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Andrew Gregg Curtin

Andrew Gregg Curtin, Pennsylvania Governor, was born on April 22, 1817 in Bellefonte, Pa. into a family of seven children.  He was the son of Roland Curtin and his second wife, Jane Gregg Curtin.  His father was an iron founder and a Scotch Irish immigrant and his mother was the daughter of Pennsylvania politician Andrew Gregg.   He spent his preparatory years at academies in Harrisburg and Milton.  In 1837, he entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. to study law under Judge John Reed. 

After admission to the bar in 1839, Curtin began his career as a criminal lawyer in Centre County.  Curtin’s oratorical skills led to early renown as a supporter for Whig presidential candidates.  He began his career in public service as Secretary of the Commonwealth under Governor Pollock and superintendant of Public Instruction. 

In 1860, Curtin joined the newly-formed “People’s Party,” composed of Whigs, Democrats, and Republicans who supported Republican principles but took moderate views of slavery with hope to avoid war.  Under this platform he won the governorship of Pennsylvania in a contest against Democrat Henry D. Foster.  After ascending to the Governor’s office, Curtin registered his affiliation as a Republican. Curtin became one of the so-called “war governors” on whom Lincoln relied for support during the Civil War.  In fact, Curtin was responsible for organizing the “Loyal Governor’s Conference” in 1862 in Altoona, which raised morale among the allied, Union states. 

In 1863, Curtin was re-elected in a contest against Democrat George Woodward in a landslide victory.  This term, completed in 1867, was characterized by efforts in aid of the Civil War.  During both of Curtin’s terms as governor, Eli Slifer played an important role as his Secretary of the Commonwealth.  After Curtin suffered from a nervous breakdown in his first term he continued to suffer from ill health until completion of his tenure.  In this end, Slifer covered affairs of state when Curtin’s health prevented him. 

After an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate, Curtin was appointed Minister to Russia by President Grant in 1869.  He held this position until 1872 when he supported Grant’s opponent, Horace Greely, for president.  In the same year, he began service as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, serving until 1873.  Curtin finished his years of public service as a congressman from Pennsylvania from 1881-1887.   

Curtin married Katherine Irvine Wilson on May 30, 1844.  Together they parented seven children.  After finished with public service, Curtin returned to Bellefonte, Pa. where he died October 7, 1894.  He is interned there in Union Cemetery.

Please visit the following link for materials authored by Andrew Gregg Curtin maintained in the Their Own Words database:

Curtin, Andrew Gregg, 1817-1894

Researched, authored, and edited by Margaret Browndorf.

Page created: May 4, 2009                                            close window