James Howell (politician)

James Howell Jr. (October 16, 1829 – January 27, 1897) was a partner in Howell & Saxtan Ironworks, and served two consecutive terms as 19th Mayor of Brooklyn, New York 1878–1881.

James Howell Jr.
James Howell Brooklyn Mayor.jpg
19th Mayor of Brooklyn
In office
Preceded byFrederick A. Schroeder
Succeeded bySeth Low
Personal details
Born(1829-10-16)October 16, 1829
Bradford, Wiltshire, England
DiedJanuary 27, 1897(1897-01-27) (aged 67)
Brooklyn, New York
Resting placeGreen-Wood Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Anna Tunstall
OccupationHowell & Saxtan Ironworks

Early lifeEdit

Howell was born October 16, 1829 in Bradford, Wiltshire, England.[1] At the age of six he moved with his parents to New Lisbon, Ohio. Howell moved to Brooklyn in 1845.[1] He first tried a career as a grocer, but before long switched careers to become a foreman in an iron foundry.[1] By 1855, he had started the firm of Howell & Saxtan.[1]

Howell & SaxtanEdit

Howell & Saxtan were in business in Brooklyn, N. Y. from approximately 1866 until the early 1890s. The proprietors were James Howell (1829-1897) and Daniel Y. Saxtan (1824-1904).[2] Their mark can be found on manhole covers and cast iron buildings in Brooklyn, especially around Fulton Avenue and Grand Street, and lower Manhattan. The address on the foundry mark is 353 Adams St, Brooklyn.[2]

Mayor of BrooklynEdit

James Howell was elected mayor of Brooklyn for two terms. He was a Democrat in a highly Democratic-leaning town; Democrats had a majority of about 8 to 10 thousand voters by population.[3]

Howell won his first election over Republican John F. Henry by 3,000 votes.[1] He won re-election to his second term over Franklin Woodruff by 12,000 votes.[1]

Brooklyn politics at this time were dominated by Democratic party boss Hugh McLaughlin.[4] Graft and corruption were widespread practices of the day; although Howell was not personally involved in any scandal, he was widely considered a "mediocre" mayor.[4]

The tax rate in Brooklyn fell during Howell's two terms, from $3.17 to $2.36, this despite rapid growth in Brooklyn, including the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge during those years.[3] Brooklyn had seen a huge increase in population leading up to, and during, this time.[4]

Howell lost his third term contest to Republican Seth Low, 45,434 votes to 40,937, a margin of less than 5,000 votes.[4] An estimated 15,000 Democratic voters crossed party lines to vote for Low.[3] Newspapers attributed the loss to a general upswing in the good government movement and a dissatisfaction with McLaughlin machine, not dissatisfaction with Howell personally.[3]

Post-Mayor careerEdit

Howell became a trustee of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, and in 1885 elected president of the trustees, an office which he held until his death.[1] He was credited for "carrying out many great improvements" on the bridge.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Howell married Anna Tunstall in 1851. They had a son and two daughters.[1] He was a member of the Hanson Place Central United Methodist Church for many years.[1]

Howell died at his home on South Portland Avenue in Brooklyn on January 27, 1897. He had been ill since the previous Spring.[1] He was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Ex-Mayor James Howell obituary". The New York Times. 28 January 1897. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  2. ^ a b Grutchfield, Walter. "Howell & Saxtan / 353 Adams St / B'klyn". waltergrutchfield.net. Retrieved 10 May 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "Mayor Howell on His Own Defeat". Brooklyn, NY: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 13 November 1881. p. 4. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d Kurland, Gerald (1971). Seth Low: the Reformer in an Urban and Industrial Age. Ardent Media. p. 48.
  5. ^ James Howell at Find a Grave

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Frederick A. Schroeder
Mayor of Brooklyn
1878 – 1881
Succeeded by
Seth Low