was passed, which incorporated Elk County, and Act 41 of 1843 was passed, which established Carbon County.

Wright was a frequent delegate to National Conventions for the Democratic Party, serving in 1844, 1848, 1852, 1856, 1860, 1868, and 1876.  After an unsuccessful campaign for a seat in the Thirty-second United States Congress, Wright was elected to the Thirty-third Congress, serving from 1853-1855.  He was later re-elected to the Thirty-seventh Congress to fill a vacancy caused by the death of George W. Scranton, serving from July 4, 1861, to March 3, 1863.  After an interlude in which Wright returned to his legal practice, he was yet again re-elected to the United States Congress.  Wright served from 1877-1881, being a representative of the Greenback Party as opposed to the Democratic Party in the latter session.  During the Forty-fifth Congress, from 1877-1878, he served as chair of the Committee on Manufactures.

During his career, especially later in life, Wright was a supporter of labor concerns, even authoring a book on the subject in 1871, A Practical Treatise on Labor.

Hendrick Bradley Wright died on September 2, 1881.  He is interred at Hollenback Cemetery in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.