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Robert Milton Speer papers

Ms. Coll. 1032

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Summary Information

Repository:
University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Creator:
Speer, Robert Milton, 1838-1890
Title:
Robert Milton Speer papers
Date [inclusive]:
1861-1872
Call Number:
Ms. Coll. 1032
Extent:
0.4 Linear feet (1 box)
Language:
English
Abstract:
Robert Milton Speer (1838-1890) was a member of the United States Congress from 1871 to 1875 and a prominent lawyer. This collection contains letters written to and by Speer regarding politics, the legal profession and law, and family.
Cite as:
Robert Milton Speer papers, 1861-1872, Ms. Coll. 1032, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
PDF Version:

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Biography/History

Robert Milton Speer (1838-1890) was a member of the United States Congress from 1871 to 1875 and a prominent lawyer. Born in Cassville, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania to Robert Speer (1803-1852) and Agnes Cowan Speer (1802-1851), Robert Milton Speer was the youngest of ten children. He attended Cassville Academy and continued on to study law, opening his own practice in Huntingdon in the spring of 1860. Mr. Speer was "clear in statement, logical in reasoning, unanswerable in argument and eloquent in delivery, it was rare indeed for him to be defeated in his cases and his services were consequently greatly in demand" ( Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania, Volume II). Until his death in 1890, he remained active in the practice of law.

In 1863, Speer was elected as assistant clerk for the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives. On April 26, 1864, he married Martha Ellen McMurtie, the sister of his law partner E.S. McMurtie, and together they had three sons, William, Robert, and Victor; and three daughters, Mary, Margaret, and Martha. A few years later, in 1870, Mr. Speer, a Democrat, ran for United States Congress against an adverse majority of Republican voters and was elected to the Forty-Second Congress of the United States as a U.S. Senator. In 1872, he was re-elected for the Forty-Third Congress. After being defeated in the election for the Forty-Fourth Congress, Mr. Speer continued to be a prominent figure in state politics and served as chairman of the State Committee of Pennsylvania in 1878.

On January 17, 1890, Robert Milton Speer died from lead poisoning in New York City after drinking water that had sat overnight in a pipe. His sickness was not caught in time to treat properly and he died in the hospital. He was survived by five of his six children, Martha having died in infancy.

Works Cited: Encyclopaedia of Contemporary Biography of Pennsylvania, Volume II, "Robert. M. Speer." Atlantic Publishing and Engraving Company, New York, 1890.

Scope and Contents

The Robert Milton Speer papers contains letters written to and by Speer regarding politics, the legal profession and law, and family. The first series deals with political and legal correspondences, the bulk of which were written around the time of his election to Congress in 1870. Also in this series are letters concerning Democratic party meetings, the election of Ulysses S. Grant, political sentiments, and requests for legal aid. There are also two letters written during the Civil War from a Major Frank Zentmyer, a member of the 34th Pennsylvania Regiment, 5th Reserves, which detail war conditions, anti-republican sentiments, and his feelings on uniting the political parties. Letters within this series are arranged chronologically.

The second series consists of family correspondence and contains letters written by Robert Milton Speer's relatives. The letters of E.S. McMurtie, D.E. McMurtie, J. North, and C.C. North, the in-laws of Robert Milton Speer, address legal and personal matters. Most of the letters by Speer's other relatives are personal in nature and many offer congratulations on his election to Congress.

Administrative Information

Publication Information

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts,  2014 September 29

Finding Aid Author

Finding aid prepared by Nicole Love

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Custodial History note

Gift of Margaret B. Speer, November 1976

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)
  • United States. Congress. Senate.
Form/Genre(s)
  • Correspondence
Geographic Name(s)
  • Pennsylvania--Politics and government--1861-1865
  • Pennsylvania--Politics and government--1865-1950
Subject(s)
  • Lawyers--United States

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Collection Inventory

Series I. Legal and political correspondence.

Box Folder

Letters to Speer from Major Frank Zentmyer regarding the Civil War, including war conditions, anti-Republican sentiments, and uniting political parties, 1861-1862.

1 1

Letters to Speer regarding house lease dispute, recommendations, possessions and marriage, and book requests from C. Forbes, 1864-1867.

1 2

Letters to Speer regarding election, Democratic party meetings, and legal requests, 1868.

1 3

Letters to Speer regarding recommendations, railway passes, and political movements, 1869.

1 4

Letters to Speer concerning his campaign and election to Congress: advisory, congratulatory, and regarding votes, 1870.

1 5

Letters by Robert Milton Speer regarding campaigns and legal requests, 1870-1871.

1 6

Letters to Speer concerning legal cases, requests for aid, and replies to personal requests, 1871.

1 7

Letters to Speer regarding legal requests, political interests, personal favors, and letters of thanks, 1872.

1 11

Series II. Family correspondence.

Box Folder

Letters to Speer from his family, correspondents include: James McIlduff, Robert Speer McIlduff, W. Louden, and Isabella Speer Baker, 1868-1871.

1 8

Letters of E.S. McMurtie and D.E. McMurtie, 1868-1870.

1 9

Letters of J. North and C.C. North, 1868-1870.

1 10