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William Barrett Washburn

Gov. William Barrett Washburn

  • January 4, 1872 - April 17, 1874
  • Republican
  • January 31, 1820
  • October 5, 1887
  • Massachusetts
  • Yale University
  • Married Hannah Sweetser
  • Resigned
  • Representative, Senator


WILLIAM B. WASHBURN, the twenty-ninth governor of Massachusetts, was born in Winchendon, Massachusetts on January 31, 1820. His education was attained at the Westminster Academy, at the Hancock Academy, and at Yale University, where he graduated in 1844. After establishing a career in the banking and manufacturing industries, Washburn entered into politics. He served as a member of the Massachusetts State Senate in 1850, and was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1853 to 1855. He also was instrumental in founding the Republican Party in Massachusetts, as well as serving as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1863 to 1871.  Washburn secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and then went on to win election to the Massachusetts governorship on November 7, 1871. He was reelected to a second term in 1872, and to a third term in 1873. During his tenure, constitutional reform measures were authorized; the state’s rail system was advanced; a women’s reformatory school was instituted; and the state’s first teachers college was founded. Upon his election to the U.S. Senate, Washburn resigned from the governor’s office on April 17, 1874. He served in his senatorial seat until March 3, 1875, when he then retired from politics. He stayed active, returning to his various businesses, as well as becoming involved in several collegiate boards. Governor William B. Washburn passed away on October 5, 1887, and was buried at the Green River Cemetery in Greenfield, Massachusetts.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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