Joseph Roswell Hawley (1826 – 1905)

Joseph Roswell Hawley

Born in Stewartsville, North Carolina on Halloween in 1826, Joseph Roswell Hawley completed preparatory studies in Connecticut and graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1847. It was at Hamilton College that he met his lifelong friend Charles Dudley Warner. Hawley studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1850 and commenced practice in Hartford. He became editor of the Hartford Evening Press in 1857. In 1860, Hawley asked his good friend to become co-editor of the Hartford Evening Press with him – a position that Warner accepted. When the Press was consolidated with The Hartford Courant in 1867, Hawley became its editor.

Hawley enlisted in the Union Army as a captain at the start of the Civil War in 1861 at which time Warner took over as editor of the Hartford Evening Post. Hawley was promoted to brigadier general in 1864 and was brevetted as a major general in 1865. He was mustered out of the army in January 1866.

Beginning in 1866, Hawley became extremely active in politics. In April of that year, Hawley was elected Governor of Connecticut and served until April 1867 at which time he was not re-elected. A few months later, he purchased The Hartford Courant newspaper, consolidated it with the Press and he and Warner once again became co-editors. Under their co-editorship, The Hartford Courant became the most influential newspaper in Connecticut and was one of the leading Republican papers in the country.

In 1868, Hawley became chairman of the Republican National Convention and represented Connecticut in the U.S. Congress from 1872 until 1875 and again in 1879 until 1881. (He lost the two elections in between.) From 1873 until 1876, he served as president of the United States Centennial Commission to organize the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. In 1875, Hawley received an honorary degree from Hamilton College and in 1888 he received another from Yale.

Hawley was a U.S. Senator from 1881 until 1905. He was recognized as one of the key Republican leaders in both the House and Senate. Joseph Roswell Hawley died in Washington, D.C. on March 17, 1905 just two weeks after stepping down from the Senate.


Battle of Olustee. Accessed at on July 15, 2010.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Accessed at on July 15, 2010.

Miller, Francis Trevelyan ed. The Connecticut Magazine, Volume VIII. “The Governors of Connecticut: Being the Fifth Series of Biographies of the Chief Executives of the State,” Frederick Calvin Norton. Hartford, CT: Connecticut Magazine Company, 1904.

Wikipedia. Joseph Roswell Hawley. Accessed at on July 29, 2010. 

Photo credits: J. R. Hawley, Library of Congress, # LC-BH832-1293.