Robert Waln, Jr., US Congress

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Robert Waln, Jr.

Birthplace: Frankford, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: January 24, 1836 (70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Place of Burial: Friends Arch Street Meeting House Burial Ground Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Waln, Sr. and Rebecca Waln
Husband of Phebe Waln
Father of Robert Waln, III and Rebecca Waln
Brother of Ann Morgan; Susanna Hartshorne; Joseph Waln; Hannah Waln; Rebecca Jones and 1 other
Half brother of Rebecca Leaming

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Robert Waln, Jr., US Congress

United States Representative from Pennsylvania. Born in Philadelphia, he received a limited schooling, engaged in mercantile pursuits and in East India and China trade, was a member of the Pennsylvania legislature for several years, and was a member of the city council of Philadelphia, serving as president of the select council.

Waln was elected as a Federalist to the Fifth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Swanwick. He was reelected to the Sixth Congress and served from December 3, 1798 to March 3, 1801. He became interested in the operation of ironworks and during the War of 1812 erected a cotton factory in Trenton. He served as president of the Philadelphia Insurance Co. and as a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. He died in Philadelphia; interment was in Friends' Arch Street Burial Ground.


No man was more active in his day, in all that relates to civic or national progress than Robert Waln. We find him in attendance at many conferences at the State House, the Coffee House and elsewhere, called to advance the interests of Philadelphia and the nation at large, especially during the stirring period between 1790 and 1820, embracing the first years under the Federal Constitution and the War of 1812-14. He also served upon various committees appointed to carry out the resolves emanating from such public conferences.

He was for several terms a member of General Assembly of Pennsylvania, and in 1796 was nominated by the Federalists as their candidate for Congress. He was defeated, however, by Blair McClenachan, by a vote of 1,182 to 910. Two years later Waln was again a candidate and was this time elected. After his congressional service he was chosen a member of City Council and was several times re-elected, serving as President of Select Council, 1816-19. He also filled at various times, the presidency of the Chamber of Commerce, Philadelphia Insurance Company, Atlantic Insurance Company, and Mercantile Library Company. He was also a director of Pennsylvania Hospital. Bank of North America, and Philadelphia Library Company; and was one of the trustees of University of Pennsylvania from 1811 until his death, and a trustee under the will of Stephen Girard.

Robert Waln's residence for the greater part of his life was at 138 (old number) South Second street, above Sptuce, on the site of the famous "Governor's House" or "Shippen's Great House", as it was originally denominated. His country seat was "Waln Grove". Frankford. He married, October 10, 1787, at Pine street Friends' Meeting House, Phebe, daughter of Ellis and Mary (Deshler) Lewis, and sister to David Lewis, who lived next door to him. She was born May 17, 1768, died April 16, 1845. See Lewis Family in these volumes.

Source: Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, Volumes I-III

Waln Family


Robert Waln was born in Philadelphia on a plantation near Frankford on February 22, 1765 to Robert Waln (1720-1784) and Rebecca Coffin (1725-1799).

Robert (d. 1836) had five siblings – Susannah, Richard, Ann, Rebecca, and Hannah. At an early age, Robert (d. 1836) joined his father at his counting house in Philadelphia until the latter passed away in 1784. Upon his father’s death, the younger Waln entered into a partnership with his cousin Jesse Waln and the two operated an importing business which had been established by Robert Waln (d. 1784). These two formed various partnerships with merchants Pattison Hartsthorne and Ebenezer Large, but by 1798 Jesse and Robert terminated these partnerships and returned to their independent operations. They became quite successful in the merchant community of Philadelphia and they decided to expand their business. From their office on Spruce Street, Robert and Jesse traded with England and the Caribbean, but they decided to begin trading with China and India in 1796.

The firm’s expansion was the first of many changes Robert would experience at the turn of the century. He pursued political interests and served as a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature (1794-1798) and United States House of Representatives (1798- 1801). As a Federalist during Jefferson’s presidency, Robert advocated free trade and brought forth a petition for the amelioration of the conditions of the slaves in America. Eventually Jesse withdrew from their partnership in 1805 and died shortly thereafter. Robert continued to operate the mercantile business and sent many ships on trading expeditions in the Far East. The firm suffered slightly, as did other American mercantile businesses, in the earlier part of the 1800s due to European political conflicts and British interference on the seas. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Robert’s international business suffered even more due to Britain’s naval blockades and he decided to turn his focus from international trade to American manufacturing. During the war years, Robert turned to another business established by his late father in New Jersey – the Trenton Mills. The land was owned by his sister Hannah, who had inherited it from their father, and her husband Gideon Wells operated a cotton manufacturing business with the assistance of Robert (d. 1836) before 1820. Together, Robert and Gideon managed the gristmill and a brick factory building, which housed numerous weaving looms. After the financial downturn he experienced during the war, Robert decided to withdraw from the business world and handed over his stake in the Eagle Factory to his son Lewis (1796-1863). In 1819, Robert named John Smith and Benjamin Morgan the assignees of his estate and from that moment, these two men collected debts, paid bills, and sold assets in the name of Robert Waln.

Robert married Phebe Lewis in Philadelphia and, while their total number of offspring is unclear, they did produce three sons and one daughter. Robert (1794-1825) was a poet and author of a series of biographies profiling the signers of the Declaration of Independence; Lewis (1796-1863) carried on the business of his father Robert; William (1805-1863) aided his brother Lewis at the factory in Trenton; and Rebecca (1802-1846) married Jeremiah Fisher Leaming. The elder Robert split his time between the old Shippen house on Second Street and his family’s plantation Waln Grove near Frankford. For much of the end of his life, he was occupied with his duties as president of the Philadelphia Insurance Company, trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, and of the Stephen Girard Estate. Robert Waln died January 24, 1836 in Philadelphia and was buried at the Arch Street Cemetery.


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Robert Waln, Jr., US Congress's Timeline

February 22, 1765
Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
January 24, 1836
Age 70
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Friends Arch Street Meeting House Burial Ground Philadelphia Philadelphia County Pennsylvania