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05/23/2024 10:14 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Home / Speaker Biographies / Arthur G. Olmsted

House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania, with Biogrpahical Selections.  Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.

Photo credit:

History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania, with Biogrpahical Selections.  Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.


Arthur G. Olmsted

Born: September 30, 1827, Masonville, Delaware County, NY.  Died: September 18, 1914, Ulysses, Potter County, PA. Member of the House: Potter and Tioga Counties, 1863-1865.  Affiliation: Republican.

Arthur George Olmsted was born in Masonville, New York, and his family relocated to Pennsylvania when he was a child. According to local histories, he spent his younger years farming and studying intermittently.  In 1860 he married the former Ellen Ross and the couple had 2 children, Ellen “Nellie” DuBois and Robert.

Olmsted studied law in the office of John S. Mann, Esq., in Potter County, entering the bar there on January 12, 1850, and building a successful career as a lawyer.  Olmsted was elected District Attorney for Potter County and served from 1851-1854.  Olmsted was a gifted orator, delivering lectures at the courthouse in Potter County, and later using those skills as a proponent of the temperance and anti-slavery movements.

Olmsted was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Republican in 1862.  In 1865 he was elected Speaker of the House, beating Democratic challenger George A. Quigley by a vote of 60 to 36.  During his time as Speaker, Act 37 was passed which created a pension plan providing a monthly payment to disabled veterans of the Civil War.  The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, was approved by the Pennsylvania Legislature during this session, resulting in the amendment’s ratification on December 6, 1865.  

Additionally, during Olmsted’s tenure as Speaker, President Abraham Lincoln’s coffin was laid in state at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in the Hills Capitol from the evening of April 21 to the morning of April 22, 1865.  The coffin was placed in the center of the Hall of the House of Representatives, with the head raised on an incline towards the Speaker’s desk, allowing mourners to follow processions on either side of the coffin.  The Hills Capitol was later destroyed after an 1897 fire.

Olmsted was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in 1868, serving from 1869-1871.  Olmsted filled an unexpired term as a judge in Bucks and Montgomery County from 1871-1872, but declined to seek election to retain the position.  Olmsted closed his state legislative career with the confidence of the Republican Party, who nominated him for Lieutenant Governor in 1874, though the campaign was unsuccessful.  In 1882 Olmsted was back on the bench, this time as a judge on the Fourth Judicial District composed of Potter, Tioga, McKean, and Cameron Counties.  In 1883 Olmsted was appointed president judge of the Forty-Eighth Judicial District (covering McKean and Potter Counties).  He left the bench 1902, by that time being president judge of the Fifty-Fifth Judicial District, which covered Potter County. 

Throughout his legislative and judicial careers, Olmsted was also engaged in numerous business enterprises including making real estate investments, being a director of the Coudersport and Port Allegheny Railroad Company, working for the Citizens Water Company, engaging in the natural gas business, and being president of a condensed milk company. After his retirement, he focused on local affairs in Coudersport, donating his time and money to the improvement of the fire department and public library there.

Olmsted died on September 18, 1914, and is interred at Eulalia Cemetery in Coudersport, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Historical Member Biography

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