Member Biography

John James Macfarlane 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1883-1884       4 Republican
1885-1886       4 Republican
1887-1888       4 Republican
1889-1890       4 Republican

COUNTIES: Philadelphia  


06/05/1846 - 01/07/1930

John James MacFarlane (R4) Philadelphia (Part) County 1883-1890

Early Life: 

John James MacFarlane, born June 5, 1846, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania; attended public schools; Central High School, Philadelphia, 1863; officer, Girard College, seven years; principal, Chestnut Hill Grammar School, ten years; insurance business; state Emergency Militia, Civil War, 1862-1863; elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1882-1889; Librarian Statiscian, Philadelphia Commercial Museum; married, Henrietta Ottinger “Nettie” Huston MacFarlane, daughter, Doctor Catharine Macfarlane, noted gynecologist; died, January 7, 1930, pneumonia, home, Germantown, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, Ivy Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.  

Early Career:   

Librarian and Statiscian, Philadelphia Commercial Museum, 30 years; museum closed, July 1, 1994

Pennsylvania Politics:

Elected, Republican, Pennsylvania State Senate, 4th district, Philadelphia (Part) County, 1883-1890, committee assignments, Congressional Apportionment, Education, Finance, Insurance, Legislative Apportionment.


Macfarlane’s colorful career was made more so during the Philadelphia Bank-Run of 1890. Macfarlane, served, president, American Life Insurance Company that year.  A number of associated financial institutions, approached insolvency, due to mismanagement and embezzlement. Macfarlane left Philadelphia for Brazil, 1890, reportedly with a sizable quantity of American Insurance funds. Surrendered 1893; pleaded guilty, Eastern Penitentiary, 1893-1897. 
"Dec 18, 1890: PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 16. -- The whereabouts of ex-Senator John J. Macfarlane was discovered today. The fugitive figurehead of the picturesque combination that looted the American Life Insurance Company, the Bank of America, and their allied institutions is living in quiet luxury at Rio Janeiro, Brazil, the attractive centre of a coterie of American citizens and the honored guest of the United States Consul."  


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members M"Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.

Smull’s Legislative Handbook, (1888). Cochran, T.B., (Editor) Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, pages 670, 676-678, Biographical Sketches of Senators, page 644.

New York Times (New York, New York) December 17, 1890, Page 1.  

The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Wednesday January 8, 1930, Page 4. 

 John James MacFarlane (1846-1930) - Find a Grave Memorial