Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Gifford Pinchot (1865–1946) was elected twice to the highest executive office in Pennsylvania. He served two nonconsecutive terms as governor, 1923–27 and 1931– 35. This photograph was taken at his first inauguration on January 16, 1923, by the Philadelphia Public Ledger, a daily newspaper published from 1836 to 1942. The image shows Pinchot taking his oath of office on a temporary raised dais in front of the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg. Pinchot has his right hand raised while Robert von Moschzisker, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, swears him in.

Pinchot first gained national fame as a forester. After graduating from Yale University in 1889, he studied forestry in several European countries, as the profession had not yet become recognized by academic institutions in the United States.

President William McKinley appointed Pinchot, in 1898, as chief of the United States Division of Forestry (renamed the Bureau of Forestry in 1901). He served in that position until 1905, when he was appointed the first chief of the newly created United States Forest Service by President Theodore Roosevelt. In that position, which he held until 1910, Pinchot would triple the size of the nation’s forest reserves. His success in the conservation of forests would earn him the sobriquet “Father of American Forestry.”

In the 1922 Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign, 100 years ago, Pinchot won the Republican primary against two other candidates. He then ran against Democrat John A. McSparran in the general election in the fall, winning by more than 250,000 votes to become the 28th governor of Pennsylvania.

Pinchot was popular among new women voters, enfranchised in 1920 with the adoption of the 19th Amendment, which he had endorsed, and those who favored Prohibition, another cause that he supported. During his first term, he was able to eliminate a $23 million state deficit. He also focused on reorganizing state government and regulating the electricity industry in Pennsylvania. Unable to succeed himself as governor because of a rule in the state’s constitution at that time that prohibited two consecutive terms, he did not run again for governor until the 1930 election.

Pinchot won the general election in November 1930, defeating Democrat John M. Hemphill by more than 32,000 votes. Pinchot’s second term coincided with America’s Great Depression, during which he focused on the improvement of 20,000 miles of rural Pennsylvania roads and the creation of a Sanitary Water Board, the first antipollution agency in the country.

In 1938 Pinchot attempted one more political comeback as governor of Pennsylvania, but he lost the Republican primary election to Arthur James, who went on to become governor later that year.

The photograph of Pinchot’s first gubernatorial inauguration is located in the Pennsylvania State Archives in Manuscript Group 218.


Richard C. Saylor is an archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives and author of the award-winning book Soldiers to Governors and numerous articles on military, political and sports history.