Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Galusha Aaron Grow
About this object
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.
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.