William Henry Stanton (congressman)

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William Henry Stanton
Obituary, Scranton Truth, 28 March 1900.

William Henry Stanton (July 28, 1843 – March 28, 1900) was an attorney, editor, politician and judge. He served as a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district, elected to fill a vacancy and serving for three months from December 1876 to early March 1877. He was previously editor of the Scranton Daily Times (now the Times-Tribune) until 1872.[1]

In 1877 Stanton was elected as a state judge for the County Court of Common Pleas in Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County (which then included much of present-day Lackawanna County). After Lackawanna County was organized by the state legislature in 1878, and designated as a separate judicial district, Stanton chose to be reassigned to its County Court in Scranton.

He resigned from the judgeship in February 1879. He was prosecuted and acquitted of libel in September 1879 following charges by William Walker Scranton, general manager of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company, who objected to newspaper articles published in August 1878. Stanton had been indicted in the scandal because of witness testimony.

Early life[edit]

William H. Stanton was born in New York City on July 28, 1843. He was raised in Carbondale and Archbald, Pennsylvania.[2]

Stanton attended school in Archbald and at Saint John's College, near Montrose, Pennsylvania.[3] Following graduation, he taught school[4] while studying law with an established firm. He was admitted to the bar in 1868.

Marriage and early career[edit]

He married Anna Marie Allen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had a total of five children together: William H., Jr.; Mary A., Victoria A., Lenore, and Leroy Emmanuel Stanton.

The senior Stanton commenced practice in Scranton, an industrial city in the anthracite region of northeastern Pennsylvania.[5] He was editor of the Scranton Daily Times (now the Times-Tribune) until 1872.[1]

He served as Prosecuting Attorney of the Scranton Mayor’s Court from 1872 to 1874.[6] He served in the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1875 and 1876.[7]

Later career[edit]

Stanton was elected as a Democrat to the 44th United States Congress, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Republican Winthrop W. Ketcham, appointed as a federal judge.[8] He served from December 4, 1876 to March 3, 1877. He did not stand as a candidate in 1876 for election to a full two-year term.[9]

In August 1877, Scranton erupted into a general strike, as mine workers and others joined railroad workers. Thousands of workers protested wage cuts. After three men were killed by a mayor-appointed group known as the Citizens' Corps, Patrick Mahon, alderman of the Sixth Ward, acted as county coroner to investigate the deaths, assisted by Stanton. Based on his coroner's jury, Mahon issued warrants for more than a dozen arrests.[10]

Stanton was later elected in late 1877 in a "wave of labor reform politics"[11] as the candidate of the Greenback-Labor Party for Judge of the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, defeating incumbent Judge Dana,[12] who was supported by Republicans and Democrats.[13]

In April 1878 the legislature passed an act authorizing the creation of new counties if population reached 150,000 in an existing county. This applied only to Luzerne County, and Lackawanna County was approved for organization in August 1878 as the last county in the state.[12] The New York Times at the time described "excitement" in the lobbying around the formation of the new county, with a revisiting of issues related to the general strike in Scranton the previous year.[14]

As the new county had more than 40,000 inhabitants, it qualified to have be designated as a new judicial district. After maneuvering by the governor, Stanton and other judges were ordered by the state supreme court to assist in the organization of county courts in the new Lackawanna County in October 1878.[12][15] Stanton was reassigned as one of the judges for Lackawanna's County Court of Common Pleas, to be held at the county seat of Scranton.[12]

Stanton resigned his judgeship in February 1879.[12][16] The New York Times reported later that fellow Democrats in the Assembly had begun impeachment proceedings against Stanton in retaliation for his snubbing Daniel Dougherty and other important Philadelphia counsel in an unfavorable ruling, and he resigned rather than being forced out.[11][17]

William Walker Scranton, general manager of Lackawanna Iron and Coal,contended that articles published in August 1878 in the Scranton Times and Labor Advocate, during the lobbying for the new county, were libelous and encouraged violence against him.[14] He filed a libel suit against Aaron Augustus Chase, editor of the Scranton Daily Times and a colleague of Stanton. Implicated by witnesses in the scandal (and thought by some to have written the article in Labor Advocate, Stanton was arrested and prosecuted for libel.[14]

Stanton was tried in September 1879 and acquitted. A separate libel trial of Chase resulted in his conviction and being sentenced to a fine and jail time.[18] At the conclusion of the libel trial, the New York Times reported Scranton as saying that Stanton had offered to resign his judgeship if W.W. Scranton dropped his prosecution against him.[18]

Later life[edit]

After leaving the bench, Stanton became an organizer of the reform Greenback and Labor movements,[19][20] which had a peak of influence in this area in the late 1870s and early 1880s, extending into the Southern Tier of New York.[21][22] He left Scranton in 1883, living first in Arkansas, and in 1884 moving to Kansas City, Missouri.[11] Stanton later returned to Scranton, where he practiced law until his death in 1900.[23]

Death and burial[edit]

Stanton died in Scranton on March 28, 1900.[19] He was buried in Scranton's West Side Catholic Cemetery. He was survived by his widow and five children: two sons and three daughters.[13]


  1. ^ a b Frederick Lyman Hitchcock, History of Scranton and Its People, Volume 1, 1914, page 529
  2. ^ Somerset Publishers, Pennsylvania Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1 (A-K), 1999, page 523
  3. ^ James Albert Clark, The Wyoming Valley, 1875, page 212
  4. ^ Citizen Press, Old Time Archbald, 1915, page 16
  5. ^ David Craft, History of Scranton, Penn., 1891, page 561
  6. ^ George Hallenbrooke Morgan, The Legislative Sketch Book, 1876, page 145
  7. ^ H.C. Cooper, Jr., Bro. & Co., Publishers, The Twentieth Century Bench and Bar of Pennsylvania, 1903, page 193
  8. ^ State of Pennsylvania, Papers of the Governors: 1871-1883, 1902, pages 514-515
  9. ^ United States Congress, A Biographical Congressional Directory, 1913, page 278
  10. ^ Hitchcock, pp. 506-507
  11. ^ a b c New York Times, "A Terrible Bereavement", July 2, 1884
  12. ^ a b c d e Henry C. Bradsby, History of Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1, 1893, Pages 232-233
  13. ^ a b "Obituary: William Henry Stanton," Scranton Truth, 28 March 1900 (see scanned article to the right)
  14. ^ a b c "The Scranton Libel Suits, Relics of the Railroad Riots-Scranton's Fight Against his Defamers". The New York Times. 8 September 1879. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  15. ^ Hitchcock, p. 330
  16. ^ Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1919, page 174
  17. ^ George D. Wolf, William Warren Scranton: Pennsylvania Statesman, 1981, p. 11
  18. ^ a b "The Scranton Libel Suits". The New York Times. September 12, 1879. 
  19. ^ a b "Obituary Notes" W.H. Stanton", New York Times, 29 March 1900
  20. ^ Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Almanac, 1901, page 616
  21. ^ Milton M. Klein, The Empire State: A History of New York, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2005, pp. 455-456
  22. ^ New York Times, "Pennsylvania Democrats: Disssensions in Their Ranks", September 6, 1880
  23. ^ Scranton Truth, "Death of Ex-Judge Stanton," March 28, 1900


United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Winthrop W. Ketcham
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district

Succeeded by
Hendrick B. Wright