Nathaniel Prentice Banks
Painting: by Daniel Strain, 1900

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1858-1861

Nathaniel Banks was the son of a foreman who worked in a Waltham textile mill. After a few years in common school, Mr. Banks began working in the same factories that his father had and edited a weekly paper in Waltham. He developed an interest in drama, literature, and public speaking, which led him to run and win a seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1849. By 1851, he was Speaker of the House and presided as President of Massachusetts' Constitutional Convention in 1853.

In 1853, Mr. Banks began a term in Congress as a Coalition Democrat. He was reelected running in the American or "Know-Nothing" party, serving in Congress from 1855-7 and as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1856-7. Mr. Banks again changed parties and successfully ran for the same seat as a Republican, resigning it in 1857 to become Governor of Massachusetts.

Governor Banks declined to run for a fourth term and moved to Chicago to become vice president of a railroad. Soon after, he was made a Major General in the U.S. Army where he served for the next four years during the Civil War. He was reelected to Congress where he again represented Massachusetts between 1865 and 1891, taking time away to serve one year in the Massachusetts Senate.