SYLVESTER PENNOYER was born in Groton, New York and educated at Harvard University Law School. In 1855 he moved to Oregon, where he began teaching, and he soon rose to become Superintendent of Multnomah County schools. He also partnered in a successful lumbering and manufacturing company, and he became editor and later owner of Oregon’s leading Democratic newspaper, the Oregon Herald. Although his apparent sympathy with the Confederacy cost him Portland’s mayoral election of 1885, he won election as governor the following year during a period of social unrest that he blamed on the accumulation of wealth by a few. Pennoyer endorsed formation of the Union Party by Knights of Labor, Grangers, and Prohibitionists in Oregon, and in turn the Union Party—along with the Democratic Party—nominated him for reelection in 1890. Pennoyer later joined the Populist Party. During Pennoyer’s second gubernatorial term, the Panic of 1893 caused an increase in unemployment, and Pennoyer supported a group known as “Coxey’s Army” that organized a massive protest march to Washington, DC to demand federal relief. After leaving office, Pennoyer won election as Mayor of Portland, serving for two years.
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. 8. New York: James T. White & Company.