1) Autograph manuscript: 4pp., on 8vo US Senate Sheets in pencil, dated 24 Aug. 1904. 2) TLS, from W. R. Glasscock of Ovando Mercantile, dated July 11, 1905: 2pp.,on 2 oblong 8vo sheets letterhead. 3) Typescript, dated 1900: 6 pp., 4to. BIG GAME HUNTING. Very Good Item #316388
“Magnificently coarse” and a formidable Philadelphia Boss and Senator, Boies Penrose (1860–1921), i.e. “Big Grizzly,” dominated the Gilded Age world of Pennsylvania Republican politics for thirty years. Penrose was literally larger-than-life, at six foot four he was an enormously obese man with an extraordinary intellect and an even more extraordinary appetite. Purportedly, Penrose would routinely eat a dozen eggs for breakfast with twelve rolls, copious coffee and a huge slab of ham. Graduated from Harvard, the name of “Big Grizzly” stuck while hunting in Wyoming with his brother “the latter was badly mauled by a bear; [and] disregarding the advice of the guides, Boies carried him out of the wilderness on his shoulders.” A big game hunting enthusiast, later in life he had to have a special horse and saddle because of his girth.
Largely friendless, nationalistic, nativist, cynical, ethical yet corrupt (“One of his favorite schemes, the “squeeze bill,” extracted large campaign contributions from wealthy industries by threatening them with punitive legislation near election time.” –ANB), Penrose was more interested in power than self-gain. He was a large figure on the national stage, promoting Big Business interests, knocking down labor rights, fighting against woman suffrage, Prohibition and the income tax, and helping to promote Theodore Roosevelt’s nomination as vice president under McKinley. Yet he disliked Roosevelt (“a cock-eyed little runt”) and Woodrow Wilson (“a schoolmarm”) and he was rumored to have thrown the 1920 presidential nomination to Warren Harding.
Penrose was scrupulous with having all correspondence addressed to him replied to promptly. He relied on a bevy of secretaries and was one of the first major politicians to understand the power of the telephone, racking up monthly thousands of dollars in bills. “Public office is the last refuge of a scoundrel” is perhaps the most famous Penrose quote. ANB observes: “The last of the big bosses, he valued political power above all else, including friendship and statesmanship.”.
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