Wilson, Richard L.

Born: 1814-XX-XX New York

Died: 1856-09-17

Flourished: Chicago, Illinois

Richard L. Wilson was a canal contractor, travel writer, newspaper editor and publisher, postmaster, and brother of John L. and Charles L. Wilson. Richard moved from his native state to Chicago in 1834, setting up business with his brother John L. By 1839, he was working as a contractor on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. In 1842, Richard undertook a long tour of the American West and published an account of his travels entitled A Trip to Santa Fe. He followed that a few years later with Short Ravelings of a Long Yarn--an adventure tale of travel in Spain. In 1844, he became part of a joint stock company created for the purpose of establishing a Whig Party organ in Chicago. The company purchased the Chicago Express and named Wilson editor and publisher of the new paper, the first issue of which, under the title the Chicago Evening Journal, appeared in April 1844. After the presidential election of 1844, the newspaper passed into Wilson's hands, and he brought in his brother Charles to assist him in running the paper. In 1847, Richard lost his left arm and the thumb of his right hand during celebrations of the American victory at the Battle of Buena Vista when a cannon he was assisting to fire discharged prematurely. He worked tirelessly to get Zachary Taylor elected president in 1848, and President Taylor rewarded him by making him postmaster of Chicago, a post he would hold from April 1849 to September 1850. In 1850, he was living in Chicago's Eighth Ward and owned real estate valued at $2,500.

David Ward Wood, ed., Chicago and its Distinguished Citizens, or the Progress of Forty Years (Chicago: Milton George, 1881), 286, 501; John Moses and Joseph Kirkland, eds., The History of Chicago Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1895), 2:39; Register of all Officers and Agents, Civil, Military, and Naval, in the Service of the United States, on the Thirtieth September, 1849, 470*; Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971, NARA Microfilm Publication, M841, 145 rolls, Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28, 1845-1855, 18:34, National Archives Building, Washington, DC; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Ward 8, Chicago, Cook County, IL, 403; Albany Rural Cemetery Internment Cards, Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.