Thomas Talbot (Massachusetts)

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Thomas Talbot
31st Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 2, 1879 January 8, 1880
Lieutenant John Davis Long
Preceded by Alexander H. Rice
Succeeded by John Davis Long
29th Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
In office
1873 January 7, 1875
Acting Governor
April 29, 1874 – January 7, 1875
Governor William B. Washburn
Preceded by Joseph Tucker
Succeeded by Horatio G. Knight
Personal details
Born(1818-09-07)September 7, 1818
Cambridge, New York, United States
DiedOctober 6, 1885(1885-10-06) (aged 67)
Lowell, Massachusetts, United States
Political party Republican
Signature ThomasTalbotSignature.png

Thomas Talbot (September 7, 1818 – October 6, 1885) was an American textile mill owner and politician from Massachusetts, United States. Talbot ran a major textile business, involving chemical dyeworks and the weaving of fabric, in Billerica that was a major local employer. As a Republican, he served in the state legislature, on the Massachusetts Governor's Council, and as Lieutenant Governor before serving for one partial term as Acting Governor of Massachusetts, and later for one full term as the 31st Governor.

Massachusetts State in the northeastern United States

Massachusetts, officially known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of the population of Massachusetts lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.

Billerica, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Billerica is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 40,243 according to the 2010 census. It takes its name from the town of Billericay in Essex, England.

Republican Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP, is one of the two major political parties in the United States; the other is its historic rival, the Democratic Party.


Born to Irish immigrants, Talbot was minimally educated, working in textile mills from an early age. He entered into a partnership with his brother, founding the Talbot Mills of Billerica in 1857. He became politically active, partly due to issues with the mills, and served two terms as Lieutenant Governor, acting as Governor for part of the second term after Governor William B. Washburn won election to the United States Senate. Talbot was a strong temperance advocate, and his veto of a popular alcohol licensing bill contributed to his loss in the 1874 gubernatorial race. He was more successful in 1878 against divided opposition, serving a single lackluster term.

Billerica Mills Historic District United States historic place

The Billerica Mills Historic District is a historic district between the Concord River, Treble Cove Terrace, Kohlrausch Avenue, Indian Road, Holt Ruggles, and Rogers Streets in the village of North Billerica, Massachusetts.

William B. Washburn American businessman and politician from Massachusetts

William Barrett Washburn was an American businessman and politician from Massachusetts. Washburn served several terms in the United States House of Representatives (1863–71) and as the 28th Governor of Massachusetts from 1872 to 1874, when he won election to the United States Senate in a special election to succeed the recently deceased Charles Sumner. A moderate Republican, Washburn only partially supported the Radical Republican agenda during the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era that followed.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which, along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C.

Early life and business

Thomas Talbot was born on September 7, 1818 in Cambridge, New York to Charles and Phoebe (White) Talbot, both Irish immigrants, and was the seventh of eight children. When he was small, the family moved to Danby, Vermont, where his father supervised in a local textile mill. His father died when he was six, and his mother moved the family to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he attended local schools, and began to work at an early age in local mills. [1]

Cambridge, New York Town in New York, United States

Cambridge is a town in Washington County, New York, United States. It is part of the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town population was 2,152 at the 2000 census.

Danby, Vermont Town in Vermont, United States

Danby is a town in Rutland County, Vermont, United States. The population was 1,311 at the 2010 census.

Northampton, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

The city of Northampton is the county seat of Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of Northampton was 28,549.

