William P. Dillingham

William Paul Dillingham (December 12, 1843 – July 12, 1923) was an American attorney and politician from the state of Vermont. A Republican and the son of Congressman and Governor Paul Dillingham, William P. Dillingham served as governor from 1888 to 1890 and United States Senator from 1900 until his death.

William Paul Dillingham
William Paul Dillingham (1843-1923) in 1904 (cropped).jpg
United States Senator
from Vermont
In office
October 18, 1900[1] – July 12, 1923
Preceded byJonathan Ross
Succeeded byPorter H. Dale
42nd Governor of Vermont
In office
October 4, 1888 – October 2, 1890
LieutenantUrban A. Woodbury
Preceded byEbenezer J. Ormsbee
Succeeded byCarroll S. Page
Vermont Commissioner of Taxes
In office
December 1, 1882 – October 3, 1888
Preceded byNone (position created)
Succeeded byJames Loren Martin
Member of the Vermont Senate from Washington County
In office
Serving with Albert Dwinell
Preceded byEliakim Persons Walton
Ira Richardson
Succeeded byWillard S. Martin
Edwin K. Jones
Member of the Vermont House of Representatives from Waterbury
In office
Preceded byGeorge W. Randall
Succeeded byGeorge E. Moody
In office
Preceded byJohn B. Parker
Succeeded byLeander H. Haines
Personal details
Born(1843-12-12)December 12, 1843
Waterbury, Vermont
DiedJuly 12, 1923(1923-07-12) (aged 79)
Montpelier, Vermont
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Mary E. Shipman (1846 -- 1893)
RelationsPaul Dillingham (father)
Matthew H. Carpenter (brother in law)

Dillingham was born in Waterbury, Vermont, in 1843, and attended schools in Vermont and New Hampshire. He studied law with his brother in law, Matthew Hale Carpenter, attained admission to the bar, and practiced in Waterbury and Montpelier.

Groomed for a political career from an early age, Dillingham served as Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs (chief assistant to the governor) during his father's term and that of Asahel Peck, State's Attorney of Washington County, and member of the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont State Senate. He was elected governor in 1888 and served one two-year term.

In 1900, Dillingham won election to the United States Senate, replacing Jonathan Ross, who had been appointed as a temporary replacement following the death of incumbent Justin Smith Morrill. Dillingham served in the Senate until his death, and was chairman of several committees during his tenure. As head of a commission that studied immigration, he argued that southern and eastern European immigrants posed a threat to the country's stability and growth, and that immigration from those areas should be curbed in the future.

Dillingham died in Montpelier in 1923 and was buried at Hope Cemetery in Waterbury.

Early lifeEdit

The son of Governor Paul Dillingham, William P. Dillingham was born on December 12, 1843 in Waterbury, Vermont.[2] He attended the public schools, Newbury Seminary in Montpelier, Vermont and Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire. In 1866 he served as Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs (chief assistant) during his father's governorship. He also studied law with his brother in law Matthew H. Carpenter and was admitted to the bar in 1867.[3]

Public serviceEdit

Dillingham practiced law in Waterbury. A Republican, he served as Washington County State's Attorney from 1872 to 1876. From 1874 to 1876 he was Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs (chief assistant) for Governor Asahel Peck.[4]

In 1876, Dillingham was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives. From 1878 to 1882 he served in the Vermont State Senate. Dillingham served as Vermont's Commissioner of Taxes from 1882 to 1888, and served another term in the Vermont House in 1884.[5]

In 1888 Dillingham was elected the 42nd Governor of Vermont. He served the one two-year term available under the Mountain Rule, afterwards returning to the practice of law.[6] Dillingham practiced in Montpelier with Hiram A. Huse and Fred A. Howland. Howland was Dillingham's nephew, and had studied law with Dillingham to qualify for admission to the bar.[7]

Dillingham was elected to the United States Senate in 1900, replacing temporary appointee Jonathan Ross and completing the term of Justin Smith Morrill, who had died in office. Dillingham was reelected in 1903, 1909, 1914 and 1920, and served until his death. His 1914 election was Vermont's first following passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[8]

During his Senate career Dillingham was Chairman of the following committees: Transportation Routes to the Seaboard (Fifty-seventh Congress); Immigration (Fifty-eighth through Sixty-first Congresses); Privileges and Elections (Sixty-second, Sixty-sixth, and Sixty-seventh Congresses); and Establishing the University of the United States (Sixty-third through Sixty-fifth Congresses).

