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08/05/2021 08:54 PM
Pennsylvania State Senate

William Imlay Newell



Session Position District Party
1877 8 Republican
1879-1880 8 Republican
1881-1882 8 Republican
 Counties   Philadelphia


1835 - 1912

William Imlay Newell was born in Philadelphia October 2, 1835, the son of English immigrant parents. He attended public and private schools, studied navigation, and moved to New Jersey, where he secured employment as a pilot for various Philadelphia shipping companies.  He maintained strong family ties in New Jersey throughout his life, marrying Edith Stetser at Scullville, Atlantic County, New Jersey in 1861.  Returning to the Quaker City, he ran a wholesale grocer’s business in the early 1870s, later entering politics, serving as a Philadelphia school director. In 1873, Newell embarked on a successful but brief career in the ship chandlery business.  Elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1875, Newell nominated city Republican boss William Kelley for the U.S. Senate, in opposition to Democrat William A. Wallace. Senator Newell emerged as the Republican nominating caucus’s choice for an 1876 Senate seat. Victorious, Newell returned in November 1878, serving as president pro tempore through the 1881-1882 Session. During his brief stint in the upper house, Newell aligned with stalwart Republicans against Greenbacker and Independent factions. He supported the Quay lesser-of-two-evil choices in the 1881 U.S. Senate race, voting for moderate independent John Mitchell of Tioga, over radical factionalist Galusha Grow. During a period noted for its legislative ambivalence toward social causes, Newell stands out as a champion for bills allowing a woman’s right to practice law before the Pennsylvania bar, the secret ballot act, state convention anti-fraud legislation, and public school anti-racial discrimination laws. Newell served as a freshman member of the Banks Committee and chaired Corporations during the 1879-1880 session. He supported the oil-rail, anti price-fixing bill and the 1878 rate equality bill; however, he buried a measure in committee, designed to ban (river) boom tolls, and cast against the 1881 anti-Standard Oil and Pennsylvania Railroad Free Pipeline Bill. Retiring from the Senate in 1882, Newell returned to the oyster and wholesale food business in Philadelphia before moving to New Jersey. Embarking on a career as a marine insurance salesman, with offices in Philadelphia and Egg Harbor, New Jersey, Newell later became a successful real estate broker in Atlantic County.  He passed away in Pleasantville, New Jersey on March 10, 1912.