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Governor William Fisher Packer

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Office Dates:  Jan 19, 1858 - Jan 15, 1861

Born:  Apr 02, 1807

Passed:  Sep 27, 1870

Birth State:  Pennsylvania

Party:  Democrat

Family:  Married Mary W. Vanderbelt; ten children

WILLIAM FISHER PACKER was born in Howard Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania. Although he studied law, his interest in the newspaper business predominated and after serving for seven years as a printer’s apprentice and then journeyman, he purchased an interest in the Lycoming Gazette, a Jacksonian newspaper in Williamsport, where he worked from 1829 until 1836, when he co-founded the Keystone Gazette, the Democratic administration newspaper in Harrisburg. He was also superintendent of the West Branch Division of the Pennsylvania Canal and was appointed Canal Commissioner from 1839 to 1842 as a reward for his support of David R. Porter’s gubernatorial campaign. He went on to win appointment as Auditor General for the period from 1842 to 1845. And he promoted and became the first President of the Susquehanna Railroad Company. Packer served in the both the state Assembly and the state Senate. He helped elect James Buchanan as President in 1956 and one year later was nominated for the governorship of Pennsylvania by Buchanan Democrats. As governor, Packer oversaw the sale of what was left of the state-owned canal system, supported his gubernatorial predecessor’s new public school department, and succeeded in securing passage of legislation requiring state banks to limit note issues to amounts covered by real security deposited with the state. Although he broke with Buchanan Democrats and supported Stephen Douglas for President, he backed efforts following Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election to seek a peaceful solution to North-South differences. He retired to, and died in, Williamsport.


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.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 2. New York: James T. White & Company.

Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission