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Weed, Thurlow

Born: 1797-11-15 Greene County, New York

Died: 1882-11-22 New York, New York

Weed moved to Catskill, New York, in 1799 with his family and began working when he was eight. The family moved to western New York and Weed became an apprentice printer at the Onondaga Valley Lynx in 1811. The paper collapsed the following year, and Weed took work at various printers throughout New York, as well as briefly serving in the militia during the War of 1812. He married Catherine Ostrander in 1818, with whom he had four children and adopted a fifth. Weed entered the New York Typographical Society in 1816 and became increasingly involved in politics. He took a job as a foreman at the Albany Register in 1817, where he wrote his first editorial. Weed failed to start newspapers in Norwich and Manlius, but he eventually established the proto-Whig Rochester Telegraph, which he edited from 1822 to 1825.

Weed campaigned vigorously for John Quincy Adams in 1824 but joined the Anti-Masonic movement in 1828. He began publishing a newspaper that attempted to steer the movement toward Whig issues and successfully convinced many members to support Adams in 1828. During this time, Weed served in the New York State Assembly and established himself as a political voice in the state. He assumed the editorship of the Albany Evening Journal in 1829 and remained in that position for thirty years. The paper became a leading voice for Anti-Masons, Whigs, and eventually Republicans and made Weed a major player in national politics. He allied himself with William H. Seward during the 1838 New York gubernatorial election, which secured Weed a significant amount of influence over Seward's patronage appointments. Indeed, it was Weed who positioned Horace Greeley to establish the New York Tribune after Seward's election. He was also instrumental in securing William Henry Harrison's presidential nomination over Henry Clay in the presidential campaign of 1840.

As Weed's influence increased, Whigs and Democrats increasingly viewed him as a party boss who exhibited far too much influence over Whig policy and action. This caused him to back off during the 1844 election, but Clay's defeat motivated him to again exert significant control over the party, supporting both Seward's senatorial bid and Zachary Taylor's presidential nomination in 1848. Always favoring a united anti-slavery front against Democrats, Weed supported the Republican Party in New York, although he ensured Seward's prominent role in the nascent organization. Weed's reputation in the new party again cost him some support, as Greeley and former Democrats resisted his control, partially resulting in Seward's failed presidential nomination in 1860. Weed supported Abraham Lincoln's administration but frequently disagreed with the new president. He traveled to England and France in 1861 and 1862 to bolster support for the Union and served as an agent for Seward. He sold the Evening Journal in 1863 and moved to New York City. There he engaged in financial speculation for the rest of the war and accumulated a large fortune.

Phyllis F. Field, "Weed, Thurlow," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 22:882-83; Glyndon Van Deusen, Thurlow Weed, Wizard of the Lobby (Boston: Little, Brown, 1947); Thurlow Weed, Life of Thurlow Weed: Including his Autobiography and a Memoir (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1884).