Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stogdell Stokes Staples (1859-1949)

   An obscure 19th Pennsylvania legislator, Stogdell Stokes Staples further distinguished himself in the business community of his home county of Luzerne. He was born in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania on March 7, 1859, the son of Richard S. (1818-1893, a Pennsylvania state representative from 1872-73) and Mary (Thompson) Staples (1828-1900). Young Stogdell studied in both public and private schools, attending a seminary in Claverack, New York and later attended the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania.
   While still a young man, Staples is recorded as helping his father publish the Monroe Democrat in 1878, and after a year in publishing removed to Trenton, New Jersey. Once settled, Staples found employment at the Trenton China Works, and would later serve as the Superintendent of that company for four years. In the mid-1880s he returned to Pennsylvania, where in 1885 he purchased the Luzerne Ochre Manufacturing Company. A portrait and biographical souvenir of the Pennsylvania legislature (published in 1895) notes that Staples was "given immediate management" of the plant, and he later became president of this business, as well as holding "a half interest in its enterprise". This business is also noted as "furnishing material to four-fifths of the oil-cloth manufacturers in the country."
  Staples married in March 1886 to Stroudsburg native Hattie Raubenald, and it is unknown at the time of this writing if any children were born to them. While his business exploits are of note, Staples also began seeking local political offices, eventually winning election as Burgess of White Haven, Pennsylvania for two terms. He would later be named as Postmaster of the town of Moosehead and was still the incumbent in this post at the time of his election to the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives.
   Staples was elected as a Democrat to the Pennsylvania State House in November 1894, defeating Republican candidate Ellsworth L. Riley by only fifty-two votes! Two other candidates (representing both the Prohibition and People's parties) also ran for this seat, and the blurb featuring those election results has been posted below.

   Staple's election to the legislature is recorded as a "great triumph in view of the demoralized condition of the Democratic party" and during his one term in the legislature held a seat on the following committees: Congressional Apportionment, Corporations, Insurance, Iron and Coal, Mines and Mining, Railroads, and Rules. His two-year service in the legislature was characterized by the earlier mentioned legislative souvenir as one of "close attention to the details of lawmaking, and displayed to advantage his unusual business qualities". Staples would also take a firm stand against a proposal for the establishment of a new county in Pennsylvania called Quay (named after Matthew Quay, then serving in the U.S. Senate), which was later shot down by a house vote of 92 to 82.
  After leaving the legislature in January 1897, little else could be found on Staples's life. He would lose a 1900 race for state representative by a wide margin and in the mid-1930s was appointed (and briefly served in) a vacant seat on the White Haven borough council. Staples died in White Haven sometime in April 1949 at age 90. He had been preceded in death by his wife Hattie in 1946 and both are interred at the Stroudsburg Cemetery. The portrait of him shown above was found in the Portraits and Biographies of the members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, published in 1895.

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