Michigan Transportation History

Austin Blair

Public Governor Lawyer Jackson Whig Republican Free Soil Liberal RepublicanCongressmanPoliticianMichiganState Senator Person

Austin Blair was a lawyer, state legislator, governor of Michigan (1861-1865), and U.S. Representative.

Blair moved to Jackson in 1840. He was elected as a Whig to the state legislature in 1846. After an address to the legislature by Ernestine L. Rose?, Blair advocated women's suffrage.1 During the same session, Blair also submitted a report supporting statewide African American suffrage. Blair was at odds with the pro-slavery leanings of the Whig Party, and he chose not to run on their ticket for re-election in 1848, instead joining the Free Soil Party, to which he was a delegate to its national convention.

In 1853, he was elected Jackson County prosecutor, and two years later was elected to the Senate. He served as governor from 1861 through 1864. In 1867, he was elected to Congress and served three terms. In 1872, Blair broke with the Republican Party and backed the Liberal Republicans.2


1. Willis F. Dunbar and George S. May, Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State, 3rd revised ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's Publishing, 1995), Chapter 15.

2. Michael Shoemaker, "Jackson County: Historical Sketch of the City of Jackson." MPHS Collections 2 (Detroit: Wm. Graham's Presses, 1880), 329.


Being the Civil War governor and a Radical Republican U.S. Representative (who was active in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson), biographies of and references to Blair show up in every history of Michigan. Yet over the last 40+ years there has been surprisingly little original research done on Austin Blair.

Primary Sources

Austin Blair papers, 1838-1921. Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.

Austin Blair papers, 1898-1930. Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.

Secondary Sources

Portrait and Biographical Album of Ingham and Livingston Counties, Michigan, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the counties ... the governors of the state and of all the presidents of the United States. pp. 145-146. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1891.

Most of the above biography, except where noted, was sourced from this text.

Fennimore, Jean B. “Austin Blair: Political idealist, 1845-1860.” Michigan History 48 (1964):130-66.

Harris, Bob. Austin Blair of Michigan: A Political Biography. Ph.D. Diss., Michigan State University, 1969.

Messner, Vivian Thomas. The Public Life of Austin Blair: War Governor of Michigan (1863-1894). M.A. Thesis, Wayne State University, 1937.

Smith, Earl O. The Public Life of Austin Blair: War Governor of Michigan (1845-1863). M.A. Thesis, Wayne State University, 1934.


Citation: When referencing this page please use the following citation:

R. D. Jones, "Austin Blair," Michigan Transportation History (Ypsilanti, MI: 2020), www.michtranshist.info/.

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Page last modified on March 27, 2020, at 05:11 PM EST

Page last modified on March 27, 2020, at 05:11 PM EST