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Alfred Gemmel draft of biography of William Darrah Kelley


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

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Overview and metadata sections

Alfred Gemmell (1916-1957), of Allentown, Pennsylvania, was a historian who focused on the history of Pennsylvania. His M.A. thesis at the University of Pennsylvania was completed in 1949 and titled, "The Charcoal Iron Industry in the Perkiomen Valley." In addition to publishing several essays on the history of the iron industry in Pennsylvania, Gemmell was an instructor in history at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and a member of the Pennsylvania Historical Association.

William Darrah Kelley (April 12, 1814–January 9, 1890) was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. His early education ended at about age 12, at which point he worked as an errand boy, as a reader of proof at a printing office, and as a jeweler's apprentice. He studied law and was admitted to the bar at the age of 27. In 1846, he was appointed a judge of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. Kelley was a vocal abolitionist, advocating the recruitment of black troops in the Civil War, and extending the vote to them afterwards. His 1854 speech against the slave trade, "Slavery in the Territories," was widely published and read. In 1860, Kelley was elected as a Republican representative to Congress, a position he held from 1861 until his death in 1890. Kelley was also a friend of Abraham Lincoln, the first advocate for the creation of Yellowstone National Park, and an extreme believer in protective tariffs.

In the words of one of his political colleagues, John Sherman of Ohio: "when Mr. Kelley entered the House of Representatives as a member from the city of Philadelphia, he had arrived at the mature age of forty-six, and had an established reputation for ability, industry, and fidelity to duty," (United States Congress).

Works cited:

United States. Congress. Memorial Addresses on the Life and Character of William D. Kelley. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1890.

This collection contains a typed draft of Alfred Gemmell's unpublished biography of William Darrah Kelley, likely written in the 1950s. Chapters one, two, four, five, six and seven are included; chapter three is not included. The collection is separated into six folders by chapter, and chapters 2, 5, and 7 include a bibliography of sources used in that chapter at the end. The draft is annotated, possibly in two hands: Gemmell's as well as a proof reader.

Chapter 1: "Early Years" covers Kelley's genealogy, childhood, his early work, move to Boston, and career as a lawyer and judge. Researchers will find information regarding his shift from the Democratic to Republican party, his outspoken opposition to slavery, and his increasing activity in politics and campaigns, especially his participation in the 1860 Republican National Convention. The second chapter covers Kelley's first days in the United State Congress through the Civil War and addresses his opinions of the war, the Union Army, tariff measures, "raising soldiers" including African Americans, appropriations for navy yards, and treatment of soldiers. This chapter also discusses his brief stint in an artillery unit in which he volunteered at the age of forty-eight, just before "Pennsylvania was about to be invaded, in September 1862," before the Battle of Antietam.

Chapter 4 addresses his encouragement of diversified industry and the elevation of laborers, his response to the Panic of 1857, his opinions on tariff legislation, his denouncement of free trade, and his interest in the home market. Because of his support of American industry, especially for iron and steel products in Pennsylvania, he earned the nickname "Pig Iron" Kelley. This nickname continued for years as his opponents suggested that he was "being subsidized the iron and steel industries" (box 1, folder 3); an accusation against which Gemmell defends Kelley over many pages. Chapter 5 continues to discuss the financial tasks confronting the United States government at the close of the Civil War; in particular, the funding of the debt, the revision of internal revenue and tariff laws, and the restoration of the standard of value by the resumption of specie payments. These pages focus on Kelley's legislative work and responses to specific bills dealing with economic recovery.

Chapter 6: "Greenbacker" addresses his controversial views on inflation, his response to the panic of 1873, his support of convertible bonds (a bill for which was vetoed by Grant in 1874), his rebuttal of accusations that he had communist ideas, and his stance on the coinage question. The final chapter, Chapter 7, notes that Kelley's last ten years in office were devoted once again to tariff legislation and describes his continued work which he pursued until his death in 1890.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kelin Baldridge
Finding Aid Date
2017 March 24
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Chapter 1: "Early Years", circa 1950s.
Box 1 Folder 1
Chapter 2 (untitled), circa 1950s.
Box 1 Folder 2
Chapter 4: "The Protectionist", circa 1950s.
Box 1 Folder 3
Chapter 5 (untitled), circa 1950s.
Box 1 Folder 4
Chapter 6: "Greenbacker", circa 1950s.
Box 1 Folder 5
Chapter 7 (untitled), circa 1950s.
Box 1 Folder 6

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