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Lyman, Theodore, Jr., 1792-1849



Theodore Lyman, the son of a successful merchant, was born February 20, 1792, and was educated in Phillips Exeter Academy and at Harvard, graduating in 1810. After leaving college, he went abroad, where he spent four years, a part of the time traveling with Edward Everett. He was in Paris when the allied armies entered the city, and has given a vivid account of the scenes in his book, "Three Weeks in Paris." He also wrote a book on the "The Political State of Italy," and one on "Diplomacy of the United States with Foreign Nations."

He was found of military science, and served for a time as a general of the Boston Brigade of Militia. His predilection, however, was for literary pursuits, although he gave some attention to politics. He became a member of the legislature, and in December, 1833, was chosen mayor, serving during 1834 and 1835. As only a small part of the city received water from Jamaica Pond through four main pipes of pitch-pine logs, one of his first acts was to call the attention of the Common Council to the need of bringing a steady supply of pure water to Boston. Colonel Loammi Baldwin, the distinguished civil engineer who had built the Milldam Driveway, reported that Farm Pond in Framingham and Long Pond in Natick were the most available sources, but nothing was done except to discuss the project until the administration of Josiah Quincy, Jr., in 1846.

During Lyman's administration the Ursuline Convent on Mount Benedict in Charlestown (now Somerville) was attacked and burned on the night of August 11, 1834, by a mob which had been incited by stories that nuns were locked in underground cells and that Protestant pupils were forced to become Catholics. The next day the mob which had gathered was sent scurrying by the rumor that a horseman was galloping off to call the militia.

Mayor Lyman established the State Reform School at Westboro, and gave it $22,000 during his lifetime and $50,000 more in his will. At his suggestion, a similar school for girls was begun at Lancaster. It was during Mr. Lyman's mayoralty that the Garrison mob gathered. A meeting of the female antislavery society was held on the afternoon of October 21, 1835, at the office of William Garrison's "Liberator," at 46 Washington Street. As there was much feeling against abolition, a mob gathered which the few constables were unable to handle, and Mayor Lyman went there with more men. Garrison attempted to escape from the mob by a back window into Wilson's Lane, now Devonshire Street, but was seized by the mob and dragged as far as the Old State House, a part of which was then used as a City Hall, where he was rescued by the police and taken into the building. The Mayor shielded him with his own body from the mob. To save Garrison from the mob, Mayor Lyman placed him in the carriage and drove him to the jail, where he was confined, ostensibly as a disturber of the peace, but he was released the next day. The mayor was subsequently much criticized for not providing proper police protection for Garrison in the beginning and for not calling out the militia instead of treating Garrison as a criminal. It is only fair to Mayor Lyman to say that Garrison consented to Mayor Lyman's action, and was very glad to escape the mob by going to jail.

Lyman's public life ended in 1836 with the election of Samuel T. Armstrong, and he spent the last days of his life helping the criminal classes. He died July 18, 1849, a few days after returning from Europe, where he had been traveling with his son.

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 Theodore Lyman, Jr., 1834-1835, undated

Identifier: 5210004_015_005
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