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Quincy, Josiah, 1802-1882


Biographical note

Mayor of Boston, 1846-1848


Josiah Quincy, Jr., elected the eleventh mayor of Boston in 1846, was another of Boston's great mayors. During his administration the city secured the Long Pong, or Cochituate, water supply. His father, Boston's second mayor, had urged the securing of city water for Boston from the Charles or Neponset Rivers. Josiah, Jr., took up the project, and Loammi Baldwin, the eminent engineer, planned and constructed the Cochituate supply system, which cost $5,000,000 but brought water to every street in Boston. It was laughingly said of Quincy, the junior: "He has written his name in water, yet it will last forever. The people of Boston have never found him dry, and he has taken care that they shall never be so."

The mayor aided by his father and the venerable John Quincy Adams, broke ground for the work at Long Pond on August 20, 1846. A banquet followed, at which the mayor suggested that, as the name Long Pond was without distinction, it should be changed to Cochituate, the Indian name. The suggestion was adopted, and the water supply source became known as Cochituate. The tumult of one hundred guns and the ringing of church bells greeted the rising of the sun on the day of opening of the supply, October 26, 1848. A procession marched to the Common, where children sang an ode written by James Russell Lowell. Mayor Quincy and Nathan Hale, chairman of the Water Commission, made speeches, and the citizens were asked if it was their pleasure that water should be introduced. After a great roar of affirmation, a gate was thrown open, and a column of water, 6 inches through, leaped 80 feet into the air. Bells again rang, cannons were fired, and in the evening a display of fireworks occurred.

Mayor Quincy was born on January 17, 1802, in Boston, on Pearl Street, fitted for Harvard at Phillips Academy at Andover, and graduated from college in 1821. He read law with William Sullivan, and was admitted to the bar, and married Jane Miller, the daughter of Samuel R. Miller. Military affairs early attracted his attention. In 1833, he was a member of the City Council, and from 1834 to 1837, its president. He became president of the Senate in 1842, and mayor of Boston in 1846. His veto, while chairman of the Board of Aldermen, of the liquor license showed great courage and elicited the admiration of his fellow citizens.

Great financial ability was shown by him in handling the Western Railroad, and he also displayed much ability as treasurer of the Central Vermont. He was treasurer of the Boston Athenaeum in 1837, and continued as such for fifteen years. As chairman of the Building Committee of the Athenaeum, he personally endorsed loans to a large amount to help in erecting the building on Beacon Street. Mr. Quincy presided February 2, 1842, at the public festival in honor of Charles Dickens.

"The mayor of the city of Salem sends his compliments to the mayor of the city of Boston, congratulating him on the new bond of union between the two cities," came over the telegraph wires when it was first stretched in December, 1847, between the two cities. Mayor Quincy replied : "The mayor of Boston reciprocates the compliment of the mayor of Salem, and rejoices that letters of light connect the metropolis with the birthplace of Bowditch." Mayor Quincy about this time remarked "that rum mixed with gunpowder, was not the only means of inspiring courage," and "that men who stand alone are best fitted to stand together." During his administration the police were reorganized, and just before he retired from office he signed the contract for the erection of the jail at the corner of Charles and Cambridge Streets. He died on November 2, 1882.

Taken from "Boston's 45 Mayors from John Phillips to Kevin H. White," City Record, Boston, 1979.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Mayor Josiah Quincy, Jr., 1846-1848, undated

Identifier: 5210004_015_011
Scope and Contents From the Collection:

Photographs and other images collected by the Boston Landmarks Commission for reference use and for publications as well as photographs taken by the Landmarks Commission documenting their work and city neighborhoods.

Dates: undated

Mayoral addresses

Identifier: 0200.001
Scope and Contents

Includes two compilation volumes of addresses from 1822-1867 and printed copies of annual and inaugural addresses of the Mayor from 1824-1980 with gaps.

Dates: 1822-1980 with gaps