John Adams Dix

24th Governor, 1873-1874
John Adams Dix

John Adams Dix (1798–1879) began his military career as a volunteer in the War of 1812, became Adjutant General of New York by 1830, and was a major general during the Civil War. He also served as New York’s Secretary of State, a United States Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and Minister to France. The oldest man to ever serve as governor, Dix’s tenure included the triumph of the completion of the International Bridge over the Niagara River and the tragedy of the financial panic of the “Long Depression,” which began in 1873.
John Adams Dix
About the Artist


William Morris Hunt (1824–1879) was raised in New England and studied with several of Europe’s leading artists, returning to America in 1855. In 1862, he moved to Boston and established his career as a portraitist. He completed a number of mural commissions, including one in the New York State Capitol.

On loan from the Albany Institute of History and Art. Permanent Deposit by the City of Albany.


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From The Encyclopedia of New York State

Dix, John Adams (b Boscawen,NH,24 July 1798; d New York City, 21 Apr 1879).

Governor, US senator, and secretary of the treasury. At 14 Dix joined the army and served in the War of 1812, rising to the rank of major. After leaving the army in 1828, he moved to Cooperstown (Otsego Co) and soon became a leading member of the Albany Regency, the powerful political faction headed by Martin Van Buren. Dix served as New York State’s secretary of state from 1833 to 1839, overseeing the creation of the New York State Geological and Natural History Survey. In 1844, after Silas Wright resigned his US Senate seat to enter New York State’s gubernatorial election, the state legislature chose Dix to replace him. A supporter of the free soil Wilmot Proviso, in 1848 Dix ran a futile campaign for governor on the Free Soil ticket and as a result lost his bid to return to the senate in 1849.

He moved to New York City in 1849 and became active in railroad finance, serving briefly as president of the Union Pacific (1862) and Erie (1872) Railroads. Unlike most New York State free soilers, he returned to the Democratic Party and served as US secretary of the treasury in the early months of 1861, earning a reputation as a staunch Unionist with his famous order to a New Orleans treasury officer to shoot anyone who tried to lower the American flag. He became a leading War Democrat and in 1861 a major general in the army. In Maryland he tried to find the middle ground, arresting secessionists but returning refugees from slavery. In August 1863 Dix played a key role in supervising the draft in New York City following the bloody riots the previous month. After the war he supported Andrew Johnson and was appointed minister to France (1866–69). In 1872, at the age of 74, he was easily elected governor of New York State but in 1874 the effects of the panic of 1873 led to his defeat for reelection by Samuel J. Tilden.


Dix, Morgan, ed. Memoirs of John Adams Dix, 2 vols
(New York: Harper & Bros, 1883) 
Lichterman, Martin. “John Adams Dix, 1798–1879”
(PhD diss, Columbia Univ, 1952) 
Jon Sterngass


Peter Eisenstadt, ed., The Encyclopedia of New York State
(Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), [p. 464-65].
© Syracuse University Press. Reproduced with permission from the publisher.