Kurt's Historic Sites

Henry B. Anthony

Henry B. Anthony

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Providence, RI July 11, 2021 15th President Pro Tempore visited

Photographed July 11, 2021.

When Henry Bowen Anthony died in September 1884, he was honored with the largest funeral recorded in the State of Rhode Island up to that point in time. Anthony had long been a fixture in RI — as one of its senators, its governor, and editor of its most prominent newspaper. It is fitting that in death he resides in one of the Ocean State’s most prestigious burial parks: Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery.

The tablet affixed to Anthony’s monument is effusive in its praise for the late Rhode Islander. Its patina-covered text says that as “editor and proprietor of the Providence Journal, he secured for it a commanding influence and prestige.” It continues that during his terms as governor — which overlapped with his time at the helm of the Journal — Anthony “possessed in a rare degree the confidence and esteem of the people of the state.” It also hails Anthony for his long tenure in the Senate and a “resolute defender of the National Union and of the national authority.” When Anthony died in 1884 after a quarter of a century in the Senate, only two men had served in that body longer.

Photographed July 11, 2021.
Photographed July 11, 2021.

Known by his colleagues as the “Father of the Senate,” Anthony served in the upper body of the Legislative Branch from 1859 to until his death. During that 25-year period, Anthony participated in many consequential votes. He voted in the affirmative to help pass the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, known as the Reconstruction Amendments. Anthony also voted to convict President Andrew Johnson during his 1868 impeachment trial. The following year, he was first selected as president pro tempore — the Senate’s highest ranking official when Vice President Schuyler Colfax was absent. Additionally, he was the namesake of the Anthony Rule, which was designed to limit debate on the Senate floor prior to the days of cloture, a procedure that ends a filibuster.

Before the Republican Party was formed, Anthony identified with the Whigs, as well as the American Party. Also called the “Know Nothings,” American Party members embraced a platform of policies that were anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic. These prejudices where pervasive in the Providence Journal during Anthony’s tenure as editor, which began in 1838 when the Brown University graduate was just 23 years old. Dr. Patrick T. Conley, historian laureate of Rhode Island, wrote in 1986 that the Journal‘s “relentless campaign against the ‘foreign vagabond'” played a crucial role in “the wave of nativism which engulfed Rhode Island in the 1840s and 1850s.” This put the Journal in opposition to the democracy-inspired rebellion led by Thomas Wilson Dorr from 1841 to 1842. Even when Anthony no longer worked as the paper’s editor, he wielded influence as its majority owner. An editorial published upon his passing in 1884 proclaimed, “For many years Henry B. Anthony was the Journal, and its and his political and intellectual identities were almost merged.”

Photographed July 11, 2021.

Fast Facts

Born: April 1, 1815 in Coventry, Rhode Island

Spouse: Sarah Aborn Rhodes Anthony (m. 1837-1854)

Primary Political Affiliation: Republican Party

Gubernatorial Tenure: 1849-1851

Senate Tenure: 1859-1884

President Pro Tempore Tenure: 1869-1873, 1875

Died: September 2, 1884 in Providence, Rhode Island

Age: 69

Interment: Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island

"The enfranchisement of woman is one of those great reforms which will come with the progress of civilization, and when it comes those who witness it will wonder that it has been so long delayed."
- Henry B. Anthony

March 4, 1884 in a letter to his cousin, Susan B. Anthony, who had invited him to speak at the conference of the National Woman Suffrage Association in Washington, D.C.

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Conley, Patrick T. The Irish in Rhode Island: A Historical Appreciation. Providence: Rhode Island Heritage Commission and Rhode Island Publications Society, 1986. https://preservation.ri.gov/sites/g/files/xkgbur406/files/pdfs_zips_downloads/heritage_pdfs/pamphlets/irish.pdf.

Parker, Paul Edward. “Notable personalities in Providence Journal history.” providencejournal.com. July 20, 2019. https://www.providencejournal.com/story/news/2019/07/20/notable-personalities-in-providence-journal-history/4647536007/.

senate.gov. “Henry B. Anthony: A Featured Biography.” Accessed February 11, 2023. https://www.senate.gov/senators/FeaturedBios/Featured_Bio_Anthony.htm.

senate.gov. “Henry B. Anthony, ‘Father of the Senate.'” Accessed February 10, 2023. https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/Father_of_the_Senate.htm.

Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage. The Complete History of Women’s Suffrage – All 6 Volumes in One Edition. Oklahoma City: Musaicum Books, 2017.

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