Forney, John W. (John Wien), 1817-1881Variant names
Editor, publisher, clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, and secretary of the U.S. Senate.
From the description of John W. Forney papers, 1841-1881. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 164810989
From the description of Letter signed : Washington, to William Pitt Fessenden, 1863 Nov. 10. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270482790
From the description of Letter signed, with nine lines in autograph : Washington, D.C., to William Pitt Fessenden, 1863 Jun. 2. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270482859
From the description of Papers of John W. Forney [manuscript], 1865-1867. (University of Virginia). WorldCat record id: 647812886
The American editor and publisher John Wien Forney was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, September 30, 1817, the son of Peter Forney and Margaret Wien. He died in Philadelphia, December 9, 1881. Forney also pursued a minor political career, serving as both Clerk of the House of Representatives and Secretary of the Senate.
Forney left school at thirteen to work as an apprentice for the Lancaster Journal . By age sixteen he was writing editorials for the Journal, and at age nineteen Forney became joint owner and editor of a new publication, the Lancaster Intelligencer . Two years later Forney purchased the Journal and created the Intelligencer and Journal .
Politics also interested Forney and he actively supported U.S. Senator (later President) James Buchanan (D - Penn.), who also hailed from Lancaster. In 1845, with Buchanan’s support, Forney was appointed deputy surveyor of the port of Philadelphia. In the same year Forney sold his Lancaster paper and moved to Philadelphia to become the editor of the Pennsylvanian, a position he held for seven years. Forney pursued his interest in politics and in 1851 he was elected to his first term as Clerk of the House of Representatives, where he served until 1857. Beginning in 1853 Forney also worked as an editor for the Washington Daily Union, the national Democratic organ.
After unsuccessful attempts to advance his political career as a cabinet member under President James Buchanan (1857-1861), and a failed bid for one of Pennsylvania’s senatorial seats, Forney returned to Philadelphia in 1857 to establish a new newspaper, the Philadelphia Press . Forney’s disappointment with the Buchanan administration also prompted him to shift his support to the Republican Party, and in 1860 he was again elected Clerk of the House of Representatives; this time as a Republican. Forney actively supported President Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), whose influence helped to elect Forney Secretary of the Senate (1861-1868), making him the only Secretary to have previously served as Clerk of the House. During this active political period Forney’s journalistic pursuits also thrived. He found time to start yet another new paper, the Washington Chronicle, as well as maintain his editorship of the Philadelphia Press . The Press published Forney’s “Letter from Occasional” column, which offered editorials on political issues of the day.
In 1880 Forney returned to the Democratic Party after starting Progress, a weekly journal of political discussion, in 1878. Forney was also the author of several books, including Letters From Europe (1867), Anecdotes of Public Men (1873, 1881), and The Life and Military Career of Winfield Scott Hancock (1880).
Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958-1964. Vol. 4. United States Senate. Senate Historical Office Web site Retrieved August 2001 from http://www.senate.gov/learning/stat_4e.html.
From the guide to the John W. Forney The Letters of, Occasional, 1857–1861, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)
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