ERASTUS FAIRBANKS was born in Brimfield, Massachusetts. After teaching school briefly, he moved to Vermont, where he maintained general stores in various locations. He ultimately settled in St. Johnsbury, establishing a business with his one of his brothers that began the preparation of hemp for market. With Erastus as business manager and his brother Thaddeus as inventor, the name ‘Fairbanks’ was made famous for the invention of the platform scale. Fairbanks went on to found the Passumpsic Railroad, serving as its president. He was also active in the construction of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal. His political career began with his representation of St. Johnsbury in the state legislature. Because he failed to win the majority of the popular vote in his 1852 campaign for governor as the Whig candidate, he was elected by the legislature. His first term of office saw passage of legislation forbidding the sale or traffic in intoxicating beverages-a law that was not repealed until 1902. Although he received a plurality of the vote in the 1853 gubernatorial election, his failure to win the majority called once more for intervention by the state legislature, which selected his Democratic opponent. Seven years later, he ran for governor again, this time as the nominee for the Republican Party·to which he had switched when the party was founded. Fairbanks’ primary responsibility during his second term was to raise and supply soldiers for the Civil War. He declined to run again in 1861 and died three years later of heart disease.
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. 8. New York: James T. White & Company.