Bigelow, John



Autograph Slip Signed

"Born in Malden-on-Hudson, New York, 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. On June 11, 1850, Bigelow married Jane Tunis Poultney and they had nine children.

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 Charge d'Affaires, 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, 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 shortly 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."