Flower, Roswell P(ettibone) (b Theresa, Jefferson Co, 7 Aug 1835; d Eastport, Suffolk Co, 12 May 1899). Governor and businessman.
Flower worked on his family’s farm during his youth and graduated from Theresa High School in 1851.
He taught for a few years before becoming the Watertown deputy postmaster (1854–60). In 1859 Flower married Sarah M.Woodruff of Watertown; the couple had three children. He ran a jewelry business until 1869, when he moved to New York City to manage the multimillion-dollar estate of his brother-in-law Henry Keep. Flower increased his own wealth through banking and investments. Active with Democratic Party committees, Flower was elected to Congress three times and served from 1881 to 1883 and 1889 to 1891. During the latter period he called for lower tariff rates and lobbied, unsuccessfully, for locating a world’s fair in New York State. Elected governor in November 1891, Flower signed the bill creating the Adirondack Park and approved laws for revision of state statutes. During the 1893 depression he provided employment by approving contracts for canal improvements, but he favored a government that exercised only limited powers.
Faced with repercussions from the depression, corruption scandals involving the Democratic Party, and declining support from the Tammany political machine, Flower did not seek reelection in 1894. He held stock in numerous corporations, including Brooklyn Rapid Transit, and his philanthropy included donations to churches in Theresa, Watertown, and New York City; to Cornell University’s veterinary school; and to construction of Manhattan’s Flower Free Surgical Hospital. The Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library in Watertown was dedicated in his honor in 1904.
McSeveney, Samuel T. The Politics of Depression: Political Behavior in the Northeast, 1893–1896 (New York: Oxford Univ Press, 1972)
Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 575-76].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.