Jenckes, Thomas A. (Thomas Allen), 1818-1875

Alternative names
Birth 1818-11-02
Death 1875-11-04

Biographical notes:

Jurist, state legislator and adjutant general, and U.S. representative from Rhode Island.

From the description of Papers of Thomas A. Jenckes, 1836-1878. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 79449305

Thomas A. Jenckes, a Representative from Rhode Island; born in Cumberland, R.I., November 2, 1818; attended the public schools; was graduated from Brown University, Providence, R.I., in 1838; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1840 and commenced practice in Providence, R.I.; clerk in the State legislature 1840-1844; secretary of the State constitutional convention in 1842; adjutant general 1845-1855; member of the State house of representatives 1854-1857; commissioner to revise the laws of the State in 1855; elected as a Republican to the Thirty-eighth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1863-March 3, 1871); chairman, Committee on Patents (Thirty-eighth through Forty-first Congresses); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1870; resumed the practice of law; died in Cumberland, R.I., on November 4, 1875; interment in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, R.I.

From the description of Papers, ca. 1830-ca. 1870. (Brown University). WorldCat record id: 549570826

Brown class of 1838.

From the description of Papers, 1834-1870. (Brown University). WorldCat record id: 247037534

From the description of Papers, 1837-1870. (Brown University). WorldCat record id: 122647892

Biographical Note

  • 1818, Nov. 2: Born, Cumberland, R.I.
  • 1834 - 1838 : Student, Brown University, Providence, R.I.
  • 1839: Tutor, Brown University, Providence, R.I.
  • 1840: Admitted to bar; formed a partnership with Edward H. Hazard, Providence, R.I., specializing in patent law
  • 1840 - 1844 : Clerk, Rhode Island state legislature
  • 1841: Secretary, “Landholders Convention” in Rhode Island
  • 1842: Secretary, Rhode Island constitutional convention
  • 1845 - 1855 : Adjutant general, Rhode Island
  • 1854 - 1857 : Member, Rhode Island state house of representatives
  • 1863 - 1871 : Member, U.S. House of Representatives from 1st District of Rhode Island; assigned to Patents and Judiciary Committees
  • 1865: Defeat of Jenckes's bill on the selection of public employees by competitive examinations
  • 1866: Member, House of Representatives Joint Committee for Retrenchment
  • 1872 - 1873 : Selected to aid prosecution of Credit Mobilier
  • 1875, Nov. 4: Died, Providence, R.I.

From the guide to the Thomas A. Jenckes Papers, 1838-1878, (Manuscript Division Library of Congress)

Thomas Allen Jenckes was born in Cumberland, Rhode Island on November 2, 1818. He attended public schools, followed by Brown University in Providence, from which he graduated in 1838. He subsequently served as Tutor in Mathematics at Brown (1839-1840) while reading for the law in the office of Samuel Young Atwell (Brown Class of 1814). He was admitted to the bar in 1840.

Jenckes practiced law in Providence, developing an expertise in patent cases. He was particularly noted in his own time for his work on the Sickles and Corliss steam engine patents, and on the Day and Goodyear rubber cases. He was also retained to represent the United States in its case against Credit Mobilier. During the Dorr Rebellion, Jenckes served the Charter authorities under Governor Samuel Ward King, and became Secretary of the newly formed Governor's Council. He also participated in both the Landholders Convention of 1841 and the state Constitutional Convention in 1842. He held the posts of Adjutant General from 1845-1855 and Commissioner assigned to revise the Rhode Island code in 1855; and was an elected member of the State house of representatives from 1854-1857.

In 1862, Jenckes was elected to Congress as a Republican, representing Rhode Island's First District, and served there for four successive terms, comprising the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Congresses (1863-1871). During his four terms in Congress, he chaired the Committee on Patents and the Committee on the Judiciary. While serving in the House of Representatives, he was chiefly responsible for revision of the patent and copyright laws, the general bankrupt law of 1867, and the introduction and adoption of a law for improving and regulating the civil service. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1870.

After his defeat, Jenckes resumed the practice of law in Rhode Island. He died in Cumberland on November 4, 1875, and lies interred at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.

Sources: Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography; Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

From the guide to the Thomas A. Jenckes papers, Jenckes (Thomas A.) papers, 1834-1870, (John Hay Library Special Collections)


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  • Lawyers--Archives
  • Bankruptcy
  • Practice of law
  • Copyright
  • Fraud
  • Universities and colleges--Rhode Island
  • Legislators--Archives
  • Universities and colleges
  • Refrigeration and refrigerating machinery
  • Practice of law--Rhode Island
  • Civil service reform
  • Patent laws and legislation


  • Public officials--Rhode Island
  • Representatives, U.S. Congress--Rhode Island
  • Jurists


  • Rhode Island (as recorded)
  • Rhode Island (as recorded)
  • Rhode Island (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Rhode Island--Providence (as recorded)