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William Claflin

Gov. William Claflin

  • January 7, 1869 - January 4, 1872
  • Republican
  • March 6, 1818
  • January 5, 1905
  • Massachusetts
  • Brown University
  • Married twice--Nancy W. Harding, Mary Buckland Davenport; one child
  • Representative


WILLIAM CLAFLIN, the twenty-eighth governor of Massachusetts, was born in Milford, Massachusetts on March 6, 1818. His education was attained at the Milford Academy, and later at Brown University, however he left before graduating. Claflin worked in the family shoe business and eventually opened his own branch in St. Louis, Missouri. Shortly after returning to Massachusetts, Claflin entered into politics, and was instrumental in founding the Free Soil Party. In 1849, he won his first election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a position he held three years. He also served as a member of the Massachusetts State Senate from 1860 to 1861, was senate president in 1861, served as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1864 to 1875, was chairman of the Republican National Committee from 1868 to 1872, and served as the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts from 1866 to 1868.  Claflin won election to the Massachusetts governorship on November 3, 1868.  He was reelected to a second term in 1869, and to a third term in 1870. During his tenure, the first state board of health was established; women’s suffrage was advanced; and reform legislation was initiated in the areas of social welfare and prison programs. After declining to run for reelection, Claflin left office on January 4, 1872. He later was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served from 1877 to 1881. Governor William Claflin passed away on January 5, 1905, and was buried in the Newton Cemetery in Newtonville, 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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