Speakers and Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate

Speakers and Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate

Speakers and Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate


Speakers and Presidents Pro Tempore of the Senate highlights Senators who served as the highest-ranking Member of the Senate. Opening day election for President Pro Tempore or PPT is held at the beginning of each new session year and requires a two-year term. Today, the Lieutenant Governor presides over Senate sessions, however, the President Pro-Tem assumes the duties of Lieutenant Governor whenever the office of Lieutenant Governor is absent. This happened in 2008 when Pennsylvania’s first female Lieutenant Governor, Catherine Baker Knoll, died in office. President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati was sworn in as the new Lieutenant Governor and kept his Senate seat as the President Pro Tem.

In 1790, the Pennsylvania General Assembly transitioned from a unicameral to a bicameral legislative body. During the inaugural day session, the Senate created rules, committees, and elected its first officers for the initial session year, which was held in the Old State House in Philadelphia (known today as Independence Hall). After all the votes were counted from the eighteen senators, Richard Peters, the last speaker of the unicameral General Assembly, officially became the first Speaker of the Senate. Prior to 1875, the Senate did not have a President Pro Tempore nor did the Commonwealth have Lieutenant Governor. The Speaker presided over the Senate from 1790 to 1874. As the Commonwealth grew and two separate incidents occurred that directly impacted legislative procedures, major changes were needed to the Pennsylvania Constitution. To address those situations, the Legislature called a Constitutional Convention in 1874. The 1874 Constitutional Convention increased the Senate to 50 members, created the office of Lieutenant Governor, abolished the Speaker position and established the President Pro Tempore. Senator George H. Cutler holds the distinction as being the last Speaker and the first President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With an overview of Senators who served as President Pro Tempore, Speakers and Presidents Pro Tempore of the Commonwealth aims to tell the history of the highest-ranking Official of the Senate. Many Members have served the Senate and the Commonwealth as President Pro Tempore. Their time in the Senate, as both Member and Officer, demonstrate the work undertaken to ensure the legislative needs of Pennsylvania’s citizens are met. We hope that this exhibition acts as a tribute to all who were elected Speaker and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

  • Pennsylvania at Andersonville Georgia, Ceremonies at The Dedication of the Memorial. Courtesy of the State Library of Pennsylvania
  • Letter from George Washington’s aide Tobias Lear to Clement Biddle: Mentions Robert Hare’s Porter. Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
  • Letter from John Adams to his wife: Talks about Robert Hare’s porter. Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • 1870 Senate Speaker’s Chair: Rare Survivor of the State Capitol Fire. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Museum.
  • 1879 Senate Chair. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Upper St. Clair
  • Senator Jubelirer’s President Pro Tempore Gavel.
  • Senator Edward E. Beidlemen’s Campaign Pins. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives House Archives.
  • Letter signed by Governor William C. Sproul. Courtesy of the Dauphin County Historical Society.
  • Inaugural Committee Tickets & photographs of Senator Maris Harvey Taylor. Courtesy of the Dauphin County Historical Society.
  • Letter from Richard Peters to Dr. John Anderson dated March 2, 1807. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Letter from Richard Peters to George Woods dated September 17, 1784. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Portrait of William Freame Johnston. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Inaugural Hon. William C. Sproul Governor's Initiation dated January 21, 1919. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Citations and Resolutions for Marvis Harvey Taylor. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Photographs of Marvis Harvey Taylor Bridge Dedication. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Large Campaign Poster for William C. Sproul. Courtesy of the Pennsylvania State Archives.
  • Photographs of Senator Jake Corman. Courtesy of Senate Republican Communications.
Pennsylvania Academic Standards
(History, US History, and Civics and Government) met in whole or in part* by this exhibition
Note: *The text for this exhibition is written (with the exception of field-specific language) for the sixth grade level. For more information on Pennsylvania’s Department of Education Standards, and more related standards, please visit PDE SAS.

Exhibition Team

  • Martavis Washington, Research & Exhibit Specialist, Senate Library
  • Alexandra Acri Barbush, Librarian of the Senate
  • Donna Wheeler, Record Services Manager, Senate Library
  • George Soule, Research Services Manager, Senate Library
  • Dustin Smith, Intern, Senate Library

Democratic Caucus Operations Staff

  • Kristin Markle, Graphics Designer/Illustrator

Republican Communications Staff

  • Gregory Milligan, Director
  • Douglas Gross, Director of Photography
  • Jason Troutman, Videographer
  • Todd Krick, Director of Graphic Arts
  • Christopher J. Guerrisi, Photographer

Senate Print Shop/Digital Production

  • Chris Keller, Director
  • Caleb Gordon, Deputy Director

Contributing Organizations and Individuals

  • The Pennsylvania State Archives
  • The Pennsylvania House of Representatives House Archives
  • Aaron McWilliams, Head, Public Services Section, Pennsylvania State Archives
  • Richard Saylor, Archivist, Pennsylvania State Archives
  • Legislative Data Processing Center
  • Robert “Bob” Hill, Military & Industrial History Curator, The State Museum of Pennsylvania
  • Laurie Austin, Audiovisual Archivist, Harry S. Truman Library
  • Rachal Carlson, President, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair
  • Carolyn Friedrich, Farm Archivist, Historical Society of Upper St. Clair
  • Ken Frew, Research Librarian/Archivist, Historical Society of Dauphin County
  • Shannon Willis, Director of Digitization, Clemson University Library
  • Michael Lear, Rare Collections Librarian, State Library of Pennsylvania
  • Jesse Noonan, Rare Collections Library Technician, State Library of Pennsylvania
  • Amanda C. Burdan, Ph. D., Senior Curator, Brandywine River Museum of Art
  • Carol Ellis, Curatorial Assistant, Brandywine River Museum of Art
  • Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, M.A., M.L.S., Senior Reference Librarian, Massachusetts Historical Society
  • Emily Peterman, Library Assistant, Massachusetts Historical Society
  • Dawn Bonner, Manager of Visual Resources, Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
  • Dr. Harrison Wick, Associate Professor, Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Libraries

Special thanks to Secretary Martin for continued support for the mission of the Senate Library of Pennsylvania


More Resources

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