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Early Maine Photography

Famous People

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Hannibal Hamlin, ca. 1860
Hannibal Hamlin, ca. 1860Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Hannibal Hamlin

This ambrotype of Hannibal Hamlin (1809-1891) probably dates from the 1860 presidential election in which Hamlin was the Republican nominee for vice president. A native of Paris Hill, Hamlin moved to Hampden as a young man to practice law.

A Jacksonian Democrat, he began his political career in the Maine legislature, serving three terms as speaker. He was elected as a Congressman in 1843 and as U.S. Senator in 1848. During the 1856 campaign, he won the governorship of Maine as a Republican, but held that office only a few weeks, resigning to return to the Senate.


William Pitt Fessenden

William Pitt Fessenden, ca. 1860
William Pitt Fessenden, ca. 1860Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

As a United State Senator in 1868, William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869) of Portland was one of seven Republicans to vote against the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, thus preventing his removal from office. Graduating from Bowdoin in 1823, Fessenden became one of Maine’s most successful attorneys. Between 1831 and 1854 he served in the Maine Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1854, he gained a national reputation for his opposition to slavery and his expertise in finance. His role as chair of the Senate Finance Committee during the Civil War led President Abraham Lincoln to appoint him as Secretary of the Treasury, a post he held for a year before returning to the Senate for the balance of his life. William Pitt Fessenden was widely condemned in 1868 for his vote to acquit Andrew Johnson, but historians, including John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage, have praised the conviction and foresight of this Maine senator’s decision.


Governor William King

Governor William King, ca. 1850
Governor William King, ca. 1850Item Contributed by
Maine Historical Society

Born in Scarborough in 1768, William King received only a grammar school education. Starting work in a Topsham sawmill, he rose to become the largest ship owner in Maine and a successful merchant. His business interests included real estate, banking, and cotton manufacturing. King began his political career in 1795, serving as both a representative and as a senator in the Massachusetts legislature. He held the rank of major general in the state militia during the War of 1812. The hardships experienced by Maine during the war prompted King to take up the cause of separation from Massachusetts. Beginning in 1813, he became Maine’s chief proponent for statehood, which was accomplished through the Missouri Compromise in 1820. A drafter of the Maine Constitution, King consulted Thomas Jefferson for guidance in its preparation. Elected Maine’s first governor, William King served until 1821, when he was appointed commissioner to negotiate a treaty with Spain, a post he held for three years. A staunch advocate of education, he was a trustee of Waterville (now Colby) College and a trustee and overseer of Bowdoin College. He died in 1852, just prior to the availability of the ambrotype process, which indicates that this picture is probably copied from an earlier daguerreotype. This strong profile image of an aged leader is reminiscent of daguerreotypes of Andrew Jackson taken shortly before his death.