John Christian Bullitt

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John Christian Bullitt
Robert W. Vonnoh (1858-1933) Portrait of John Christian Bullitt (1824-1902) (cropped).jpg
Born25 Aug 1824
Died25 Aug 1902
Alma materCentre College
Known forfounding Drinker Biddle & Reath, drafting Philadelphia's city charter
Spouse(s)Therese Langhorne

John Christian Bullitt (1824–1902) was a prominent lawyer and civic figure in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He founded the law firm known today as Drinker Biddle & Reath.

Early life[edit]

Bullitt was born to a prominent Kentucky family in 1824. His family had a political background: his great-grandfather, Cuthbert Bullitt, was a colonial political leader in Prince William County, Virginia, his grandfather, Alexander Scott Bullitt, was President of Kentucky's first Constitutional Convention, and his father, William C. Bullitt, was a member of Kentucky's Constitutional Convention of 1850. John Christian Bullitt was the third of ten children. Among his siblings were Joshua Bullitt, Susan Peachy Bullitt (who would later marry Senator Archibald Dixon) and Thomas Walker Bullitt, father of William Marshall Bullitt.[1]

His father, the planter William C. Bullitt, owned over 100 slaves. Several of John's brothers fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War.[2]

Legal career[edit]

Bullitt graduated from Centre College and moved to Philadelphia in 1849, on the advice of Secretary of State and future President James Buchanan, whom he had met on a tour in Washington, D.C.. Bullitt wed Therese Langhorne in 1850. It was in Philadelphia that Bullitt began his legal practice. One of his earliest clients was the Bank of Kentucky. Bullitt and his law partner, Samuel Dickson, soon created one of the most successful and lucrative law offices in the city. The partners reportedly earned over $100,000 per year. Bullitt would later represent financier Jay Cooke in the aftermath of the Panic of 1873.[2]

Bullitt served as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1873, and in 1885 drafted the "Bullitt Bill", which would become the Philadelphia City Charter two years later. He also founded the Fourth Street National Bank in 1886.

He would continue his legal practice until his death in 1902. He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery. His grandson, William Christian Bullitt, Jr., would become the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union.


  1. ^ Bullitt, Thomas Walker. My life at Oxmoor: life on a farm in Kentucky before the War. p. 25.
  2. ^ a b "Furness-Bullitt Family Papers" (PDF). Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved November 20, 2017.

External links[edit]