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Joseph F. Guffey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Joe Guffey
Joseph Guffey.jpg
United States Senator
from Pennsylvania
In office
January 3, 1935 – January 3, 1947
Preceded byDavid Reed
Succeeded byEdward Martin
Member of the
Democratic National Committee
from Pennsylvania
In office
May 18, 1920[1] – May 20, 1928
Preceded byA. Mitchell Palmer
Succeeded bySedgwick Kistler
Personal details
Born(1870-12-29)December 29, 1870
Sewickley Township, Pennsylvania
DiedMarch 6, 1959(1959-03-06) (aged 88)
Washington, D.C.
Political partyDemocratic
Guffey Gillespie Oil Company
Guffey Gillespie Oil Company
Guffey in 1937
Guffey in 1937

Joseph Finch "Joe" Guffey (December 29, 1870 – March 6, 1959) was an American business executive and Democratic Party politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Elected from Pennsylvania to the United States Senate, he served two terms, from 1935 until 1947.

Early life

Joseph Finch Guffey was born December 29, 1870, at Guffey Station in Sewickley Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania to John and Barbaretta (Hough) Guffey. Guffey's Scots-Irish ancestors had owned land along the Youghiogheny River since the 1780s, and prospered when railroads were constructed there.[2] His mother was of English ancestry (Hough is a common surname in Lancashire.) Joseph Guffey was the last born of eight children: brothers James C. and Alexander S, and sisters Ida Virginia, Pauletta, Mary Emma, Jane Campbell, and Elizabet Irwin.

He attended but did not graduate from Princeton University. As a Princeton student, he became a disciple of Professor Woodrow Wilson. During Wilson's tenure as Princeton president, Guffey and other former students became supporters of Wilson's Quad Plan for developing the university. Later Guffey became active in the Democratic Party and worked to help Wilson secure the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912 and gain election.

In 1901-1918, Guffy was a general manager of the Philadelphia Company in Pittsburgh, a public utilities company, taking part in some other business enterprises.[3][4]:467 In September 1918, he incorporated a new firm, Guffey Gillespie Oil Company with E. N. Gillespie. It leased 220,000 acres in the Mid-Continent and Texas oil fields and was valued around $3,500,000 in 1921.[5][6][7]

World War I

After the United States joined its allies in the World War I, Guffey entered the government service and was appointed a member of the War Industries Board (Petroleum Service Division), as well as the Director of the Bureau of Sales in the Office of Alien Property Custodian. He served until March 1921 receiving one-dollar salary in compensation,[4]:468 while handling, according to the New York Times, sums in excess of $50,000,000.[8] On December 28, 1922, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on twelve counts of embezzlement through misappropriation of funds that he managed during his service as Director of the Bureau of Sales.[9][4]:468 George W. Storck, the Justice Department accountant, claimed that Guffey allegedly mishandled interest generated by the deposits of government funds in thirty-two banks while obtaining personal loans from the same banks.[4]:469 It was known that Guffey suffered financial setbacks in Mexico in his oil speculation during World War I. In 1926, Guffey was named in another federal indictment involving alleged undervaluation of property and collusion of interest in bidding regarding the sale of the Bosch Magneto Company taken over by Alien Property Custodian as an enemy-owned asset.

Joseph Patrick Tumulty, former President Wilson's personal secretary and Guffey's attorney asserted that all allegation against his client were politically motivated. His defense was that Guffy did not withhold the accrued interest in the sum of approximately $400,000, but merely was holding it until his retirement from the office.[4]:475 After Guffey settled in full his account at the Bureau of Sales, the charges against him were dropped.[10] It became a part of a settlement of dubious deals made during the Harding/Coolidge administrations including Teapot Dome scandal.

United States Senate

Guffey served as a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1920 through 1928. He and his lieutenant, David L. Lawrence led a resurgence of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Guffey was elected to the United States Senate in 1934, unseating Republican Senator David Reed. Guffey became the first Democrat to win election as Senator from Pennsylvania since William A. Wallace won election in 1874. In that same year, George H. Earle became the first Democratic Governor of Pennsylvania since the 19th century.[11]

He was the chairperson of the Mines and Mining committee, and was a fervent supporter of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s and later on.[12] He supported the politics of Henry Wallace, who compared the Republicans with fascists.[citation needed]

Guffey spoke out against Harry Anslinger (who had been appointed to lead the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics by his father-in-law Andrew Mellon) for referring to "niggers" in official correspondence.[13] He caused a controversy in Pennsylvania when he backed Lieutenant Governor Thomas Kennedy, who was a close associate of mine workers union head John L. Lewis, over lawyer Charles Alvin Jones who was backed by Governor Earle and other Democratic leaders. Jones later lost the general election to Republican Arthur James. Guffey was at the same time working with Lewis, demanding that Pleas E. Greenlee replace Charles F. Hosford Jr. who had been ineffective as chairman of the National Bituminous Coal Commission.

