John V. L. Pruyn

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John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn
John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn.jpg
Pruyn with academic cap and gown. He was Chancellor of the University of the State of New York Board of Regents from 1868 until his death.
Member of the New York State Senate
from the 13th district
In office
Preceded byAndrew J. Colvin
Succeeded byIra Shafer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th district
In office
Preceded byErastus Corning
Succeeded byCharles Goodyear
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th district
In office
Preceded byCharles Goodyear
Succeeded byStephen L. Mayham
Personal details
Born(1811-06-22)June 22, 1811
Albany, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 21, 1877(1877-11-21) (aged 66)
Clifton Springs, New York, U.S.
Resting placeAlbany Rural Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic

John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn (June 22, 1811 – November 21, 1877) was a United States Representative from New York during the latter half of the American Civil War and the early days of Reconstruction. His last name is pronounced to rhyme with "shine."[1][2] He was of Dutch descent, with Van Schaick, Lansing and Pruyn all being prominent Dutch family names in upstate New York.

Early life[edit]

Harriet Corning Turner, first wife of John V. L. Pruyn

Born in Albany, New York, Pruyn pursued classical studies and graduated from The Albany Academy in 1826. He studied law with Albany attorney James King, was admitted to the bar in 1832, and commenced practice in Albany.[3]

In addition to practicing law, Pruyn was successful in several business ventures, often in partnership with Erastus Corning, who was the uncle of Pruyn's first wife. His business interests included the Albany City Bank, of which Pruyn was an incorporator and the longtime Vice President.[4] In addition, he helped organize the New York Central Railroad system, and was one of its main shareholders.[5]

Later career[edit]

Pruyn held several local offices. He was elected a member of the Albany Institute in 1831, and served as President from 1857 until his death. He was appointed a Regent of the University of the State of New York in 1844, and served as Chancellor from 1868 until his death. He also served on the New York State Board of Charities and on a commission to design and build the new state capitol building.[6]

Pruyn received the honorary degree of Master of Arts from Rutgers College in 1835. He received an honorary Master of Arts from Union College in 1845, and an honorary LL.D. from the University of Rochester in 1852.[7]

Pruyn was a member of the New York State Senate (13th D.) in 1862 and 1863. He was elected as a Democrat to the 38th United States Congress, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Erastus Corning, holding office from December 7, 1863, to March 3, 1865.[8] Like Corning, Pruyn was a pro-Union Democrat who supported the war effort because he believed that states did not have the right to secede. Like many pro-Union Democrats, Pruyn also argued that in prosecuting the war, Abraham Lincoln's administration sometimes overstepped its authority with regard to individual liberties and civil rights.[9]

Pruyn was elected to the 40th United States Congress, holding office from March 4, 1867, to March 3, 1869. Afterwards he resumed his law practice and business interests.[10]

Pruyn was a stockholder in the Central Pacific Railroad and a director of the Union Pacific Railroad. In his 1867 to 1869 term he was revealed to be one of the members of Congress who had received stock in the Crédit Mobilier. During the subsequent scandal and investigation, his name appeared on lists of Congressmen who owned shares, but records showed he had paid for his stock. He was never accused of receiving it as a bribe, or of committing any wrongdoing.[11]

Having served as a member of the commission responsible for planning and constructing the fourth (and current) New York State Capitol, in 1869 Pruyn had the honor of laying its first stone in a ceremony which included Governor John T. Hoffman.[12]

Death and burial[edit]

He died in Clifton Springs, New York, and was buried at the Albany Rural Cemetery.[13][14]


Huybertje Lansing Pruyn Hamlin, 1900.

On October 22, 1840 Pruyn married Harriet Corning Turner (June 18, 1822 – March 22, 1859), the niece of Erastus Corning.[15] They had six children, two of whom - Erastus Corning Pruyn and John V. L. Pruyn, Jr. - lived to adulthood.[6]

After the death of his first wife Pruyn married Anna Fenn Parker (March 26, 1840 – October 7, 1909), the daughter of Amasa J. Parker.[16][17][18][19][20] They had two daughters, Harriet Langdon Pruyn and Huybertje (also spelled Huybertie) Lansing Pruyn.[6]

Erastus Corning Pruyn (August 24, 1841 – February 1, 1881) was an agent of the United States Department of State in Caracas, Venezuela in the 1860s and traveled extensively as a student and businessman. He died in Tenerife.[21]

John V. L. Pruyn, Jr. (March 14, 1859 – September 22, 1904) graduated from Union College in 1880 and practiced law in Albany.[22]

Harriet Langdon Pruyn (January 31, 1868 – July 3, 1939)[23] was the wife of William Gorham Rice (1856–1945).[24] Rice was an aide to Governor Samuel Tilden and President Grover Cleveland, and succeeded Theodore Roosevelt as a member of the United States Civil Service Commission.[25]

In addition to being active in Albany civic and philanthropic causes, Harriet Langdon Pruyn was the author of a biography, 1924's Harmanus Bleecker: an Albany Dutchman, 1779-1849. (John V. L. Pruyn and Amasa J. Parker had been involved in the disposition of Bleecker's estate, which gave Harriet Pruyn access to his papers.)[26]

Huybertje Lansing Pruyn (April 8, 1878—March 6, 1964) was the wife of Charles Sumner Hamlin.[27][28]

She was the author of Memories of an Albany Girlhood (also published as An Albany Girlhood).


