William Barrett Washburn
Painting: by Frank Weston Benson, 1900

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1872-1874

A founder of the Republican Party, William Barrett Washburn was a businessman who promoted education and assisted the City of Boston after it was decimated in a fire in 1872.

Mr. Washburn was born in Winchendon, Massachusetts. He attended preparatory school before graduating from Yale College. After clerking in Orange, Massachusetts, Mr. Washburn entered the chair manufacturing business in Erving and Greenfield, Massachusetts and became president of a local bank. He was elected to the Massachusetts Senate in 1850 and served briefly in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

William Washburn was a founder of the Massachusetts Republican Party. He made a successful bid for a Congressional seat that he held from 1863 until his resignation 1871, when he was elected Governor of Massachusetts. The Commonwealth's first teachers colleges were established during Washburn's tenure. He also promoted railroad growth in Massachusetts and assisted raising bond funding to aid the victims of Boston's catastrophic fire of 1872.

Governor Washburn won reelection to a third term but resigned in 1874 to succeed Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate. He declined to run for reelection in the Senate. In 1875, Mr. Washburn returned to western Massachusetts to resume his duties as a bank president and to serve on the board of several industrial organizations, as well as on the boards of Yale, Smith, Amherst Colleges, and the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Governor Washburn died in 1887, during a board meeting.