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Levi P. Morton
31st Governor
1895–1896
A wealthy and influential banker, Levi P. Morton (1824–1920) served in the United States House of Representatives before his appointment as Minister to France. Serving in this capacity, Morton formally accepted the Statue of Liberty from the French on July 4, 1884. Morton was elected Vice President on Benjamin Harrison’s ticket in 1888. As governor, Morton advocated for a state highway construction program as well as civil service reform.
Portrait: George Hughes (1863–1932) attended St. Joseph’s Academy in Albany, before studying for seven years at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He returned to open a studio in New York, and later returned to Albany where he painted portraits.

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Morton, Levi P(arsons) (b Shoreham, Vt, 16 May 1824; d Rhinebeck, Dutchess Co, 16 May 1920). Governor, vice president, and businessman.

Following a basic education at Shoreham Academy, he became a store clerk in Enfield, Mass, at age 15. The 20-year mercantile career that followed included ownership of a store in Hanover,NH,a partnership in a Boston mercantile firm, and the establishment of a dry goods business in New York City. In 1863 he established L. P. Morton and Co, an international banking firm. Sir John Rose, the finance minister of Canada, later joined him, and the new firm, appointed as the financial agent of the US government in 1873, played a significant role in funding the national debt and settled the Alabama claims against Great Britain over shipping violations during the Civil War.

Morton’s political career began with his defeat as Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in 1876. He was elected to the House in 1878 and reelected in 1880, resigning when appointed minister to France in 1881.During his tenure he successfully negotiated recognition of American corporations in France and, on 4 July 1884, formally accepted the Statue of Liberty from the French people. In 1887 he purchased an estate, Ellerslie, in Rhinebeck, which remained his home until his death.

Morton was elected vice president with Pres BenjaminHarrison in 1888 but was not renominated in 1892. Elected governor of New York State in 1894, he worked for civil service reform and signed legislation allowing the consolidation of New York City and empowering the governor to remove New York City mayors from office. Morton left public life in 1896 following his unsuccessful candidacy as New York State’s “favorite son” for president.He created theMorton TrustCo and spent the remaining years of his life in investment and philanthropic activities.

McElroy, Robert. Levi Parsons Morton: Banker, Diplomat, and Statesman (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1930)

William P. McDermott

Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 1014].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.

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