Skip Navigation
Regional News

Books: William Wheeler--Political Star of the North Country

Listen to this story
He's not a household name, but back in the 19th century, Malone's William Wheeler was well known as a prominant politician and business leader. He was the only person from the North Country to serve as U.S. vice president. Historian Herb Hallas told Todd Moe about his new biography William Wheeler - Political Star of the North Country , the story of the Franklin county native who served as vice president under Rutherford B. Hayes.

Hear this

Download audio

Share this

Explore this

Reported by

Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

Herb Hallas’ new book debunks many of the myths about Wheeler and sheds light on the creation of the Adirondack and Niagara Falls parks. Herb says that he wrote the book because he was intrigued by the idea that a nineteenth century man could live in a small North Country community and yet become a nationally known political figure rising so close to the presidency, which doesn’t happen very often.

He had a number of political strategies that he used. Starting out in Franklin County, his strategy was fairly straight forward. He organized supporters and crushed the opposition with superior numbers. But when he got to Albany and Washington, he adapted a different strategy- compromise. Through his ability to compromise, he was able to pass laws that expanded both the North Country and the Transcontinental Railroads. Furthermore, he negotiated the end to a racial civil war in Louisiana. He ran as a compromise candidate for many positions, including the president of the State Constitutional Convention and twice as a compromise candidate for the U.S. Senate. However, he was also very independent and expressed his concerns for nature, the education system and minorities living in the United States.

He was known by many as the “New York Lincoln,” which was a campaign to promote Wheeler’s candidacy in 1876. However, the name surfaced again in 1880 when Republicans began talking about who they should nominate for president. There were many similarities between Lincoln and Wheeler. Both men grew up poor, both became lawyers, they both worked on the railroad, they both opposed the extension of slavery and they had reputations for honesty. Wheeler showed a lifelong dedication to being a good citizen by participating in his community’s government. After he lost two elections for the U.S. Senate and congressman, state legislature, 30 years as a district attorney, served as Vice President of the United States, he returned home to Malone he ran for the local school board and was elected for a five year term and served until his health gave out. However, in the last year of his life, he worked on a local committee trying to convince the state to build a state mental hospital in Malone. His house still stands in Malone and is owned by the Elks club.

Visitor comments


NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.