Edward McPherson was born and raised in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Pennsylvania College in 1848. Afterwards, McPherson studied law and edited several Pennsylvania city newspapers. He was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1858 and served in the 36th and 37th Congresses. In 1863, McPherson became Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and later that same year he was appointed the Clerk of the House of Representatives, a position in which he served until 1875. McPherson was Chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing from 1877 to 1878. Later, from 1881 to 1883, he again served as Clerk of the House of Representatives and from 1889 to 1891 as well. He was editor of several publications from 1877 to 1895, and from 1880 until his death in 1895 he was editor and proprietor of a Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, newspaper. McPherson also authored political handbooks and histories of the United States dealing with the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.