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Speaker of the House Galusha Aaron Grow of Pennsylvania

March 31, 1907
Speaker of the House Galusha Aaron Grow of Pennsylvania Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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With 31 years in between his terms of congressional service, Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania served a total of 21 years in the House of Representatives–two of them as Speaker.
Galusha Aaron Grow of Pennsylvania, Speaker of the House during the Civil War, died on this date. Elected as a Democrat in 1850, he succeeded David Wilmot on a platform committed to preventing the extension of slavery into western territories. Convinced that Democrats would never support the free soil movement, Grow switched parties and worked to rally the newly-organized Republicans behind the cause. He was elected Speaker in the 37th Congress (1861–1863) and presided over passage of the landmark Homestead Act of 1862—a version of a bill he authored that promised 160 acres of public land to settlers who agreed to farm it for a set period of years. Tall, defiant, and not afraid to use physical force against his opponents, one observer described Grow as “a thorough politician and a good presiding officer, possessing the tact, the quickness of perception, and the decision” necessary to lead. Redistricting in 1862 placed a Democrat-dominated county in his district, sending Grow to electoral defeat. In retirement, he fought machine politics in Pennsylvania but did not serve in elective office. Thirty-one years after leaving the House, however, Grow won a special election to the 53rd Congress (1893–1895) to succeed Representative William Lilly. It remains one of the longest known interregnums between terms of service for a House Member.

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