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Peter Gerry

How Did Peter Gerry Reclaim His Senate Seat After Losing Re-Election?

Peter Goelet Gerry was a lawyer and politician from the United States who served in the House of Representatives and later as a Rhode Island Senator. But what was so special about Peter Gerry?

Senator Peter Gerry of Rhode Island is the only US Senator in the history of the United States to lose re-election and then reclaim his Senate seat from his opponent.

Who is Peter Gerry?

Peter Goelet Gerry was born in Manhattan, New York City, on September 18, 1879, to Elbridge Thomas Gerry and Louisa Matilda Livingston Gerry. He was the great-grandson of Elbridge Gerry, the United States’ 5th Vice President.

Gerry was also a great-great-grandson of real estate investor Peter Goelet through his paternal grandmother, Hannah Green Goelet. Elbridge T. Gerry, his father, was first cousins with Robert and Ogden Goelet.

While not much is said about Gerry’s childhood, what we know for sure is that he lived in luxury. His father, was said to have a net worth of $25,000,000. 

He and his brother Robert were tutored privately by William Lyon Mackenzie King, who later became Prime Minister of Canada in the summer of 1899. Gerry graduated from Harvard University in 1901. In 1906, he was admitted to the Rhode Island bar after studying law. 

Gerry inherited a substantial amount of real estate holdings from his mother, who passed in 1920. He agreed to sell them in 1922. According to a 1918 trust agreement, the brothers and their sisters, Angelica Livingston Gerry and Mabel Gerry could all exchange ownership in Gerry real estate for stock in Gerry Estates, Inc. 

Gerry passed on October 31, 1957, in Providence, Rhode Island, and was buried at the St. James Cemetery in Hyde Park, New York. (Source: Bio Guide)

Peter Gerry’s Political Carrer

Gerry was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election in 1914 but was elected to the United States Senate in 1916 and served from 1917 to 1929. He was the first Rhode Island senator elected by popular vote rather than the state senate. He was also the first Rhode Island Democrat to serve in the United States Senate since 1859.

Gerry was the Democratic Whip from 1919 to 1929. He’s been described as a Wilsonian Moralist.

In 1928 he was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election, but in 1934 he was elected to the U.S Senate over the man who had defeated him six years earlier. He was not a candidate for re-election in 1946 and served until 1947. (Source: Knox Focus )

Peter Gerry’s Personal Life

Gerry married Mathilde Scott Townsend in 1910, she was the daughter of Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad President Richard H. Townsend and the granddaughter of William Lawrence Scott, a Pennsylvania railroad and coal magnate who was a member of the U.S. Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives. The couple never had children and divorced in 1925.

On October 22, 1925, Gerry married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, the widow of George Washington Vanderbilt II. Dresser was the mother of Cornelia Stuyvesant Vanderbilt who married John Francis Amherst Cecil. (Source: Knox Focus )

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