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Thomas Talbot (Massachusetts)

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 D. 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
Died October 6, 1886(1886-10-06) (aged 68)
Lowell, Massachusetts
Political party Republican

Thomas Talbot (September 7, 1818 – October 6, 1886) was the 31st Governor of Massachusetts, and a major textile manufacturer in Billerica, Massachusetts.


  • Early life and business 1
  • Political career 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4

Early life and business

Thomas Talbot was born on September 7, 1818 in Cambridge, New York to Charles and Phoebe (White) Talbot. His father, a wealthy textile manufacturer, died when he was six, and his mother moved the family to Northampton, Massachusetts, where he attended local schools.

Talbot in 1825 joined a weaving firm established by his older brother Charles in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, where he was employed as a finisher, but rose to become superintendent. 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 water rights of the defunct Middlesex Canal Corporation, 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.

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, was believed by some to be responsible for the flooding of fields upstream as far as Sudbury. There were calls to remove the dam, 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.

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 chosen lieutenant-governor, serving two terms, one each under William Claflin and William B. Washburn. On the election of Governor Washburn to the United States Senate in 1873, he became acting governor.[1] 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 anti-prohibition Republicans joined with Democrats to elect William Gaston over Talbot by a narrow margin.[2]

In 1878, Talbot won nomination as the Republican candidate for governor, in a large field occasioned by the impending retirement of Alexander H. Rice.[3] The Democratic opposition was divided by Benjamin Butler's return to that party, and the Republican ticket won the general election,[4] in part by highlighting the wage and benefit differences in mills owned by Butler and Talbot. Talbot served one term, and refused to run for reelection the following year. He died in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1885. The Talbot Mill properties in North Billerica are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Billerica Mills Historic District.


  1. ^ Van Slyck, p. 620
  2. ^ Mohr, pp. 9-10
  3. ^ Hess, pp. 65-66
  4. ^ West, p. 369


  • American Textile Reporter
  • Bulletin of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers
  • The Textile American
  • Hess, James (March 1960). "John D. Long and Reform Issues in Massachusetts Politics, 1870–1889". The New England Quarterly (Volume 33, No. 1): pp. 57–73.   Category:CS1 maint: Extra text)
  • Mohr, James (1976). Radical Republicans in the North: State Politics During Reconstruction. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.  
  • Tager, Jack (ed). Massachusetts Encyclopedia
  • Van Slyck, J. D (1879). New England Manufacturers and Manufactories, Volume 2. Boston: Van Slyck and Company.  
  • West, Richard (1965). Lincoln's Scapegoat General: A Life of Benjamin Franklin Butler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.  
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
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