Reah Frazer letters
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
Reah Frazer (1804-1856) was a prominent attorney and a leading figure of the Democratic Party in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Born at "Carpenter Hall," in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on June 27, 1804 to William C. and Susannah Carpenter Frazer, Reah Frazer was the third in a line of Frazers who were politically active and worked in the legal profession. Frazer's grandfather, William Frazer (1753-1817) was a veteran of the Revolutionary War and served as a justice of the peace in New Castle County, Delaware; and Frazer's father, William C. Frazer (1776-1838), worked as an attorney in Lancaster and served as a Supreme Court judge in Wisconsin territory.
Reah Frazer read law in the office of Amos Ellmaker and was admitted to the bar in 1825. According to Alexander Harris, Frazer was "possessed of a very buoyant and impulsive temperament [and] was not long in establishing himself as one of the most conspicuous attorneys of Lancaster, and for many years, and indeed up to a short time before his death, he was employed in most of the important cases that came before the courts of his native county" (Harris, page 217). He was known for his persuasive speeches before the court and during political events, so much so that Harris states, "his efforts were terrific and applause-producing, and he simply bore off the victory by the herculean might of his inflammatory declamation," (Harris, page 217). Despite being one of the most prominent Democratic political figures in Pennsylvania, Frazer "never held office because he never wanted it," (Indiana Gazette, page 15).
Politically, Frazer was opposed to the platforms of James Buchanan (1791-1868) and Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868), both powerful politicians from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Despite his dissatisfaction with these candidates, Frazer remained loyal to the Democratic party. In fact, he was known as the "Lancaster War Horse," and was satirized in the book War Horseiana, or An authentic report of the sayings and doings of the war horse and his ponies: from the year 1847 up to the present time: containing their speeches, resolutions, toasts, adventures, communications, dances, songs, etc. written by Tommy Watchem and published in 1851.
Frazer married Abby Ann Steel (1821-1887) and was the father of four children: Henry Carpenter Frazer (-1903), Reah Frazer, James P. Frazer (-1905), and Susan Carpenter Frazer (1852-1930). He died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on December 30, 1856.
Carpenter, Seymour David. Genealogical notes of the Carpenter family. Springfield, Ill.: Illinois State Journal Co., 1907.
Harris, Alexander. Biographical History of Lancaster County. Lancaster, PA: Elias Barr & Co., 1872.
Indiana Gazette. "Colonel Reah Frazer: Lawyer and Politician." June 29, 1925, page 15.
The vast majority of this collection contains letters written to Reah Frazer, largely dealing with county and national politics, local political meetings, and appointments of candidates, as well as the nomination of the Pennsylvania Democrat James Buchanan for president in 1856. Some letters relate to Frazer's law practice and there are several family letters, especially from his brothers Abraham Carpenter Frazer and William Frazer and his sister Mary Clark Frazer, which are more personal in nature. In addition to letters, there are a few newspaper clippings relating to political issues. The letters, which are arranged alphabetically by author, express a great deal of political opinion.
Historians of antebellum politics in Pennsylvania will find this collection to be very useful. The scope is fairly narrow, focusing largely on Buchanan's nomination, but the letters also offer information about Democratic party politics, especially at the county level. Reah Frazer, himself, is a fascinating topic of interest, though this collection alone does not provide a thorough view of him or even his political involvement. Instead, researchers will glimpse a few snippets of political opinion from a number of leading Pennsylvania citizens during a turbulent time in American history.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Aleth Tisseau des Escotais
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 April 28
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.