CHARLES COLLINS VAN ZANDT was born in Newport, Rhode Island. Upon graduation from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, he studied law and began a practice in Newport after being admitted to the Bar in 1853. Two years later he was elected City Solicitor of Newport and was chosen clerk of the state House of Representatives. In 1857, he was elected to the House himself, becoming Speaker the following year. He went on to serve as a state Senator from 1869 to 1870 and Lieutenant Governor from 1873 to 1875. He won the 1877 election for governor with the support of both Republicans and Prohibitionists, going on to win reelection twice. As governor, he sought to expand the state's educational system to accommodate the literacy needs of the state's large, urban-concentrated immigrant population. He also was a noted writer and orator. He was offered the position of U.S. Minister to Russia by President Rutherford B. Hayes but declined to accept.
Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.