Biography of Gov. Charles Warren Lippitt

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One of the families which has long held an important place in public life is that of Lippitt, of whom one of the recent representatives was Governor Charles Warren Lippitt of Providence. He was a native and life-long resident of this city, as well as a descendant of an old and honored family, and, like his father before him, served in the chief executive office of the State Government. His election to the governorship came in 1895, just twenty years after his father, Henry Lippitt, had held the same office; and again in 1896, he was chosen to this position. Such achievements were indicative of his general experience in public life, while he was also a leader in business affairs and in other types of activity in Rhode Island. A man of kindly and generous spirit in his personal life, he was always keenly interested in supporting those projects which would further the best interests of his city and State, so that the place he held in Rhode Island life was an outstanding one. His life was a long one, having extended to the ripe old age of seventy-eight, and his death removed from Providence and from this Commonwealth one of the leading citizens of his place and day.

Governor Lippitt was a lineal descendant in the eighth generation from John Lippitt, a town lot owner in Providence, in 1638, and in the ninth generation from Roger Williams, the founder of the State of Rhode Island. He was also descended in the seventh generation from John Cushing, judge of the Superior Court of Judicature of Massachusetts, in the period from 1728 to 1 737 -Another ancestor from whom he was descended in the tenth generation was Samuel Gorton, the founder of Warwick, Rhode Island. Governor Lippitt’s own parents were Henry and Mary A. (Balch) Lippitt, highly respected citizens of Providence, the city where Governor Charles Warren Lippitt was born, on October 8, 1846.

Charles Warren Lippitt received his early education in private schools and was prepared for college at the University Grammar School of Providence. In his very early life he was subject to much sickness, but after a time his unusually strong constitution asserted itself and brought him health and strength, so that by the time he reached college, he excelled in swimming and rowing. He was a member of the college crew, having become a student at Brown University, Providence, in the class of 1865. At one time he served as captain of the crew and acquitted himself with honor in that position. In 1865, Mr. Lippitt traveled to the Rocky Mountains with Professor Samuel P. Hill, whom he assisted in a number of important mining investigations. After his graduation from Brown in the class of 1865, Mr. Lippitt spent several months of 1866 in traveling through England, Wales and France, and once more, in 1868, passing a greater part of the year in Europe. In 1869, he commenced in his business activities in his father’s offices in connection with the Social Manufacturing Company, and the Lippitt Woolen Company, and later with the Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing Company, of which company he was treasurer until the business was sold to the United States Finishing Company. In 1891, he was elected a director of the Rhode Island National Bank of Providence, of which he was made, in 1895, vice-president, and, in 1896, president. In 1901, this institution was merged with others to form the United National Bank, whereupon Mr. Lippitt was elected the vice-president of the new corporation.

At an early period, Mr. Lippitt’s interests became diversified. In 1875, he was elected president of the Franklin Lyceum, an organization composed chiefly of young lawyers and politicians which exerted an unusual influence upon the leading junior citizens of Providence. Mr. Lippitt’s success in this connection was outstanding, especially because of his forensic and parliamentary ability which counted for much in lyceum work. Mr. Lippitt thoroughly enjoyed the broad opportunity of this organization, and was reelected its president in 1876. His record in that office showed that on every appeal his parliamentary rulings had been sustained by the lyceum. His work with the Board of Trade was also important to the city of Providence; for, from 1875 to 1877, Mr. Lippitt was annually elected a member of the council of this organization. In 1878, he was elected first vice-president of the board, and in 1880, was again elected to this position. In 1880, he was also chosen a delegate to the National Board of Trade, which was then meeting in Washington, District of Columbia, where he was chosen vice-president of that organization. In 1881, he was unanimously elected president of the Providence Board of Trade, and in 1882, was reelected to the same office. In 1875, 1876, 1877, during the terms of his father, Henry Lippitt, in the governorship of Rhode Island, he served as colonel-in-chief of the personal staff of the governor.

In 1881, he was appointed by Mayor Hayward as a member of the Railroad Terminal Facilities Commission of Providence, and in that connection brought about a number of important changes which vitally concerned the welfare of the city and State. From 1878 to 1884, Mr. Lippitt served for three years as secretary, for two years as vice-president, and for one year as president of the Providence Commercial Club. In 1897, he was elected president of the Brown University Alumni Association of Providence. In 1902, he was elected colonel of Providence Marine Corps of the Artillery Veterans Association, and was also chosen honorary vice-president of the Navy League of the United States.

Interested from an early day in political affairs, Mr. Lippitt was aligned with the Republican party. He served for several years as secretary of the National Republican City Committee, and in 1880, was elected president of the Garfield and Arthur Republican Club of Providence. It was in the following year, 1895, that he was honored by his fellow-citizens by election to the office of Governor, in which his father had served so well twenty years before. After his reelection to the governorship in 1896, he held a still more outstanding position in party circles, having won the second election by the largest plurality ever given a Governor of Rhode Island. He was active in national politics, having taken part in the first McKinley campaign in 1896, when he was nominated for vice-president at the St. Louis Convention of his party by the Rhode Island delegation, whose unanimous support he received.

Governor Lippitt was always prominently identified with manufacturing interests of his State, where he was widely known and had many friends, and he was also extensively active in numerous social and civic bodies. He was an organizer of the Providence Commercial Club of which he served successively as secretary, vice-president, and president. He was also a member of the Hope Club, the University Club, the Squantum Association, the Newport Yacht Racing Association of Newport, the University Club of New York City, the New York Athletic Club, and the New York Yacht Club. He also held membership in the Rhode Island Historical Society of Providence, and Newport Reading Room of Newport, as well as in the Order of Cincinnati, of which he was vice-president, the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Society of Colonial Wars and other patriotic organizations. His ancestry dated back to Revolutionary days, many of his ancestors having been prominently connected with the fight of the colonies for freedom and independence.

Governor Charles Warren Lippitt married, in 1886, Margaret Barbara Farnum, daughter of the late Alexander Farnum, of Providence, Rhode Island. To this marriage were born five sons and one daughter. One of the children was Alexander Farnum Lippitt, who died of wounds received while serving in Company I, 166th infantry, 42d (Rainbow) Division, United States Army. Two other sons also served in the World War with the American Expeditionary Forces and rendered valuable services to their country. Mrs. Lippitt still makes her home in Providence. The former summer residence of the family was the beautiful place known as “The Breakwater” one of the show places of Newport, Rhode Island. This property has recently been sold by the family.

The death of Governor Lippitt occurred on April 4, 1924, and was a cause of great sorrow and regret among the people of Rhode Island, whom he had served so well in public office and in business life. Many of the achievements that were his when he was active in public affairs are still of great value to the people of this State, though they may perhaps no longer be associated with his memory. Nevertheless, those who knew him and who were familiar with his work think affectionately of Governor Lippitt, and remember him as one of the most useful and substantial citizens of this State, and also as a man who was loved and cherished for his genial and pleasant disposition and his companionable spirit.

Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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