  1. ^ The Railroad Men of America, published in the Magazine of Western History, Volume VIII, Number 8 (August, 1888)
  2. ^ Black Then: Blacks and Montreal, 1780-1880's, by Frank Mackey, 2004, page 183
  3. ^ University of the State of New York, The Regents of the University of the State of New York: 1784-1959, 1959, page 30
  4. ^ Howell, George Rogers; Tenney, Jonathan (1886). Bi-centennial History of Albany, Volume 2. New York, NY: W. W. Munsell & Co. p. 532.
  5. ^ Moody, James (1921). The Railroad Builders: A Chronicle of the Welding of the States, Volume 38. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. p. 26.
  6. ^ a b c "Finding Aid to the John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn Papers". New York State Library. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  7. ^ Rutgers College (1916). Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Rutgers College. Trenton, NJ: State Gazette Publishing Co. p. 337.
  8. ^ John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn, Jr., A Short Biographical Sketch of the Hon. John V.L. Pruyn, LL.D., 1883, pages 6 to 8
  9. ^ Williams, Frank J. (2000). "Abraham Lincoln, Civil Liberties and the Corning Letter". Roger Williams University Law Review. Bristol, RI: Roger Williams University School of Law.
  10. ^ Diana S. Waite, Albany Architecture: Guide to the City, 1993, page 77
  11. ^ Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1873. pp. 38, 600.
  12. ^ Pruyn, John V. L., Jr. (1883). A Short Biographical Sketch of the Hon. John V.L. Pruyn, LL.D. New York, NY: New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. p. 7.
  13. ^ New York Times, Obituary, John V. L. Pruyn, November 22, 1877
  14. ^ Albany Rural Cemetery Burial Cards, 1791-2011 Record for John Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn, accessed January 9, 2013
  15. ^ Memorials of Mrs. John V.L. Pruyn, William Buell Sprague and others, privately printed, 1859, pages 13–26
  16. ^ Albany Institute of History & Art: 200 Years of Collecting, by Albany Institute of History and Art, 1998, page 152
  17. ^ Supplement to the History and Genealogy of the Dudley family, by Dean Dudley, 1898, page 82
  18. ^ New York State Men: Biographic Studies and Character Portraits, by Frederick Simon Hills, Volume 2, 1910, page 48
  19. ^ Albany Architecture: A Guide to the City, edited by Diana S. Waite, published by Mount Ida Press, Albany, 2002, page 21
  20. ^ American Ancestry, edited by Thomas P. Hughes, published by Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, Volume 1 (The City of Albany, State of New York), 1887, page 63
  21. ^ Princeton University, Princeton, Sixty-three: Fortieth-year Book of the Members of the Class of 1863, 1904, pages 134 to 135
  22. ^ New York State Bar Association, Annual Meeting Proceedings and Committee Reports, Volume 29, 1906, pages 458 to 459
  23. ^ Albany Rural Cemetery Burial Cards, 1791-2011, Record for Mrs. Hariet Langdon Pruyn Rice, accessed January 9, 2013
  24. ^ New York Times, Mrs. William Rice of Albany Family: Wife of Retired President of Civil Service Commission Dies at the Capital, July 4, 1939
  25. ^ New York Times, Col. William C. Rice, Cleveland's Ex-Aide, September 12, 1945
  26. ^ New York Times, Mr. Bleecker's Legacy: Judge Parker's Offer to the Young Men's Association, December 20, 1887
  27. ^ New York Times, Miss Huybertie Lansing Pruyn married to Charles Sumner Hamlin at Albany, June 5, 1898
  28. ^ New York Times, Obituary, Mrs. Charles Sumner Hamlin, March 8, 1964

External links[edit]

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Andrew J. Colvin
New York State Senate
13th District

Succeeded by
Ira Shafer
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Erastus Corning
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th congressional district

Succeeded by
Charles Goodyear
Preceded by
Charles Goodyear
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 14th congressional district

Succeeded by
Stephen L. Mayham
Academic offices
Preceded by
Gerrit Y. Lansing
Chancellor of the University of the State of New York
Succeeded by
Erastus C. Benedict