James Harper Edit Profile
He immigrated to the United States as a youth, and settled in Philadelphia. He engaged in the manufacture of brick and from 1820 to 1830 in the wholesale grocery trade. Harper was elected as an National Republican (Anti-Jacksonian) to the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses.
His letters from Washington, some of which are preserved in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, reflect a disgust with the endemic corruption of Andrew Jackson's administration. He was not a candidate for reelection in 1836. In Congress he was a protégé of Henry Clay, and followed Clay in commissioning his portrait from the Philadelphia portrait painter John Neagle.
Upon his retirement from Congress, Harper continued in the manufacture of brick, also branching out into real estate speculation and urban development. Having bought the north side of Philadelphia's then undeveloped Rittenhouse Square, he built a fine house for himself at 1811 Walnut Street in around 1840. Setting a patrician residential tone for the square with this structure, he sold off the remaining lots at profit.
His house, sold after his death to the Social Arts Club (an exclusive men's club that thereupon renamed itself the Rittenhouse Club), still stands behind a c. 1901 facade. He was also Grand Master of the Pennsylvania Freemasons, in which capacity he hosted the Marquis de Lafayette during Lafayette's "Farewell Tour" of the United States in 1825.
Harper was a member of the board of guardians of the poor and of the board of prison inspectors. Harper is buried, along with other members of his family, beneath a stately obelisk in Laurel Hill Cemetery.