John E. Faunce
Born: October 29, 1840, Millersburg, Dauphin County, PA. Died: July 24, 1917, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA. Member of the House: Philadelphia County, 17th District, 1875-1888. Affiliation: Democrat.
John Egner Faunce, son of Dauphin County sheriff Samuel Faunce, was a graduate of Dickinson Seminary (now Lycoming College) in Williamsport. He entered the law department of the University of Pennsylvania in 1863. During the Civil War, he temporarily withdrew from the University to enlist in the United States Army as a private. In the summer of 1863, he served in Comley’s Independent Company of the Pennsylvania Cavalry during the invasion of Pennsylvania. After the war ended, Faunce received a Bachelor of Laws on July 3, 1865, and was admitted to the Philadelphia County Bar on November 11, 1865. Faunce married the former Sarah Pearson Hatfield, and together they had 2 daughters, Elizabeth Hatfield and Edna Hatfield.
Faunce was elected a delegate of the National Democratic Convention of 1868 and was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1874. In January of 1875 Faunce commenced his service in the State House as Representatives for the 17th District of Philadelphia County. He served a total of 14 consecutive years from 1875-1888.
Faunce served as chairman of the Federal Relations Committee for the 1875 and 1876 terms. In 1877 he was nominated by his party for the Speakership, although he lost in the election due to a Republican majority in the House. During the Democratic Convention of 1878, he was nominated for Lieutenant Governor, but shortly after the second ballot his name was withdrawn. On January 2, 1883, John Faunce was elected the 97th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Throughout his tenure in the House, Faunce worked to make it easier for companies to invest in Pennsylvania. He sponsored a bill, which became Act 112 of 1887, which would give corporations from other states more freedom to purchase property within Pennsylvania. They would be allowed to purchase real estate in which they could conduct their business.
During his Speakership, Pennsylvania passed a law, Act 29 of 1883, creating a free “evening” school for children who would be unable to attend normal public school. This was to allow for children who were working during the day to still receive an education. Pennsylvania also created a law, Act 43 of 1883, which would require building owners to supply ropes that could be used as fire escapes.
Faunce presided as Speaker over the longest session that was held between the Civil War and World War I. The session lasted for a total of 156 days, plus an additional 113 days for a special session held to rewrite the budget for the state. It was also during this time that telephones were first installed in the Capitol.
After his service in the Pennsylvania House, Faunce retired and lived in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, New Jersey. John Faunce died on July 24, 1917, in Philadelphia after a prolonged illness. He is interred at Laurel Hill Cemetery in the city of Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.
To view this Speaker's House Historical Biography, click here.