Rufus Edmonds Shapley
Rufus Edmonds Shapley was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania
on August 4, 1840, the son of Rufus and Susan Shapley. He was educated
locally and entered his hometown's Dickinson College with the class
of 1860. Following graduation he studied law in the office of William
Penrose in Cumberland County. He was admitted to the Philadelphia bar
in 1866 and became a successful corporate attorney in that city.
The legal case that made Shapley's career was Brady versus the American
Steamship Company in 1874. The locally built and owned vessel Pennsylvania,
only three years old, had almost foundered in a storm and lost its top
officers overboard. A passenger named Brady took command, brought the
ship home, and, with Shapley's help, won the only salvage claim awarded
to a passenger up to that time. The company's defense, that the Fourth
Officer was capable and Brady had usurped his authority, Shapley demolished
under skillful cross-examination. Shapley's evidence included the Fourth
Officer's log, which showed that his estimation of latitude and longitude
for the ship's position called for the Pennsylvania to be sailing
somewhere in the hills of upstate New York!
Shapley went on to become a wealthy corporate and tax lawyer, well connected
with the Republican Party then controlling the city. He was counsel
for the Police Department, represented the streetcar company, and was
often called upon to represent Republican Party interests in Pennsylvania.
In 1882, he built a mansion - "Hildawold" - in Wallingford,
Pennsylvania, and he also maintained a summer home in Bar Harbor, Maine.
He published several books on tax law, a subject on which he became
Though prominent as a Philadelphia lawyer, Shapley was known more widely
for his political humor, notably his Solid For Mulhooly: A Sketch
of Municipal Politics under the Leaders, the Ring, and the Boss
published in 1881, and then again in 1889. The book was very well known
at the time; one Philadelphia reviewer went so far as to say that it
did for municipal corruption what Uncle Tom's Cabin had done
for slavery. Shapley's own Philadelphia career did not intrude into
the satire, which was largely an anti-immigrant commentary on Democratic
Party methods of urban "boss" control. He also published five
volumes, edited in collaboration with Librarian of Congress Ainsworth
R. Spofford, titled A Library of Wit and Humor in 1884.
Rufus Edmonds Shapley married Annie McCord of Pittsburgh in 1877, and
the couple had a daughter. Shapely died at his Philadelphia town home
on February 11, 1906.
Please visit the following link for materials authored
by Rufus Edmonds Shapley maintained in the Their Own Words database: