Alexander Kelly McClure (January 9, 1828 – June 6, 1909) was a journalist, editor, writer, politician, and historian, active in Pennsylvania Republican Party politics, especially in the 1860s, and a prominent supporter, correspondent, and biographer of President Abraham Lincoln. He was the editor of the Franklin Repository, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania and of the Philadelphia Times. The borough of McClure, Pennsylvania - located in Snyder County - is named in his honor.
McClure was born on January 9, 1828 in Sherman's Valley,Perry County, Pennsylvania to Alexander and Isabella Anderson McClure. He grew up on a farm, with little formal education. At fourteen, he apprenticed to a tanner. Later, he worked as a printer at the Perry County Freeman and the Juniata Sentinel, in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. He became editor and publisher of the Sentinel in 1846, and became known for his Whig political views.
McClure was appointed to the staff of the first Whig governor of Pennsylvania, William F. Johnson, with the honorary rank of colonel. In 1850, Millard Fillmore appointed McClure deputy United States Marshal for Juniata County. He moved to Chambersburg in 1852, buying Franklin Repository newspaper, and marrying Matilda S. Gray.
McClure became interested in the newly formed Republican Party. He was an outspoken abolitionist. In 1857, he was elected to Pennsylvania's House of Representatives and re-elected in 1858 and 1859. He was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate in 1860.
At the 1860 Republican National Convention he became a well-known political figure, opposing fellow Pennsylvanian Simon Cameron's bid for the Republican nomination for the presidency. McClure and Andrew G. Curtin helped swing the state's vote away from Cameron and William Seward to Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's election McClure became chairman of the Republican state committee and helped to elect Curtin governor of Pennsylvania.
McClure was commissioned as an assistant adjutant general with the rank of major by President Lincoln on September 6, 1862.
McClure's home in Chambersburg was threatened several times by Confederate forces. He was captured but released when Stuart entered Chambersburg on his raid around McClellan in October 1862. He states in his biography that he "never saw General Lee during the war or after the war." McClure resigned his commission on 27 February 1863.
In 1864, during the Confederacy's third occupation of Chambersburg, McClure's home, Norland was burned down with much of the rest of the town. The home was rebuilt and sold to Wilson College.
In 1864, McClure moved to Philadelphia and helped Lincoln carry Pennsylvania again in the general election.
In 1867, McClure wrote a book called Three Thousand Miles through the Rocky Mountains. He also became a representative of the Philadelphia-based Montana Gold and Silver Mining Company and was superintendent of one of the company's mills at the Oro Cache vein in the Montana Territory. He returned to Philadelphia in 1868 after supporting Ulysses S. Grant at the Republican National Convention.
By the time of Grant's reelection bid, McClure had left the Republican Party and threw his support to Horace Greeley and the Liberal Republican National Convention. In 1873 McClure was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate. In 1874, he ran for mayor of Philadelphia and lost by only 900 votes.
He returned to newspaper editing by founding The Philadelphia Times in 1875. In 1886 McClure wrote The South: Its Industrial, Financial, and Political Condition, which included material on race relations in the South. McClure recognized that integration was necessary. He continued as The Philadelphia Times' editor until 1901 when he sold the newspaper to Adolph Ochs. In 1879 he married Cora M. Gratz.
He died on June 6, 1909 near Philadelphia in Wallingford, Pennsylvania and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.
The town of McClure, Pennsylvania and the Alexander K. McClure School in Philadelphia are named in his honor.
Works by Alexander McClure
- Three Thousand Miles Through the Rocky Mountains. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1869.
- The Annals of the Civil War. 1878. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.
- The South: Its Industrial, Financial, and Political Condition. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1886.
- The Life and Services of Andrew G. Curtin. Harrisburg: Clarence M. Busch, 1895.
- Lincoln's Yarns and Stories: A Complete Collection of the Funny and Witty Anecdotes That Made Abraham Lincoln Famous as America's Greatest Story Teller. Philadelphia: The J.C. Winston Company, 1900. Available from Google Books
- The Authentic Life of William McKinley Our Third Martyr President: Together with a Life Sketch of Theodore Roosevelt. Washington, DC: W.E. Scull, 1901.
- Famous American Statesmen & Orators, Past and Present: With Biographical Sketches and Their Famous Orations. New York: F.F. Lovell, 1902.
- Our Presidents and How We Make Them. New York: Harper, 1902.
- Colonel Alexander K. McClure's Recollections of Half a Century, The Salem Press Company, 1902. Available via Internet Archive.