Matthew Quay

Matthew Quay
Matthew Stanley Quay
United States Senator
from Pennsylvania
In office
March 4, 1887 – March 4, 1899
January 16, 1901 – May 28, 1904
Preceded by John I. Mitchell
Matthew Quay
Succeeded by Matthew Quay
Philander C. Knox
Personal details
Born September 30, 1833(1833-09-30)
Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died May 28, 1904(1904-05-28) (aged 70)
Beaver, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Republican
Profession Politician, Lawyer

Matthew Stanley Quay (September 30, 1833 – May 28, 1904) was an immensely powerful Pennsylvania political boss; "kingmaker" (Benjamin Harrison, 1888). "Boss" Quay's political principles and actions stood in contrast to an unusually attractive personality. He was a resident of Beaver, northwest of Pittsburgh; today, his house is a National Historic Landmark.



Quay was born in Dillsburg, York County, Pennsylvania, the son of a preacher, Anderson Quay. He graduated at Jefferson College (now Washington and Jefferson College) in 1850 and was admitted to the bar in 1854. He served in various capacities in the American Civil War and Congress awarded him the Medal of Honor for gallantry at the battle of Fredericksburg. From 1865–1867 he was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. From 1869, when he had served as secretary of the Republican State Committee, until his death, he was the most influential Republican politician in Pennsylvania. He became Secretary of the Commonwealth for 1873–1878 and again in 1879–1882, recorder of Philadelphia in 1878–1879, and state treasurer in 1886–1887. He became chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1888, and was a member of the United States Senate from 1887–1899, but he failed to succeed himself, partly due to an accusation that he had been instrumental in the misapplication of public funds deposited in the People's Bank, in which he was interested.

He was appointed a United States Senator ad interim by the Governor, but the Senate refused to admit him. He was nominated to succeed himself by the Republican State Convention in 1901 for the term to expire in 1905, and was re-elected.


For nearly twenty years he dominated the government of Pennsylvania, and also played a very prominent part in national affairs. In 1898 he was brought to trial on a charge of misappropriating state funds, and, although he was acquitted the following year, the feeling among the reform element in his own party was so bitter against him that the legislature was deadlocked and his re-election was postponed for two years.


  • 1833: Born Dillsburg, York County, Pennsylvania; educ. Beaver Academy.
  • 1850: He graduated at Jefferson College; then studied law under Judge Sterret.
  • 1851-53: Mississippi.
  • 1854: Admitted to Beaver County bar.
  • 1855: Beaver County, prothonotary; marries Agnes Barclay.
  • 1856: Beaver County, prothonotary.
  • 1859: Beaver County, prothonotary.
  • 1861: 10th Pa. Reserves (Lt., Lt.-Col.).
  • 1862: Governor Andrew Curtin, private secretary.
  • 1862: 134th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, commissioned, Col. (August)
  • 1862: Leaves 134th Pennsylvania Regiment Volunteers (health) (7 December)
  • 1862: Battle of Marye's Heights (13 December)
  • 1864: Elected to Pa. state legislature.
  • 1865-1867 : Pa. state legislature.
  • 1869: Founds Beaver Radical
  • 1873-78: Pa. state secretary.
  • 1878-79: City of Philadelphia, Recorder. (resigned)
  • 1879-82: Pa. state secretary. (named January; resigned October)
  • 1886-87: Pa. state treasurer.
  • 1887: Entered United States Senate.
  • 1888: Republican National Committee, Chairman.
  • 1892: Re-elected, U.S. Senate.
  • 1898: Not re-elected; term expires 1899.
  • 1901: U.S. Senate
  • 1904; Death; buried in Beaver County, Pennsylvania.

Quay County, New Mexico is named in his honor.

Matthew Quay appears on a 45p (£0.45) commemorative stamp from the Isle of Man Post Office, as part of a series honoring Manx-Americans.


After his narrow victory over Grover Cleveland in 1888, Benjamin Harrison told Quay that "Providence has given us the victory." "Think of the man!" Quay indignantly told reporters in Philadelphia a few weeks later. "He ought to know that Providence hadn't a damn thing to do with it." Harrison, Quay added, would "never know how close a number of men were compelled to approach the gates of the penitentiary to make him president."

Quay, not surprisingly, wasn't nearly as thrilled to work for Harrison's re-election campaign in 1892, even referring to Harrison as the "White House iceberg" for his cool, unfriendly demeanor. When Harrison told Quay that God had made him president, Quay snapped back, "Then let God re-elect you," and stomped out.

Medal of Honor citation

Medal of honor old.jpg

Rank and Organization:

Colonel, 134th Pennsylvania Infantry. Place and date: At Fredericksburg, Va., December 13, 1862. Entered service at: Beaver County, Pa. Born: September 30, 1833, Dilkburg, Pa. Date of issue: July 9, 1888.


Although out of service, he voluntarily resumed duty on the eve of battle and took a conspicuous part in the charge on the heights.[1]

See also


  1. ^ "QUAY, MATTHEW S. , Civil War Medal of Honor recipient". American Civil War website. 2007-11-08. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 


United States Senate
Preceded by
John I. Mitchell
United States Senator (Class 1) from Pennsylvania
Served alongside: J. Donald Cameron, Boies Penrose
Succeeded by
Matthew S. Quay
Preceded by
Matthew S. Quay
United States Senator (Class 1) from Pennsylvania
Served alongside: Boies Penrose
Succeeded by
Philander C. Knox
Party political offices
Preceded by
Benjamin F. Jones
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
Succeeded by
James S. Clarkson

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