1840: Caleb Frederick Cope to Senator Samuel M. Barclay

What Caleb Cope might have looked like

This letter was written by Caleb Frederick Cope (1797-1888) — merchant, financier, and philanthropist. He was born in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the son of William Cope and Elizabeth Rohrer. He married Abby Anne Cope, his cousin. After her death in 1845, he married as a second wife, Josephine Porter (1836-96) with whom he had two children: Caleb Frederick Cope and Porter Farquharson Cope.

Caleb was the head of Caleb Cope & Co., wholesale silk merchants. He was also director of the Second Bank of the U.S., and president of the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society.

Caleb wrote the letter to Samuel M. Barclay, a lawyer and a Whig Senator in the Pennsylvania Legislature from Bedford, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. A Philadelphia paper reported in August 1837, however, that Samuel Barclay was nominated by the Democratic Antimasons for the State Senate in bedford and Somerset Counties, and predicted that he would be elected by a large majority.

Included in the letter is an excellent description of the insufferable conditions encountered by patrons riding the Pennsylvania railroads in 1840.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to S. M. Barclay, Esq., Senator, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia [Pennsylvania]
June 8th 1840

S. M. Barclay, Esq.
Dear Sir,

I have to thank you very particularly for your kindness in so punctually complying with my request and I have also to convey the special thanks for your mutual post master J. C. for a like favor. Both packages came duly to hand with your letter.

I am glad you hold out such encouraging prospects with regard to our State. I will take care to supply you with picture books when you ride the circuit. I expect to leave here for Bedford Springs about the first, Providence willing, and will not omit filling a corner of my carriage with some illuminating tracts. In the meantime your order for a supply of the true doctrines and illustrations wil be received and duly honored. I learn Mr. Barndallas was in town a few days since and may be now. He used to be of the right faith and presume he is so now, as it is hard to turn a dutchman. If I see him, I will  implore his thoughts a little.

I have just received a letter from Mr. Rim, editor of the new Whig paper in Westmoreland who speaks thus, “the types &c. which you forwarded have been received and put to use. Our list of subscribers is a very good one and daily increasing. Our prospects for [William Henry] Harrison are growing better and judging from present indications I should say we will be able to give a good account of Old Westmoreland in October next. The Locofoco majority in 1838, it will be recollected, was 2,245. I am persuaded we shall be able to reduce it to 1,000 or 1,200. Some of our friends think the result will be still more favorable but I am not so sanguine. This is cheering, is it not?

We are making great efforts to raise money. Our mercantile committee have done well but as usual we are disappointed in other quarters. At D. W. for a few evenings since, we met Rice Garland who with [George H.] Profitt came on a Whig mission. The meeting present consisting of about a dozen gentlemen & some of then very wealthy resolved themselves into a committee for the purpose of collecting of the aristocracy.

The central committee at Washington are laboring hard but their firing will soon cease if they cannot get more powder.

You are doubtless doing all you can at the focos for issuing orders and receiving news for the “outsquirts” as my professor Davy Sayres says.

My sisters went home to _______ a few days since, and speak very despairingly of the railroad accommodations — particularly between Harrisburg & Chambersburg. What does Senator [Charles Bingham] Penrose say to this? The car was very small — no cushions to the  seats or seating boards. And no dinner allowed till they reached Chambersburg in the evening at half past 7 P.M. This is quite discouraging to my ______. The cars between Philadelphia and Lancaster were shut closed to keep out the sparks and the passengers were nearly smothered for want of air. Our travelling accommodations are worse, I believe, than those of any state north of us.

Yours truly, — C. Cope


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