Theodore M. Pomeroy
Theodore Medad Pomeroy (December 31, 1824 – March 23, 1905) was an American businessman and politician from New York who served as the 26th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives for one day, from March 3, 1869, to March 4, 1869, the shortest American speakership term in history. He represented New York’s 24th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1861 to 1869. He also served as the mayor of Auburn, New York, from 1875 to 1876, and in the New York State Senate from 1878 to 1879.
Early life and education
He was educated at the Monroe Academy and at 15, entered Hamilton College as a Junior, as students under 13 were not admitted. He graduated in 1842 at age 17 and was ranked in the first division of 6 in a class of 24.
In May 1843, at the age of 18, he left his parents’ home in Cayuga and moved to Auburn, where he entered the firm of Beach & Underwood as a law student. William H. Seward was counsel for the firm as he had just finished serving as the Governor of New York from 1838 to 1842. Christopher Morgan and Samuel Blatchford, who later became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, became associated with the firm. On May 23, 1846, he was admitted to practice as an attorney in the state of New York.
In 1847, he was elected by the Whig Party as clerk of Auburn and in 1851, he was nominated by the Whigs and was elected district attorney. He was reelected again in 1853 and served a second term. At the end of his second term he was chosen to be a Member of the New York Assembly by the Republicans to represent the second district of Cayuga and served in the legislature in 1857 but declined renomination.
In September 1860, he was nominated and elected by the Republican party to represent the 25th Congressional district, composed of the counties of Cayuga and Wayne, in the House of Representatives. On July 4, 1861, he took his seat at the extra session of the 37th Congress convened by President Abraham Lincoln, right after the start of the Civil War. He was referred to as the youngest-looking member on the floor by Washington newspaper correspondents, who described him as follows:
Mr. Pomeroy of Auburn is small in stature, with keen black eyes, a peculiarly expressive countenance and somewhere near as smart as chain lightning, at least when he deals with lower law Democracy. He is one of the most energetic and effective debaters in the House and brimful to running over with that kind of Republicanism which is found in the now somewhat antiquated document known as the Declaration of Independence. The lions of buccaneer Democracy fare hard when they fall into his hands and he occasionally handles certain old fogy Republicans without gloves.
He was nominated by acclamation in 1862, 1864, and 1866 from the 24th Congressional district which comprised the counties of Cayuga, Wayne and Seneca. On March 3, 1869, Pomeroy’s final full day in office at the close of the 40th Congress, Schuyler Colfax, who was to be sworn into office as vice president the next day, resigned as speaker of the House. Upon his resignation, the House passed a motion declaring Pomeroy duly elected speaker in place of Colfax. In office for one day, his is the shortest tenure of any speaker of the U.S. House.
After leaving Congress, Pomeroy was briefly out of politics. He returned to public life in the mid-1870 and was elected mayor of Auburn, New York, serving from 1875 to 1876, then as a member of the New York State Senate (25th D.) in 1878 and 1879.
After the war ended, a boom in business production and industry began around the country. In the spring of 1866, the Merchants Union Express Company was organized to transport trade and goods across the United States with Elmore P. Ross as president, William H. Seward Jr. as vice-president, John N. Knapp as secretary, William C. Beardsley as treasurer, and Pomeroy as their attorney. By October 1866, the company was transporting goods across the major U.S. railroads and by the beginning of 1867, the company operated a network of express lines across the entire United States. The huge business incurred equally huge debts and in 1868, the company was acquired and merged with the American Merchants Union, now known as the American Express Company. Pomeroy stayed on and served as first vice-president and general counsel, along with co-founder William Fargo and later with William’s brother, J. C. Fargo, in 1868.
On September 4, 1855, while serving his second term as District Attorney, he married Elizabeth Leitch Watson (1835–1892), the second daughter of Robert Watson, also of Auburn. Elizabeth’s sister, Janet MacNeil Watson (1839–1913), married William H. Seward Jr. (1839–1920). Together, they had five children.
Pomeroy retired from public life in 1879 and lived at 168 Genesee Street in Auburn, where he died in 1905. Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) was a close friend of the family who helped care for the Pomeroy children. She attended his funeral and it was reported that only her flowers and letter were placed on his casket and buried with him.
Pomeroy’s grandchildren include New York State Senator Robert Watson Pomeroy (1902–1989), Janet Pomeroy Avery (1891–1969), who married John Foster Dulles (1888–1959), the U.S. Secretary of State during the Eisenhower Administration, and Josephine Herrick (1897–1972), photographer and teacher.
His great-grandchildren include John W. F. Dulles (1913–2008), a professor of history and specialist in Brazil at the University of Texas at Austin, Lillias Dulles Hinshaw (1914–1987), a Presbyterian minister, and Avery Dulles (1918–2008), who converted to Roman Catholicism, entered the Jesuit order, and became the first American theologian to be appointed a Cardinal.
- Pomeroy, Robert Watson (1910). A Sketch of the Life of Theodore Medad Pomeroy, 1824-1905. Cayuga County, New York: Cayuga County Historical Society. p. 68. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- “Theodore M. Pomeroy”. The New York Times. March 24, 1905. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Van Deusen, pp. 87–90.
- McPherson, James M. (2008). Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. The Penguin Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-59420-191-2.
- “POMEROY, Theodore Medad – Biographical Information”. bioguide.congress.gov. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
- “The shortest period of service for a Speaker on record: March 03, 1869”. Historical Highlights. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
- “William G. Fargo”. sfmuseum.org. San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser August 27, 1881.
- “A SUCCESSOR TO W.G. FARGO”. The New York Times. August 19, 1881. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Grossman, Peter Z. (1987). American Express: The People Who Built the Great Financial Empire. Beard Books. ISBN 9781587982835. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- “Auburn, NY Pomeroy Anvil Monument”. American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Pomeroy, Bill. “Honorable Theodore Medad POMEROY”. rootsmagic.com. American Pomeroy Historic Genealogical Association. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
- Holley, Joe (2008-06-28). “John Foster Dulles; History Scholar”. Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-03-16.
- United States Congress. “Theodore M. Pomeroy (id: P000424)”. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 25th congressional district
March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863
Charles B. Sedgwick
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York’s 24th congressional district
March 4, 1863 – March 3, 1869
George W. Cowles
|New York State Senate|
William B. Woodin
| New York State Senate