Henry Marie Brackenridge

Birth: 1786


Henry Marie Brackenridge (1786-1871) was an American writer, lawyer, judge, superintendent and first federal forester) and Congressman from Pennsylvania. He was born the son of the writer and judge Hugh Henry Brackenridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on May 11, 1786. Educated by his father and private tutors, he attended a French academy at Ste. Genevieve, Louisiana (now Missouri). He studied law and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1806, then practiced in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

He moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was a lawyer and journalist. In 1811 Brackenridge was the first recorded tourist to present-day South Dakota, hosted by fur trader Manuel Lisa. Henry was appointed deputy attorney general of the Territory of Orleans (Louisiana), and district judge of Louisiana in 1812. He played an intelligence role during the War of 1812, and in 1814 published a history of the war.

In 1817 he was appointed secretary of a mission to South America. He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1818. Brackenridge in 1821 entered the diplomatic service of General Andrew Jackson, who was the new commissioner of Florida. Through Jackson's influence, he served as U.S. judge for the western district of Florida 1821-32.

When President John Quincy Adams established the Naval Live Oak Area, (currently identified as Naval Live Oak Reservation) on January 18, 1829; Superintendent Henry Marie Brackenridge lived on the property and experimented with cultivating the live oak tree for shipbuilding. He was perhaps our country's first federal forester.

Brackenridge returned to Pennsylvania in 1832 and became owner of a large tract of land upon which he founded the town of Tarentum, 22 miles northeast of Pittsburgh on the Allegheny River. The adjacent Allegheny County borough of Brackenridge is named for him. He was elected as a Whig to the 26th United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Richard Biddle and served from October 13, 1840, to March 3, 1841. He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1840. After politics he pursued literature until his death in Pittsburgh on January 18, 1871. He is buried in Prospect Cemetery, Brackenridge, Pennsylvania.

Brackenridge's published works include Views of Louisiana (1814), part of which was a source for Washington Irving's Astoria, and a pamphlet South America (1817), which puts forth a policy similar to the Monroe Doctrine. Sent to South America to study political conditions, he recounted his experiences in Voyage to South America (1819). His Recollections of Persons and Places in the West (1834) is considered a valuable historical source.


United States Congress. "Henry Marie Brackenridge (id: B000732)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

Keller, William F. (1956). The Nation's Advocate: Henry Marie Brackenridge and Young America. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

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