In 1825, Talbot joined a weaving firm established by his older brother Charles in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, where he was first employed as a carder and finisher, and quickly rose to become superintendent. His brother moved to Lowell in 1838, selling the Williamsburg mill, and began processing dyewoods in rented space at a local mill, while Thomas remained in western Massachusetts, working in area mills and continuing his education at an academy in Cummington. [1] In 1840, the two brothers established C.P. Talbot & Co., a business partnership that lasted until Charles died in 1884. The business started out processing dyewoods for use in the textile industry, but expanded into other industrial chemical processing in 1849. The brothers acquired the Concord River water rights of the defunct Middlesex Canal Corporation in 1851, [2] and in 1857 they established Talbot Mills in North Billerica, Massachusetts, in partnership with the Belvidere Mill Company. The business was successful, and the brothers acquired full control of that business in 1862. Thomas focused on the textile business while Charles continued to manage the dye and chemical interests, expanding the facilities in 1870 and again in 1880. [3]

Williamsburg, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Williamsburg is a town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 2,482 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Springfield, Massachusetts Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Carding Process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibres

Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibres to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing. This is achieved by passing the fibers between differentially moving surfaces covered with card clothing. It breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibers to be parallel with each other. In preparing wool fibre for spinning, carding is the step that comes after teasing.

Lowell, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Lowell is a city in the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Located in Middlesex County, Lowell was a county seat until Massachusetts disbanded county government in 1999. With an estimated population of 111,640 in 2018, it was the fourth-largest city in Massachusetts as of the last census and is estimated to be the fifth-largest as of 2018, and the second-largest in the Boston metropolitan statistical area. The city is also part of a smaller Massachusetts statistical area called Greater Lowell, as well as New England's Merrimack Valley region.

The mill site in Billerica was not without some controversy. The dam, which had been constructed in the 1790s to provide water for the Middlesex Canal, [4] was believed by some to be responsible for the flooding of fields upstream as far as Sudbury. There were calls to remove the dam, as well as legal action, [5] which Talbot vigorously resisted. The dispute was partly played out in the state legislature, and brought Talbot to the attention of political leaders as a potential candidate for office. Talbot also opposed plans developed by the city of Boston to divert waters of the Sudbury River (a major tributary of the Concord River) for its water supply. [6]

Sudbury, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Sudbury is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States. At the 2010 census, it had a population of 17,659. The town, located in Boston's MetroWest, has a rich colonial history.

Massachusetts General Court legislature of Massachusetts

The Massachusetts General Court is the state legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The name "General Court" is a hold-over from the earliest days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when the colonial assembly, in addition to making laws, sat as a judicial court of appeals. Before the adoption of the state constitution in 1780, it was called the Great and General Court, but the official title was shortened by John Adams, author of the state constitution. It is a bicameral body. The upper house is the Massachusetts Senate which is composed of 40 members. The lower body, the Massachusetts House of Representatives, has 160 members. It meets in the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill in Boston.

Boston State capital of Massachusetts, U.S.

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States, and the 21st most populous city in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 694,583 in 2018, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.

Political career

Talbot, a Republican, served in the Massachusetts legislature beginning in 1851, and sat in the governor's council from 1864 to 1869. In 1872, he was elected Lieutenant Governor, serving two terms under William B. Washburn. On the selection of Washburn to the United States Senate by the state legislature in early 1874, he became acting governor. [7] One item of unfinished business Washburn left to Talbot was a bill mandating a ten-hour workday. This matter had been the subject of labor agitation in the state, and Washburn had been opposed to the bill. Talbot, despite his mill ownership, was an advocate, and signed the bill into law. [8] He also refused to authorize construction of a prison in Concord, [7] and signed legislation allowing women to vote for members of local school committees. [9]

Massachusetts Governors Council governmental body in Massachusetts, United States, also historically the commonwealths acting governor (serving collectively)

The Massachusetts Governor's Council is a governmental body that provides advice and consent in certain matters – such as judicial nominations, pardons, and commutations – to the Governor of Massachusetts. Councillors are elected by the general public and their duties are set forth in the Massachusetts Constitution.

Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts position

The Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts is the first in the line to discharge the powers and duties of the office of governor following the incapacitation of the Governor of Massachusetts. The constitutional honorific title for the office is His, or Her, Honor.

Concord, Massachusetts Town in Massachusetts, United States

Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. At the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. The United States Census Bureau considers Concord part of Greater Boston. The town center is near where the confluence of the Sudbury and Assabet rivers forms the Concord River.

