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House Speaker Biographies

Photo credit:

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania of the Ninteenth Century.  Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Company, 1874.


Photo credit:

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania of the Ninteenth Century.  Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Company, 1874.

 

Richardson L. Wright

Born: August 30, 1820, Province of Ulster, Ireland.  Died: September 10, 1904, Frankford, Philadelphia County, PA.  Member of the House: Philadelphia County, 1853-1856.  Affiliation:  Democrat.  

Richardson L. Wright was born in Northern Ireland and immigrated as a child with his family to New Brunswick, Canada, and later to Philadelphia.  He was educated at the Locust Street School and Mount Vernon School.  Wright completed an apprenticeship as a tailor and worked as a salesman at William Jackson and Company cloth merchants in Philadelphia.  In 1846 he married the former Eleanor Elizabeth Roberts, and the couple had 5 children: Richardson, Jr., Mary, George Shoemaker, Eleanor A., and the Reverend Robert Erskine.  He continued to be involved in the mercantile business as well as mechanical pursuits, and also studied law. Wright did not pursue law, but instead began his political career with election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1852.

Wright represented Philadelphia County as a Democrat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1853-1856.  He was elected Speaker in the final year of his tenure on January 1, 1856, by a vote of 63 to 30, against challenger Robert McCombs.  During Wright’s Speakership, Pennsylvania was associated with several events linked to national politics regarding that year’s Presidential race.  Pennsylvania’s native son, James Buchanan, secured the Democratic Party’s nomination, and Wright, along with other Democrats in both chambers of the Pennsylvania Assembly, made a movement to endorse Mr. Buchanan on the eve of the legislature’s adjournment in May of 1856.   Additionally, in June of 1856, Philadelphia hosted the first National Convention of the modern Republican Party, formed in 1854.  The delegates nominated John C. Fremont, who unsuccessfully challenged James Buchanan in the Presidential race.

In 1856 Wright himself ran a successful campaign to move from the House to the Pennsylvania State Senate while serving as Speaker.  Wright was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in the 1856 general election, serving from 1857-1859.  After his term in the Senate, he was nominated to serve as Auditor General, an election he lost.  In 1867 President Andrew Johnson appointed Wright as the United States Assessor for the 5th District of Pennsylvania.  He spent many more years in public service on the Board of Port Wardens in Philadelphia, and also served on the state Board of Education for nearly 33 years after his initial election to the board in 1872.

Wright died on September 10, 1904, and is interred at All Saint’s Episcopal Church Cemetery in Torresdale, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.