Stories he could tell…
Briefly a prohibitionist in the House of Representatives during WWI, Earl Beshlin practiced law as a centenarian
I think one of the most enjoyable parts of writing the stories that run in the Diversions section is the simple fact that you never know where the stories are going to come from.
Early to a court hearing a couple weeks ago, I took a seat in the attorneys room just off the main courtroom at the Warren County Courthouse.
One of the first thing I noticed?
A World War I-era Congressional campaign flier.
I “Googled” his name.
And found what I think to be a pretty good story…
Earl Hanley Beshlin was born in Conewango Township on April 28, 1870.
Not much is readily known about his childhood other than the fact that he graduated from Warren High School and was admitted to the bar at the age of 23 in 1893.
He was active in local politics, serving as a Warren County Burgess from 1906 through 1909.
But his political ambitions went further than Warren County.
He sought election to the 60th Congress – 1907-1909 – but, according to the Official Congressional Directory, lost to Nelson P. Wheeler 16,550 votes to 10,433.
Turning back to the local scene, he was borough solicitor from 1914-1918.
But, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
While Warren County is now part of the 5th District, in the 1910s we were part of the 28th District.
Orrin Dubbs Bleakley was a Prussian-educated banker who had served in various state political party posts until he was elected to Congress in 1915.
He won re-election to a second term in 1917 but was in office for only a month as he resigned after he had been convicted of a violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act for spending more than the statutorily-permitted $5,000 on his Congressional campaign. (For reference sake, that equates to roughly $105,000 in 2016 money).
After his April 1917 resignation, a special election was called for the following November.
Beshlin threw his name into the hat as both a Democrat and a Prohibitionist and received the Democratic nomination for the special election.
The New York Times declared his opponent – Captain Ulysses Grant Lyons – the winner in the November 17, 1917 edition.
Turns out they were wrong.
So Beshlin faced just one year in Congress before he would have to seek re-election to his own term.
During that year, Beshlin was involved in a number of significant votes, many not without controversy.
The Revenue Act of 1918 raised the income tax. The House approved a declaration of war against Austria-Hungary.
In May, the House approved the Sedition Act of 1918 which forbade “disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive” language the government, flag or armed forces as well as the Immigration Act of 1918 specifically designed to suppress anarchism.
On one of the last legislative days of the 65th Congress, the House approved the Grand Canyon Park Act and the Acadia National Park Act.
According to C-SPAN, Beshlin served on the House Coinage, Weights and Measures and was a ranking member on the Invalid Persons, Merchant Marine and Fisheries and Patents committees.
According to his Congressional biography, Beshlin ran for the full term in the fall of 1918 and lost to William J. Hulings of Oil City.
Beshlin then returned to Warren County, served as chairman of the Board of Education in Warren County from 1919 until 1935, a hospital executive and mayor for three years.
He also continued his law practice.
And that’s where this story gets really interesting.
Because he continued practicing law for a very long time.
He was an active attorney with an office on Second Ave. at the age of 100.