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William Sprague
Rhode Island

Gov. William Sprague

  • June 1, 1860 - March 3, 1863
  • Republican
  • September 12, 1830
  • September 11, 1915
  • Rhode Island
  • Married twice--Catharine Chase, four children; Inez Weed Calvert
  • Resigned
  • Senator
  • Marines


WILLIAM SPRAGUE was born in Cranston, Rhode Island. In 1856 he became administrator of the A. & W. Sprague Manufacturing Company, which printed calico and manufactured cotton. He also engaged in the manufacture of iron and locomotives, made improvements in calico printing, perfected a mowing machine, and used the first rotary machine for making horseshoes. As governor, he was a strong supporter of the Union and organized and financed troops even before Abraham Lincoln requested them. He served in battle while governor as well, winning a commission as Brigadier-General for bravery during the first Battle of Bull Run. In August, 1862 he organized Rhode Island’s first black regiment. He began two terms in the U.S. Senate in 1863, and was a critic of the Republican Reconstruction Congress. During the Panic of 1873 his family fortune collapsed. He ran again for governor in 1883 on a reform ticket consisting of Democrats and Independents but was defeated by his Republican opponent. Sprague died in France and his remains were returned to Rhode Island for burial in Providence.


Mohr, Ralph S. Governors for Three Hundred Years (1638-1954): Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.State of Rhode Island, Graves Registration Committee, August 1954.

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 9. New York: James T. White & Company.

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.

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