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Hitt, Robert Roberts

Robert Roberts Hitt, 1858, detail
Robert R. Hitt was a pioneer stenographer and verbatim journalist who made his name recording the Lincoln-Douglas debates and went on to serve with distinction as a diplomat and congressman. He was the third of nine children born to the Methodist minister Thomas Smith Hitt and his wife Emily John Hitt. His family moved from Ohio to Illinois and he attended DePaul University. He also taught himself the new skill of shorthand while in college and opened an office as a court reporter in Chicago, the first of its kind in the city. Abraham Lincoln knew of his work and in 1858 took advantage of this pioneering expertise when the Chicago Tribune hired the 24 year old Hitt to cover Lincoln’s debates with Stephen Douglas. Hitt’s success with the assignment led to him being named the official stenographer for the Illinois legislature. Frail and slender but charming and polished, Hitt’s skills led to a succession of posts. He was personal secretary to Senator Oliver P. Morton of Indiana and then served seven years as the First Secretary of the Paris Embassy in the Grant Administration. He married Sally Reynolds in 1874 and the couple had two sons. A brilliant conversationalist and raconteur, he was elected to Congress from Illinois in 1881 and became the country’s leading legislative expert on foreign affairs. Theodore Roosevelt wanted to name him as his running mate in 1904. He died in Rhode Island in September 1906 and was buried in Illinois. (By J. Osborne)
Life span: 
01/16/1834 to 09/20/1906


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