The state's liquor prohibition law was a major political issues at the time, and Talbot was a strict prohibitionist. During this term he vetoed a bill that would have disbanded the state police, which were charged with the law's enforcement, and also vetoed a bill replacing prohibition with a licensing scheme. In the 1874 election, anti-prohibition Republicans joined with Democrats to elect William Gaston over Talbot by a narrow margin. [10] The election marked a watershed in post-Civil War Massachusetts, since it was the first victory for a Democrat in that period, and exposed the state Republican Party's fractures on domestic affairs like prohibition. [11] Talbot refused to run in 1875. [12]

In 1878, Talbot won nomination as the Republican candidate for governor, in a large field occasioned by the impending retirement of Alexander H. Rice. [13] The Democratic opposition was divided by Benjamin Butler's return to that party, and the Republican ticket won the general election, [14] in part by highlighting the wage and benefit differences in mills owned by Butler and Talbot. [12] The campaign was particularly vicious, with Republicans attacking Butler supporters as "Repudiationists, Greenbackers, and Communists". [15] Talbot served one term, and refused to run for reelection the following year. [12] He supported women's suffrage and prison reform, and stronger state control over its railroads. [16]

After leaving office, Talbot continued in public service, serving on the Health Committee of the Massachusetts State Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity from 1880–84, holding the chair of the committee in 1880-82. [17] As governor, Talbot had overseen the merger of the Board of Health, with the Board of Lunacy and Charity. Although this merger had been done ostensibly as a cost-saving measure, health care activists opposed it. Henry Ingersoll Bowditch, in particular, resigned from the merged board, complaining that it was dominated by business owners seeking to minimize discussion of pollution caused by their businesses. [18]

Family and legacy

Talbot married twice. In 1848, he married Mary Howe Rogers, who died childless in 1851. In 1855, he married Isabella Hayden, daughter of Joel Hayden of Williamsburg, with whom he had seven children. [7] He died at his North Billerica home in 1885, and was interred in Lowell Cemetery. [9] [19]

In 1905, the town of Billerica opened the Thomas T. Talbot Elementary School on 33 Talbot Avenue. The school would serve grades 1 through 6, until the 1972 when the 6th grade was migrated to the new middle school. The school continued to educate grades 1 through 5 until it closed in June 1980. It was renovated and reopened as the Talbot School Apartments [20] that serves the elderly and disabled.

The surviving Talbot Mill properties in North Billerica are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Billerica Mills Historic District. [21] [22]


  1. 1 2 Van Slyck, p. 616
  2. Van Slyck, p. 617
  3. The Textile American, pp. 11-12
  4. Hazen, p. 279
  5. Hazen, p. 280
  6. North, pp. 328-330
  7. 1 2 3 Van Slyck, p. 620
  8. Blewett, p. 133
  9. 1 2 Roe, p. 662
  10. Mohr, pp. 9-10
  11. Baum, pp. 191-194
  12. 1 2 3 Hazen, p. 147
  13. Hess, pp. 65-66
  14. West, p. 369
  15. Ritter, p. 145
  16. Herman, p. 190
  17. Rosenkrantz, p. 186
  18. Cumbler, pp. 120-122
  19. Talbot's obituary, dated Oct 1885
  20. "MACRIS inventory record for Billerica Mills Historic District (national register district)". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved June 11, 2016.
  21. "MACRIS inventory record for Billerica Mills Historic District (local district)". Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Retrieved June 11, 2016.

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Political offices
Preceded by
Joseph Tucker
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Horatio G. Knight
Preceded by
William B. Washburn
as Governor
Acting Governor of Massachusetts
April 29, 1874 January 7, 1875
Succeeded by
William Gaston
as Governor
Preceded by
Alexander H. Rice
Governor of Massachusetts
January 2, 1879 January 8, 1880
Succeeded by
John D. Long