1907-1908 Francis B. McClain
Born: April 14, 1864, Lancaster, Lancaster County, PA. Died: October 11, 1925, Lancaster, Lancaster County, PA. Member of the House: Lancaster County, 1st District, 1895-March 18, 1910. Affiliation: Republican.
Francis Bernard McClain was educated in the parochial schools of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Lancaster High School in 1881. McClain married the former Ellen Bernardine O’Neill on February 14, 1888. They had 1 child who died in infancy.
Starting in 1884, McClain became involved in the livestock business, a profession he continued to be engaged in through the remainder of his life. Frank McClain worked as a cattle dealer and later became cofounder of the Lancaster Livestock Exchange. He became the first president of that company shortly after. In November of 1894, McClain was elected to represent the 1st District of Lancaster County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was re-elected to 7 more consecutive terms.
During his time as a legislator, McClain worked to improve the lives of his constituents in Lancaster County. Much of the legislation he sponsored appropriated money to hospitals and homeless shelters in Lancaster. He was the sponsor of legislation, which became Act 473 of 1901, which funded a homeless shelter in his district. McClain also sponsored legislation that would become Act 145 of 1903 that gave more rights to foreign corporations to purchase real estate in Pennsylvania. He also created legislation which became Act 469 of 1907 that helped fund the Lancaster General Hospital.
McClain served as chairman of the Municipal Corporations Committee from 1899-1900. In 1901 he was selected chairman of the Corporations Committee and served as its chair until 1906. During his time as Representative, he also served on the Ways and Means Committee and the Railroads Committee. On January 1, 1907, McClain was elected the 104th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a vote of 157 to 50, beating challenger, Representative John M. Flynn.
During McClain’s service as Speaker of the House, Pennsylvania experienced the “Panic of 1907.” This financial crisis hit Pennsylvania hard, and the legislature created new laws to help fill its coffers and prevent future crises. It was during this time that Pennsylvania enacted Act 512 of 1907, the state’s first law that allowed for a company’s capital stock to be taxed. In order to prevent future bank collapses triggered by consumers rushing to withdraw their money, Act 150 of 1907 was enacted which would require banks to maintain a cash reserve that was enough to cover at least 15 percent of all deposits.
McClain was elected mayor of Lancaster city on February 15, 1910. Resigning from the House as majority leader on March 18, 1910, McClain was sworn in as mayor on April 4, 1910, and served until he resigned on January 6, 1915. In May of 1914, he became the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor. On November 3, 1914, he won the election and was sworn in as the 11th Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania on January 20, 1915, and served through January 21, 1919, under Governor Martin Grove Brumbaugh. In 1919 McClain became executive director and treasurer of the newly formed State Welfare Commission. In 1919 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Villanova College.
Socially, McClain was the director of the Lancaster Charity Society, a member of the Lancaster Historical Society, and president of the Philadelphia Terrapin Club for over 20 years. McClain is remembered for the joy he took in enriching the lives of orphaned and disadvantaged children through his work as a trustee of the Home for Friendless Children where he played Santa Clause during the holidays.
Frank B. McClain died at his home in Lancaster on October 11, 1925, at the age of 61. His death was attributed to deteriorating health following a stroke he suffered a year prior. He is interred at Saint Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, the city of Lancaster, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
To view this Speaker's House Historical Biography, click here.