Higgins, Frank W(ayland) (b Rushford, Allegany Co, 18 Aug 1856; d Olean, Cattaraugus Co, 12 Feb 1907). Governor.
Higgins grew up in Poughkeepsie and graduated from the Riverview Military Academy in 1873. He moved to Michigan in 1875 and started a successful mercantile business, but returned home in 1879 and joined his father’s company in Olean, which ran small grocery stores in central New York State. By 1884 Higgins was running the entire business and speculating in western iron and timberlands.
Elected as a Republican member of the state senate from Cattaraugus and Chautauqua Cos in 1893, he held the position until 1902, when he was elected lieutenant governor under Benjamin B. Odell Jr. In 1904 Higgins received the nomination for governor, and with the support of Pres Theodore Roosevelt he defeated his Democratic opponent. Higgins supported small government and lower taxes, and there was a state treasury surplus of $11 million when he left office. His administration was marred, however, by massive gas and insurance scandals that revealed the corrupt relationship between corporate business interests and the Republican Party. Higgins supported a progressive revision of the state insurance laws but was unable to successfully maneuver among Republican power brokers Odell, Roosevelt, and Thomas C. Platt in the complicated world of New York State politics. He declined to run for a second term and suffered a fatal heart attack six weeks after leaving office.
McCormick, Richard. From Realignment to Reform: Political Change in New York State, 1893–1910 (Ithaca: Cornell Univ Press, 1981)
Public Papers of Frank W. Higgins, Governor (Albany: J. B. Lyon, 1906–7)
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 714].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.