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Thaddeus Stevens


He probably looks grumpy because he was born with a club foot and...he wore a wig

The ugly wig is part of Stevens' lore. He wore it to disguise baldness caused by disease. "Disguise" is generous: The wig was a minimal effort to cover his pate, not enhance it; and it is said to have been cut to look alike on all sides, so Stevens didn't have to bother about front or back.

For a time the radical republican was the most powerful man in congress (1865–1868).

The Confederate army that invaded Pennsylvania in 1863 dispatched cavalry to burn down his iron foundry, just to spite him.


The president of the United States suggested that he should be hanged.


After he died in 1868, his party decided to honor him by nominating him for reelection to Congress. He won in a landslide.

After graduating from Dartmouth, Stevens took a teaching job in York, PA teaching Latin, Greek, English, math, science and moral philosphy.  At night, he studied law. He soon passed the bar exam and set up a practice in Adams County in the town of Gettysburg.

In 1821, he was hired by a Maryland slave owner who wanted to regain possession of a runaway slave who was living with her two children in the free state of Pennsylvania. The slave, Charity Butler, claimed she’d resided in Pennsylvania for more than six months - long enough to be declared free under state law. But Stevens proved that Butler hadn’t lived in the state for six consecutive months, and he won the case. Later, when he pondered how his courtroom cleverness caused three human beings to lose their freedom, he was appalled, and he became a dedicated abolitionist.

In August 1842, Stevens moved his law practice to Lancaster, PA.


He hired  spies to keep an eye on slave-catchers in town, and his residence became a station on the Underground Railroad - a fact acknowledged in April 2011 by the National Park Service.  Runaway slaves were concealed in a hidden cistern connected to the house by a secret tunnel.

Fun Fact: Stevens instructed his personal physician to send him the bill for any “deformed or disabled” boys he treated.

He was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1849 on the Whig party ticket.

Thaddeus Stevens house and office 1868

Thaddeus Stevens and the Christiana Riot

Thaddeus Stevens lead the team of defense lawyers for Castner Hanway, who was mistakenly identified as the mastermind of the Christiana Riot.  The trial took place in Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Castner Hanway, along with forty-one other men, was charged with treason for “wickedly and traitorously” intending “to levy war” against the United States.

Abolitionist Lucretia Mott sat in the courtroom on the second floor of Independence Hall throughout the trial.


Thaddeus Stevens closing arguments at the impeachment of President Johnson


Thaddeus Stevens' grave


Thaddeus Stevens' house at Vine and South Queen Streets in Lancaster City

Sign at the intersection of West Chestnut Street and North Mulberry Street in Lancaster

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