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Wightman, Joseph M. (Joseph Milner), 1812-1885



The city's seventeenth mayor, Joseph Milner Wightman, was born in Boston, October 19, 1812, of English parents. He was apprenticed to a machinist, and took up mathematics, engineering, and physics in his spare time. He finally became a manufacturer of surgical instruments. The discussion about a city water supply enlisted his service, and led him to enter politics. He was on the School Committee for ten years, from 1845 to 1854, and served three years on the Board of Aldermen, from 1856 to 1859.

The refusal of Moses Kimball to give the old line and Webster Whigs the use of Faneuil Hall for a Webster meeting resulted in Webster's defeat for the mayoralty and the election of Wightman. Wightman showed no judgement in declining to allow antislavery agitators to hold a meeting in Tremont Hall. As the antislavery agitators feared that under Wightman, a Democrat, they would be denied free speech, they introduced a measure into the state Senate to give the state control of the police, which was eventually defeated. While action was pending on the matter, a meeting of antislavery advocates was held in Faneuil Hall, but the thirty police present made no effort to maintain order, and the meeting was soon interrupted by groans and hisses. At the request of the trustees of the building, who feared that there would be injuries, the mayor had the galleries cleared, but the trouble broke out again, and the meeting was adjourned until evening, when admission would be by ticket. When some of the disturbers said they would remain until evening, the mayor had the building cleared, and refused to allow the evening meeting.

Mayor Wightman displayed enthusiasm and energy in abundance, but was a man of poor judgement. He was successful though, in supplying money for the expenses of fitting out soldiers and in providing for their salaries. The cornerstone of the new city hall, now considered the old city hall, was laid during his administration, on December 23, 1862.

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

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Mayor Joseph M. Wightman, 1861-1862, undated

Identifier: 5210004_015_017
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

Mayor Joseph Wightman portrait

 Item — Box 1
Identifier: 0217.001
Scope and Contents

Portrait of Mayor Joseph Wightman who served as Mayor of Boston in 1861-1862. This portrait was most likely created circa 1880-1900 as part of the set of portraits of Mayors which were hung in the Old City Hall. It is a photographic portrait on a metal plate and measures 15" x 18".

Dates: circa 1880-1900

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