Franklin Edson, Mayor of New York

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Franklin Edson

Birthplace: Chester, Windsor, Vermont, United States
Death: Died in New York, New York, NY, USA
Place of Burial: Albany, NY, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Ophir Edson and Sophia Edson
Husband of Frances "Fanny" Cameron Edson
Father of Cyrus M. Edson, MD; Franklin Edson, Jr.; David Orr Edson, MD; Henry Townsend Edson; Edith Edson and 2 others
Brother of Othniel W. Edson and Cyrus Edson

Occupation: grain commission merchant, Mayor of New York 1883-1884
Managed by: Douglas Arthur Kellner
Last Updated:

About Franklin Edson, Mayor of New York

Franklin Edson (April 5, 1832 – September 24, 1904) was the Mayor of New York from 1883 to 1884.

Edson was a grain commission merchant, first in Albany, and then in New York City. He became a business leader and the president of the New York Produce Exchange. He was an Episcopalian and a member of Saint James Church Fordham, in what is now the Bronx.

As mayor, he appointed the commission responsible for the selection and location of public lands for parks in the Bronx, which came to include Van Cortlandt, Bronx, Pelham Bay, Crotona, Claremont and St. Mary's Parks, and the Mosholu, Bronx and Pelham, and Crotona Parkways. He was present at the opening of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge on May 24, 1883.[1]

He died at his home in Manhattan, and was buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.

An article about Franklin Edson Oct 2006

says that, “When 20 years old, he went to work in his brother Cyrus’s whiskey distillery in Albany, New York, and then became trustee of his brother’s estate.” According to Franklin Edson’s obituary in the NY Times, September 25, 1904. Cyrus died when Franklin was 24 years old.

“In 1859, he [Franklin Edson] founded a grain and produce business called Edson, Orr, & Chamberlain, and his business skills led to the accumulation of considerable wealth during the Civil War years. In 1866, he moved the firm to New York City, and the next year assumed sole proprietorship under its new name of Franklin Edson & Co. He served as president of the New York Produce Exchange, the city’s commodities market, in 1866, 1873, and 1874, during which he imposed regulations for grading the value of the grains.

Within two weeks after Franklin Edson became mayor in January 1883, Harper’s Weekly complained that his appointments revealed, “that the Mayor had shown himself to be the mere agent of those who bargained for his nomination.” That the new mayor was only a tool of John Kelly and Tammany Hall was “a foregone conclusion,” the journal argued, given Edson’s political inexperience and the current charter under which the city government operated, which gave little independent authority to the mayor.

However, in its March 3 issue, Harper’s Weekly was pleasantly surprised to report that Mayor Edson had proposed a new charter for the city government that was ‘the best charter which has been suggested for the actual situation in the city.’ It earned the paper’s praise by defining and concentrating power in the officer of the mayor, allowing him to appoint department heads and remove them under certain circumstances. In May, Edson further pleased the national newspaper by urging that construction of the Croton Aqueduct not degenerate into a pork-barrel project. A couple of weeks later, the publication reported that Edson, ‘as an intelligent and self-respecting man,’ had broken with Tammany Hall, as had the Democratic governor, Grover Cleveland.

In September, Harper’s Weekly was heartened by Mayor Edson’s endorsement of civil service reform in city government. In the December 1 issue, the Mayor is quoted praising the application of the merit rules of civil service reform to the New York State government, and promising to adapt the reform rules to the city’s government in the new year. In September 1884, the journal congratulated Edson on his appointment of talented reformers to the city’s civil service commission. ‘The cordial cooperation of Mayor Edson in this good work, like that of Governor Cleveland, has been of signal service to a reform which is absolutely non-partisan, and which has been effectively supported by men of all parties.’

Well, not by everyone. Tammany Hall, of course, was furious over Edson’s support of reforms that threatened to undermine its power. The divisions in New York City’s Democratic Party, which Kelly had temporarily united in 1882, severed completely in 1884. William R. Grace, a former Democratic mayor, was elected mayor as an independent backed by anti-Tammany Hall Democrats, defeating the Tammany Hall and Republican candidates. Edson thereafter retired from politics, returning to business and charitable pursuits. He died on September 24, 1904, at his home in Manhattan, and was buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York.


[The following is from a biographical article about Franklin Edson on page 571 of an unidentified publication. Since it ends with a list of Franlin Edson's children, perhaps this is on of the genealogical histories of the Edson family.]

"... and president of the Young Men's Christian Association. In 1866 he entered the produce and commission trade in New York City, in the partnership of Edson, Orr and Chamberlain. Three years later this was dissolved, and the Franklin Edson and Company was formed, with his nephew, Starks Edson, (#185-80), as his partner, until succeeded by his son, Franklin Edson, Jr., in 1890. In that year he became president of the Genesee Fruit Co. He ws president of the New York Produce Exchange, in 1873, 1874, and 1878. He was active in finally bringing about the abolition of the tolls on the State canals. He was an anti-Tammany Democrat, and in 1882 was elected as the first reform Mayor of New York City, on a coalition ticket. For further details, see his write-up in The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. he was also listed in 'Who's Who in America.' " [There's a list of his children.]


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Franklin Edson, Mayor of New York's Timeline

April 5, 1832
Chester, Windsor, Vermont, United States
September 8, 1857
Age 25
Albany, NY, USA
September 20, 1859
Age 27
Albany, NY, USA
February 17, 1862
Age 29
Albany, NY, USA
August 13, 1864
Age 32
Albany, New York, USA
October 17, 1870
Age 38
New York, NY, USA
February 5, 1873
Age 40
August 29, 1877
Age 45
September 24, 1909
Age 77
New York, New York, NY, USA