ROBERT EMORY PATTISON was born in Quantico, Maryland and educated at public schools in Philadelphia. He studied law, was admitted to the Bar in 1872, and began a private law practice. He entered public life in 1878 as City Controller of Philadelphia, a post to which he was elected for two terms. However, having gained popularity for succeeding as controller in rescuing Philadelphia from possible bankruptcy, he was nominated for governor in 1882 and left his position as Controller after winning the general gubernatorial election. As governor, Pattison focused on fiscal responsibility, advocating an end to patronage, graft, and corruption. He also sought to curtail corporate power, the divisions between labor and capital, and the railroads’ monopolistic controls. In accordance with the recently-revised state Constitution, he was ineligible to succeed himself, and when his term as governor ended, he became President of the Chestnut Street National Bank and was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to membership on the Pacific Railroad Commission, where he was elected President. He undertook a successful campaign for governor once again in 1890, and in his new term focused on ballot reform, the misuses of money in politics, and the equalization of tax burdens. When the Homestead steel strike erupted in 1892, he called in the state militia to restore order. After leaving office for a second time, he returned to the private practice of law.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 1. New York: James T. White & Company.
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
State Archives Holdings: MG-168 Robert E. Pattison Papers