William Claflin
Painting: by James Harvey Young, 1900

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: 1869-1872

An industrialist and philanthropist, William Claflin interrupted his education at Brown University to return to his family's shoe manufacturing company. He opened his own boot and shoe manufacturing firm in St. Louis, returning five years later to become a partner in his father's business. He was a founder of the Free Soil Party, serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1849-1853.

In 1859, Mr. Claflin was elected to the Massachusetts Senate, where he became Senate President in 1861. After serving as Lieutenant Governor for Alexander Hamilton Bullock, Claflin mounted a successful campaign for the Governor's office in 1868.

As Governor, Claflin promoted women's suffrage and extending women greater rights under the law. He advocated prison reform and during his administration and established Massachusetts' first State Board of Health. Governor Claflin also chartered Boston University, a Methodist institution, which his father Lee Claflin co-founded. In the same year, Claflin and his father donated funds to purchase land for Claflin University, the historically black, Methodist university in South Carolina.

Claflin declined to run for a fourth term. He returned to the family business and supported philanthropic activities. Several years later, he mounted a successful bid for Congress, serving from 1877-1881.