John B. Penington

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John B. Penington
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's At-large district
In office
March 4, 1887 – March 3, 1891
Preceded by Charles B. Lore
Succeeded by John W. Causey
Personal details
Born (1825-12-20)December 20, 1825
New Castle, Delaware
Died June 1, 1902(1902-06-01) (aged 76)
Dover, Delaware
Political party Democratic
Residence Dover, Delaware
Alma mater Jefferson College
Profession lawyer

John Brown Penington (December 20, 1825 – June 1, 1902) was an American lawyer and politician, from Dover, in Kent County, Delaware. He was a member of the Democratic Party, who served as Attorney General of Delaware and two terms as U. S. Representative from Delaware.

Early life and family[edit]

Penington was born near New Castle, Delaware and pursued academic courses in New Castle and Newark, Delaware. He graduated from Jefferson College at Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. He engaged in teaching in Indiana for several years, but then returned to Delaware. There he studied law, was admitted to the Delaware Bar in 1857 and commenced the practice in Dover, Delaware.

Professional and political career[edit]

He was first a member of the Delaware House of Representatives in 1857 and then was clerk of the same Delaware House of Representatives in 1859, 1863, and 1871. He was a delegate to the renowned Democratic National Conventions at Charleston and Baltimore in the 1860 election. In 1868, he was appointed United States Attorney for the district of Delaware by President Andrew Johnson and served until 1872. He was appointed Delaware Attorney General by Governor Ponder in 1874 and served until 1879. Penington was elected as a Democrat to the 50th and 51st Congress, serving from March 4, 1887 to March 3, 1891. He was not a candidate for renomination in 1890 and resumed the practice of law at Dover.

Death and legacy[edit]

Penington died at Dover and is buried there in the Old Presbyterian Cemetery, on the grounds of the Delaware State Museum.

Penington's last years were darkened by the murders of his daughters Elizabeth and Ida, by poisoned candy. It was sent to their home from San Francisco, California by Cordelia Botkin (an ex-lover of Elizabeth's husband, John Preston Dunning). The poison was traced back to her, and Penington lived long enough to know the crime would be brought home against the perpetrator.


Elections are held the first Tuesday after November 1. U.S. Representatives took office March 4 and have a two-year term.

Public Offices
Office Type Location Began office Ended office notes
Attorney General Executive Dover 1874 1879 Delaware
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington March 4, 1887 March 3, 1889
U.S. Representative Legislature Washington March 4, 1889 March 3, 1891
Delaware General Assembly service
Dates Assembly Chamber Majority Governor Committees District
1857/58 69th State House Democratic Peter F. Causey Kent at-large
United States Congressional service
Dates Congress Chamber Majority President Committees Class/District
1887–1889 50th U.S. House Democratic Grover Cleveland at-large
1889–1891 51st U.S. House Republican Benjamin Harrison at-large
Election results
Year Office Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1886 U.S. Representative John B. Penington Democratic 13,837 62% Richard W. Cooper Republican 8,392 38%
1888 U.S. Representative John B. Penington Democratic 16,396 55% Charles H. Treat Republican 12,935 44%


  • Martin, Roger A. (1995). Memoirs of the Senate. Newark, Delaware: Roger A. Martin. 

External links[edit]

Places with more information[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Charles B. Lore
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Delaware's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
John W. Causey