Simon Cameron son of Charles Cameron and Martha Pfoutz, was born on March
8, 1799 in a log house which stood on High Street in Maytown, Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania. Charles Cameron and Martha Pfoutz had a large family, yet a remarkable one,
and the history of our country gives but few instances of the successful career of an
entire family, among whom Simon is the most prominent.
When young Simon was about the age of nine years old, his parents moved the family to
Northumberland county. His father shortly afterwards dying, he was early cast upon his own
exertions. His formal schooling was very limited from that point on, but he was
inquisitive and learned to read and write through his own perseverance.
Having an unquenchable fondness for books and news, young Cameron was able to perceive no
other means so likely to satisfy his appetite as a printing office, it seeming to him the
chief center of thought in the community in which destiny had fixed his lot.
entered, in 1816, as an apprentice to the printing business with Andrew Kennedy, editor of the
Northumberland County Gazette, where he continued one year, when his
employer, owing to financial reverses, was obliged to close his establishment.
Being thus thrown out of employment, he made his way by river boat and on foot to Harrisburg,
where he secured a position in the printing office of James Peacock, editor of the
Republican, with whom he remained until he had attained his majority.
During his teenage years, his interests expanded from the mechanics of the print trade to
perfecting his journalistic skills. In his early 20's, Cameron worked for a variety of print
shops and newspapers, as a printer, an editor, and as a partner in publishing ventures.
In 1822, and entered into partnership with Charles Mowry in the management of the
Pennsylvania Intelligencer, then the organ of the Democratic party at the State capital,
and enjoyed the official patronage of the State administration, and was elected one of the
printers to the State, a position he held seven years.
By the time Cameron was in his mid 20's, he had not only accumulated a comfortable amount
of personal capital, but he had also developed important connections with business and
political contacts. His interests turned toward investments and development projects.
As a savvy businessman, he engaged in multiple enterprises, including founding a bank,
president of two railroad companies, constructing rail lines, and building canals. Cameron continued to nurture his political
associations, recognizing that when he leant his support, he could expect political favors
Having been the early friend and supporter of Governor Shulze, upon his ceasing to be State
printer, he was Honored by that executive with the appointment of adjutant general of
Pennsylvania, the duties of which office he discharged with ability and to the satisfaction
of the public.
An early supporter of Andrew Jackson, Major Eaton, Secretary of War under General Jackson,
requested Cameron to organize a delegation to the National Convention, which had been called
to meet in Baltimore in the interest of Mr. Van Buren for the Vice-Presidency. This was the first National Convention ever held in
the United States.
Mr. Cameron was requested to accept the permanent chairmanship of that convention, but
declined, and a gentleman from North Carolina was selected. Having helped Martin Van Buren
in his political organization, in 1838 President Van Buren offered Cameron a position as a
commissioner to settle claims of the Winnebago Indians.
In 1845, Cameron aligned with the Democratic Party, and was elected to the United States
Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James Buchanan, and served from
March 13, 1845, to March 3, 1849. In 1856, this time as a Republican, Cameron was again
elected U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania serving from March 4, 1957, to March 4, 1861.
In 1860, Simon Cameron had substantial support at the Republican national convention as a
candidate for both the presidency and the vice presidency. But he saw that he did not have
the whole-hearted support he needed to win, so he threw his own support to Abraham Lincoln.
As President, Mr. Lincoln rewarded Cameron by appointing him his Secretary of War, a crucial
position as the nation became embroiled in its Civil War. Cameron's strong views on
aggressive war measures, which included his desire to arm fugitive slaves, drew heated
opposition from other Cabinet members, and was questioned by Lincoln himself.
Simon Cameron served as the Secretary of War from March 5, 1861 until January 14, 1862 when
he resigned his position as Secretary. Three days later, on January 17, 1862 he accepted
the appointment as the United States Minister to Russia, which solidified the Russian
government's support of the Union.
Leaving this post in the fall of the same year
(September 1862), Cameron returned to his home in Donegal Springs, where he stayed out of
political office until 1866, at which point he was again elected as a Republican to the U.S.
He was re-elected to the Senate for the fourth time in 1873, and retired from office on
March 12, 1877, paving the way for his son James Donald Cameron to fill the vacancy.
From the time he entered the Senate he was recognized as one of its most useful and reliable
members, his influence on national legislation was as great as that of any man that ever
served in the Senate.
Upon the date of his resignation he was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a
position only accorded to a senator of admitted statesmanship. After his retirement from
active business pursuits, he traveled extensively in Europe and the West Indies.
Simon Cameron also known as "The Czar of Pennsylvania", understood politics. In many ways, he was one of
America's first "political bosses", a powerful and astute politician with a long and
successful career serving his state and his country. Simon Cameron died on June 26, 1889,
at the age of 90, at his estate in Donegal Springs, just outside of Maytown, PA.