He became involved in the so-called "publishers' war" of 1938 and was sued for libel and slander by Moses Annenberg, owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, after Guffey in October 1938 declared on radio that Annenberg planned to "buy the governorship of Pennsylvania for his hand-picked candidate," namely Arthur H. James.[14]

He was reelected in 1940, with Claude Pepper campaigning with him. Guffey was less influential after the Republicans took control of the Congress and reversed some of the laws helping labor unions, eventually passing the Taft-Hartley Act after Guffey was defeated by Governor Edward Martin by a wide margin in 1946.

In April 1943, British scholar Isaiah Berlin wrote a confidential analysis of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the British Foreign Office, and characterized Guffey as:

... a noisy Administration supporter who wraps himself in the Roosevelt flag and has been advocating for a fourth term for some time. A very typical Pennsylvania politician who has decided to throw his lot in with the President and has thus become an obedient party hack not of the purest integrity. Consistently votes in the opposite direction to his fellow Senator from Pennsylvania, James Davis.[15]


After leaving the Senate, Guffey retired to Washington, DC, where died in 1959. Upon his death, his remains were returned to West Newton, Pennsylvania for burial in the West Newton Cemetery.

Joseph Guffey papers are preserved at Washington & Jefferson College, Washington, Pa., Princeton University Library, Princeton, NJ., Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University Library (text of campaign speech given March 11, 1940), and National Archives at College Park, Md.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Palmer's Foes Take Control In Georgia". The Baltimore Sun. May 19, 1920. Retrieved January 14, 2012.
  2. ^ Bob Cupp, "Railroads: Lifeline to the region", Pittsburgh Tribune, 29 April 2012; accessed 19 February 2018
  3. ^ Philadelphia Company, Historic Pittsburgh
  4. ^ a b c d e Sanderlin, Walter S. The Indictment of Joseph F. Guffey. Pennsylvania History: a Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4, October, 1963, pp. 465-482.
  5. ^ OIL FIRM RECEIVER ASKED.; Stockholders in Guffey-Gillespie Oil Company of Delaware Act, The New York Times, June 21, 1921, Section B, Page 30
  6. ^ OIL FIRM RECEIVER ASKED.; Tide Water Oil Company Pays $3,500,000 for 250,000 Shares, The New York Times, June 21, 1921, Section B, Page 30
  7. ^ WRITES FINIS TO GUFFEY’S CAREER, Herald Democrat, August 20, 1921
  8. ^ The New York Times, December 29, 1922
  9. ^ United States District Court, Southern District of New York, United States of America vs. Joseph F. Guffey, Docket No. 33-590
  10. ^ United States District Court, Southern District of New York, United States of America vs. Joseph F. Guffey, Docket No. 33-590, motion to nolle prosequi, November 17, 1930, signed by Robert E. Manly, Acting United States Attorney
  11. ^ Morgan, Alfred L. (April 1978). "The Significance of "Pennsylvania s 1938 Qubernatorial £lection". 102 (2): 184–210. Retrieved 26 November 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ “Fake News” 1942: President Roosevelt and the Chicago Tribune, The Text Message, NARA, February 1, 2018
  13. ^ Hari, Johann (2015). Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs. Bloomsbury.
  14. ^ Joseph F. Guffey, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  15. ^ Hachey, Thomas E. (Winter 1973–1974). "American Profiles on Capitol Hill: A Confidential Study for the British Foreign Office in 1943" (PDF). Wisconsin Magazine of History. 57 (2): 141–153. JSTOR 4634869. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 21, 2013.
  16. ^ Princeton University Library

Further reading

  • Guffey, Joseph F. (1952). Seventy Years on the Red-Fire Wagon: From Tilden to Truman, Through New Freedom and New Deal.
  • Coode, Thomas H. and John F. Bauman. People, Poverty, and Politics: Pennsylvanians During the Great Depression. East Brunswick, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1981.
  • Halt, Charles Eugene. Joseph F. Guffey, New Deal politician from Pennsylvania. Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University, 1965.
  • Sanderlin, Walter S. The Indictment of Joseph F. Guffey. Pennsylvania History: a Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4, October, 1963, pp. 465-482.
  • Time Magazine: February 28, 1938; March 28, 1938; June 3, 1946.

External links

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
David Reed
 U.S. senator (Class 1) from Pennsylvania
Served alongside: James Davis, Francis Myers
Succeeded by
Edward Martin
Party political offices
Preceded by
A. Mitchell Palmer
Member of the Democratic National Committee
from Pennsylvania

Succeeded by
Sedgwick Kistler
Preceded by
William McNair
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
(Class 1)

1934, 1940, 1946
Succeeded by
Guy Bard
This page was last edited on 11 December 2020, at 14:28
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