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History of the Philadelphia Young Republicans

In 1856, a group of politicians met at Philadelphia’s Musical Fund Hall at 8th and Locust Street in Philadelphia. Their aim was to create a new political party, dedicated to ending the spread of slavery in the American territories. For the next hundred years, this new, Republican Party would utterly dominate Pennsylvania politics, supplying all but two of our governors. Philadelphia was the beating heart of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, with the Union League at Broad and Sansom serving as the informal party HQ.

For younger Philadelphians, who might not have been able to afford the membership fees of the Union League, a new organization was created to serve the party interests. While the exact date of founding for the Philadelphia Young Republicans is unknown, the organization has been traced back to at least 1864, making it the oldest Young Republican organization in the nation. Below is an image of a letter (found in the Lincoln papers archive), dated December 28, 1864, from the Philadelphia Young Republicans to William B. Thomas and Simon Cameron, inviting President Lincoln to their ball.

 Throughout the 19th century, the Philly YRs presence in 19th century Philadelphia is undeniable.  The next letter, dated July 1, 1887, sent from the Young Republican Headquarters, shows the incredible strength of the organization during the late 19th century, with a ambitious goal of recruiting 5,000 new members, all of whom would pay a $25 initiation fee and $10/year membership fee, a significant sum at the time. This money was put towards the establishment of a new Headquarters for the organization, located, like the Union League, on South Broad Street.

The Young Republicans also supplied many of the future leaders both of Philadelphia, and Pennsylvania. Former YR Chairman Edwin Sydney Stuart, for example, became Mayor of Philadelphia and Governor of Pennsylvania. And more recently, former Philly YR Jim Cawley was elected Lieutenant Governor. And today, the Philly YRs are still leading the way, with current YR State Rep. Martina White leading Philly GOP!

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