ANDREW GREGG CURTIN was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He studied law both privately and at Dickinson College in Carlisle and was admitted to the Bar of Centre County in 1839, after which he partnered in a law practice. Entering politics as a Whig, he was appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth and Superintendent of Public Instruction under Governor James Pollock. As school superintendent, he was responsible for establishing the state system of normal (teacher training) schools. He was nominated for governor in 1860 by the People’s Party, which represented Republicans as well as Whigs and Democrats who supported Republican economic policies such as high tariffs and free public land but eschewed radical abolitionism. Curtin’s party was split between his supporters and supporters of U.S. Senator Simon Cameron (who was later Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War), and in 1872 Curtin became an Independent Republican and later a Democrat. As governor, he helped mobilize more Pennsylvania troops than the Commonwealth’s quota called for during the Civil War, and the extra forces helped protect Washington, DC after the defeat of Union troops at Bull Run. Curtin also helped Lincoln achieve support for the Emancipation Proclamation. During his second term in office, Curtin focused on military problems and established state schools for Civil War orphans. He was also instrumental in the repeal of the State Tonnage Tax, helping the Pennsylvania Railroad to become the nation’s largest transport system. He later lost a race for the U.S. Senate to his rival—Simon Cameron, but was named Minister to Russia by President Ulysses Grant, a post that he held from 1869 until 1872. Ultimately condemning corruption in the Grant Administration, he supported Horace Greeley for President and served as a member of Congress from 1881 to 1887.
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.