Dillingham achieved prominence as the leading Progressive-era legislative spokesperson for restricting immigration. From 1907 to 1911, Dillingham chaired (concurrently with his Senate duties) the United States Immigration Commission, also called the Dillingham Commission, which concluded that immigration from southern and eastern Europe posed a serious threat to American society and culture and should be greatly reduced in the future.[9]

In 1903, Dillingham chaired a Senate subcommittee that investigated conditions in Alaska following the Klondike Gold Rush. During their trip, a new courthouse established near the Nushagak River village of Kanakanak was named in honor of the chairman and the surrounding community later adopted the name Dillingham, Alaska. While the subcommittee traveled extensively throughout Alaska, Dillingham never set foot in the Bristol Bay salmon fishing community that still bears his name.[10]

Business and civic endeavorsEdit

Dillingham's business interests included serving as President of the Waterbury Savings Bank and a member of the National Life Insurance Company board of directors.[11][12]

He was active in the Methodist church, and served as President of the Board of Trustees of the Montpelier Seminary (originally the Vermont Methodist Seminary), and a member of the University of Vermont Board of Trustees.[13][14]

Dillingham was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and served as President of the Vermont SAR organization.[15]

Death and burialEdit

Dillingham died in Montpelier on July 12, 1923.[16] He was buried in Waterbury's Hope Cemetery.[17]

Awards and honorsEdit

Dillingham received the following honorary degrees: Master of Arts, University of Vermont (1886); LL.D., Norwich University (1893); LL.D., Middlebury College (1906).[18]


Dillingham lived at 7 West Street in Montpelier while serving in the Senate. His home was owned by Vermont College for more than 50 years, and served as a dormitory and as office space. Known as Dillingham Hall when it was part of the college, the building is once again a private residence.[19][20]

On December 24, 1874, William P. Dillingham married Mary Ellen Shipman (November 7, 1846—April 25, 1893).[21] They had one son, Paul Shipman Dillingham (October 24, 1878—March, 1972).[22][23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Brown, John Howard (July 2006). The Cyclopedia Of American Biography V6: Comprising The Men And Women Of The United States Who Have Been Identified With The Growth Of The Nation. p. 552. ISBN 1161610650.
  2. ^ William Arba Ellis, Norwich University, 1819-1911: Her History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor, Volume 3, 1911, page 527
  3. ^ Vermont Historical Society, Annual Meeting Proceedings: Necrology, 1923, page 280
  4. ^ The Vermonter magazine, Vermont Men of Today: William P. Dillingham, January 1902, pages 34-26
  5. ^ The Vermonter magazine, Choice for a United States Senatorship, January 1900, page 106
  6. ^ Jacob G. Ullery, Men of Vermont Illustrated, 1894, page 106
  7. ^ Smith, Arthur L. J. (January 20, 1916). "President F. A. Howland: New Executive Head of the National Life of Montpelier; Succeeding the Late J. A. De Boer". The Spectator: An American Weekly Review of Insurance. New York, NY: The Spectator Company. p. 34.
  8. ^ Courier-Journal Almanac, Men of the Year 1900, 1901, page 306
  9. ^ John J. Duffy, Samuel B. Hand, Ralph H. Orth, editors, The Vermont Encyclopedia, 2003, page 106
  10. ^ Joseph Nathan Kane, Charles Curry Aiken, The American Counties, 2005, page 84
  11. ^ Vermont Department of Finance, Annual Report, 1912, page 147
  12. ^ Poor's Publishing Company, Moody's Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities, 1921, page 197
  13. ^ Methodist Episcopal Church, Vermont Conference, Official Minutes of the Vermont Annual Conference, Volumes 58-65, 1902, page 16
  14. ^ Prentiss Cutler Dodge, Encyclopedia of Vermont Biography, 1912, page 48
  15. ^ Sons of the American Revolution, California Society, Register of the California Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1901, page xxxiii
  16. ^ Vermont Death Records, 1909-2008, entry for Willam Paul Dillingham, retrieved December 15, 2013
  17. ^ Vermont Old Cemetery Association
  18. ^ William Arba Ellis, Norwich University, 1819-1911: Her History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor, Volume 3, 1911, page 528
  19. ^ National Education Goals Panel, Promising Practices: Progress Toward the Goals, 2000, 2000, page 27
  20. ^ Dan Clar, Montpelier Bridge newspaper, Montpelier’s Architectural Heritage, Updating a Historic Home, October 15, 2009, page 2
  21. ^ Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908, marriage entry for Wm. P. Dillingham, retrieved December 15, 2013
  22. ^ Vermont Vital Records, 1720-1908, birth entry for Paul Shipman Dillingham, retrieved December 15, 2013
  23. ^ U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2013, entry for Paul S. Dillingham, retrieved December 15, 2013

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
First Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Vermont
(Class 3)

1914, 1920
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Vermont
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by United States Senator (Class 3) from Vermont
Succeeded by