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Joseph F. Guffey (December 29, 1870–March 6, 1959) was an American business executive and Democratic Party politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate from 1935 until 1947.


Early life

Guffey was born at Guffey's Station in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania to Joseph and Ruth (nee Reiffer) Guffey. He was the last born of his brothers; John A., Daniel W., William C., James F., Robert, and Samuel, and sisters; Cinthia, Sarah, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Isabella, and Emma. He attended but did not graduate from Princeton University. As a Princeton student, he became a disciple of Professor Woodrow Wilson. During Wilson's tenure as Princeton president, Guffey, and other former students were vocal supporters of Wilson's Quad Plan. He was instrumental in helping Wilson to secure the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912.

World War I

He was a member of the War Industries Board (Petroleum Service Division), as well as the Director of the Bureau of sales in the Alien Property Custodian's office during World War I. He was a member of A. Mitchell Palmer's Pennsylvania political machine.

Guffey, who owned an oil company with his two sisters, suffered financial setbacks in oil speculation during WWI and was indicted by a federal grand jury for mis-use of the funds under his control as Sales Director. The charges were later dropped as part of deal made during the Harding/Coolidge Administrations' Teapot Dome Scandal. He was a member of the Democratic National Committee from 1920 until 1932.

United States Senate

He was elected to the United States Senate in 1934, unseating Republican Senator David A. Reed.

He was the chairperson of the Mines and Mining committee, and was a fervent supporter of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930's. He supported the aggressive politics of Henry Wallace, who compared the Republicans with fascists.

Guffey spoke out against Harry J. Anslinger (who had been appointed to lead the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics by his father-in-law Andrew Mellon) for referring to "niggers" in official correspondence. He caused a controversy in Pennsylvania when he backed Charles Alvin Jones for the Democratic nomination as governor in 1938, instead of Lieutenant Governor Thomas Kennedy, who was a close associate of mine workers union head John Lewis. As the leader of the Democratic political machine, his endorsement gave the nomination to Jones, who later lost the general election (to Republican Arthur James). Guffey was at the same time working with Lewis, demanding that Pleas E. Greenlee replace Charles F. Hosford Jr. who had been ineffective as chairman of the National Bituminous Coal Commission.

He was reelected in 1940, with Claude Pepper campaigning with him. Guffey was less influential after the Republicans took control of the Congress and reversed some of the laws helping labor unions, eventually passing the Taft-Hartley Act after Guffey was defeated by Governor Edward Martin by a wide margin in 1946.


After leaving the Senate, Guffey retired to Washington, DC, where he died in 1959. Upon his death, he was returned to West Newton, Pennsylvania for burial in the West Newton Cemetery.

He supported President Harry S. Truman's recognition of the State of Israel in 1948.


  • Joseph Guffey Papers: Seeley G. Mudd Library, Princeton University
  • National Archives: College Park, MD
  • United States Senate Archives
  • American National Biography; Dictionary of American Biography
  • Charles Halt, Seventy Years on the Red-Fire Wagon: From Tilden to Truman, Through New Freedom and New Deal.
  • Joseph F. Guffey, New Deal Politician From Pennsylvania. Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University, 1965.
  • Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University Library (text of campaign speech given March 11, 1940).
  • Time Magazine: February 28, 1938; March 28, 1938; June 3, 1946.

See also

External links

United States Senate
Preceded by
David Reed
United States Senator (Class 1) from Pennsylvania
1935 – 1947
Served alongside: James Davis, Francis Myers
Succeeded by
Edward Martin
Party political offices
Preceded by
William McNair
Democratic nominee for United States Senator from Pennsylvania (Class 1)
1932, 1940, 1946
Succeeded by
Guy Bard


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