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Seaton, William W.

Born: 1785-01-11 King William County, Virginia

Died: 1866-06-16 Washington, D.C.

Born into a wealthy Virginia family, William W. Seaton entered the printing trade at age seventeen, when he apprenticed at the Virginia Patriot in Richmond. He worked at a number of papers in Virginia and North Carolina. In 1809, Seaton married Sarah Weston Gales, and three years later, he joined his brother-in-law Joseph Gales as co-proprietor of the National Intelligencer. This paper eventually enjoyed the largest circulation in the nation and received unprecedented access to Congress and the Executive Mansion. Gales and Seaton also subsequently published various governmental records, most notably the Annals of Congress and the American State Papers. Seaton enlisted in the militia during the War of 1812 and lost a significant amount of printing equipment when the British burned Washington. He became a Whig following the election of Andrew Jackson. This political allegiance lost him the exclusive access to government he had enjoyed previously, and the Intelligencer gradually lost its renowned status.

Along with publishing, Seaton was an active local politician, serving on the Board of Aldermen from 1819 to 1831 and as mayor of Washington from 1840 to 1850. He supported the building of the Washington Monument and the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. A slaveholder, he freed his slaves before his death and was a member of the American Colonization Society. Seaton sold the Intelligencer in 1864 and died two years later.

Joseph P. McKerns, "Seaton, William Winston," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 19:569-70.