John Bigelow was born 15 November 1817 in Malden-on-Hudson, Ulster County, New York, United States to Asa Bigelow (1779-1850) and Lucy Isham (1780-1853) and died 19 December 1911 New York City, New York, United States of unspecified causes. He married Jane Tunis Poultney (1829-1889) 11 June 1850 in Baltimore, Maryland, United States.

John Bigelow was an American lawyer and statesman.


Early life

John Bigelow, Sr. graduated from Union College in 1835 where he was a member of the Sigma Phi Society and the Philomathean Society, and was admitted to the bar in 1838. From 1849 to 1861, he was one of the editors and co-owners of the New York Evening Post.

Personal life

On June 11, 1850, Bigelow married Jane Tunis Poultney and they had nine children. They included:

  • John Bigelow, Jr. (May 12, 1854 to February 29, 1936) graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1877. He served in the United States Army in Texas with the Buffalo Soldiers, taught at West Point, served again in the West then fought and was seriously wounded in Cuba. He retired in October 1904. From 1905-1910 he was a professor at M.I.T. During World War I he was recalled to active duty and served in Washington. He traveled and wrote until his death in 1936.[1]
  • Poultney Bigelow (1855-1954) was a lawyer and a noted journalist and editor.
  • Flora Bigelow, who married Lionel Guest (1880–1935), son of Ivor Bertie Guest, 1st Baron Wimborne (1835–1914)


Offspring of John Bigelow and Jane Tunis Poultney (1829-1889)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Grace Bigelow (1852-)
John Bigelow (1854-1936) 12 May 1854 New York City, New York, United States 29 February 1936 Washington, D.C., United States Mary Braxton Dallam (1858-1948)
Poultney Bigelow (1855-1954) 9 October 1855 New York City, New York, United States 28 May 1954 Saugerties, Ulster County, New York, United States Edith Evelyn Jaffray (1857-) Edith Evelyn Jaffray (1857-) Lillian Pritchard (1866-1932)
Jennie Bigelow (1859-)
Ernest Bigelow (1861-1865)
Annie Bigelow (1863-1923)
Flora Bigelow (1868-1964) 18 October 1868 Highland Falls, Orange County, New York, United States 16 June 1964 Charles Stuart Dodge (1864-1948) Charles Stuart Dodge (1864-1948) Lionel George William Guest (1880-1935)

Political career

Bigelow began his political career as a reform Democrat, working with William Cullen Bryant in New York. In 1848, his antislavery convictions led him to leave the party, and he joined the Free Soil Party, supporting the candidacy of John C. Fremont for President in that year. In 1856, he led other former Democrats into the new Republican party. After the party's nominee, Abraham Lincoln, was elected President in 1860, Lincoln appointed him American Consul in Paris in 1861, progressing to Chargé d'Affaires and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Napoleon III. In this capacity, working together with Charles Francis Adams, the American Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Bigelow helped to block the attempts to have France and the United Kingdom intervene in the American Civil War in favor of the Confederacy, and thereby played a material role in the Union victory. In 1865, he was appointed American Ambassador to France. After leaving this position, he went to Germany, where he lived for three years, through the period of the Franco-Prussian War, and became a friend of Otto von Bismarck.

After the war's conclusion, he returned to New York, where he assisted his old friend Samuel J. Tilden in opposing the corruption that flourished in New York City under William Marcy Tweed. Because of the universal respect in which Bigelow was held in New York, he was offered nominations by both political parties for state office in 1872. Under the influence of Tilden, Bigelow decided to rejoin the Democratic party, accepted its nomination, and was elected Secretary of State of New York, a position he held until 1876. When the Democrats nominated Tilden for President in 1876, he served as Tilden's campaign manager, and in that capacity advised Tilden in the famous dispute over the result of the presidential election. Tilden died almost a decade after the dispute was decided in favor of his rival, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Bigelow then acted as one of Tilden's Estate Trust Executors. He carried out Tilden's wishes, over several years, to develop the New York Public Library.

He was a staunch proponent of the development of the Panama Canal. He was a friend of Philippe Bunau-Varilla, who brought Panama's declaration of Independence to Bigelow's home. Panama's first proposed flag, made there by Mrs. Bunau Varilla, was rejected by the Panamanians, who made their own. Bigelow's writing career, begun with Bryant on the New York Evening Post, included several books. He was one of the first Americans to visit Haiti with an open mind, and published The Wisdom of the Haitians, which, before the Civil War, was one of the few American works to take a positive view of Haitian independence. He published an edition of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin in 1868, and The Life of Samuel J. Tilden in 1895.


On August 8, 2001, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani signed a bill adding the name "John Bigelow Plaza" to the intersection of 41st Street and Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, directly in front of the famous main branch of the New York Public Library. His estate at Highland Falls, New York, known as The Squirrels, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.[2]

Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General
₪ Wedding


  1. ^ Kinevan, Marcos E., Brigadier General, USAF, retired (1998). Frontier Cavalryman, Lieutenant John Bigelow with the Buffalo Soldiers in Texas. Texas Western Press, The University of Texas at El Paso. ISBN 0-87404-243-7. 
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 


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