FREDERICK LOW was born near Frankfort, Maine, on June 30, 1828. He attended public schools in Frankfort, and further educated himself by attending lectures at the Lowell Institute and Fanueil Hall in Boston. In 1849 he was lured to California in search of gold and was successful in unearthing $1,500 in gold. He used the gold to start a mercantile business in San Francisco. Low entered politics in 1861, when he was elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives; however, he was not allowed to take his seat because the 1860 census indicated that California was not eligible for another congressional representative. A special act of Congress granted him approval, and Low took his seat, serving from June 3, 1862, until March 3, 1863. He then was appointed collector of the port of San Francisco. On September 2, 1863, Low was elected Governor of California, becoming the first governor to be elected to a four-year term. During his tenure, California’s parks system was created and the Southern Pacific Railroad was established. Low also promoted and founded the state university, now the University of California. Low left office on December 5, 1867, and two years later was appointed the U.S. Minister to China. He served as minister until 1874. That same year, he became the joint manager for the Anglo-California Bank, a position he held until 1891. Governor Frederick F. Low died on July 21, 1894, and is buried at the Laurel Hill Cemetery, San Francisco, California.
Official Records: California State Archives
Personal Papers: Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
Image source: California State Library: Governors' Gallery
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.