Gen. William F. Draper
Congress and head of the manufacturing concern of George Draper & Sons, was born in Lowell, Mass.,
April 9, 1842.
Commencing in the early part of the seventeenth century, in England, Mr. Draper comes from a long line of
successful textile manufacturers. Thomas Draper was a well-known manufacturer and fuller of cloth in
England in 1630. The business was transferred to America in the person of his son James, who carried on
the same trade as his father as early as 1650. the parents of W.F. Draper were George and Hannah
Thwing Draper. George Draper was a remarkable man for strength of character, energy and intellect, and
left a record of usefulness excelled by few of his contemporaries. One of his ancestors, Major Abijah
Draper, of Dedham, fought in the Revolutionary War.
The early education of young Draper was intended to fit him for a college course, but his father, being a
practical man and desiring that his son should become intimately acquainted with all the processes of
manufacturing, this was interspersed with various periods of labor in machine shops and cotton mills, and
three years before the war were entirely given to practical study of the manufacture and operation of cotton
The call to arms for the defense of the Union in the spring of 1861 put an end to all thought of further
schooling. On the 9th of August he enlisted in a local volunteer company that his father was instrumental in
raising. This latter became Company B of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts Regiment, and William F. Draper
was chosen second lieutenant, although then but a little over nineteen years old.
His war experience extended over nearly four years of active campaigning. In the Burnside Expedition he
became signal officer on the general's staff. While in this position he went through the battles of Roanoke
Island, Newbern and Fort Macon, after which he was promoted to first lieutenant and returned to his
regiment. In August 1862, he was commissioned captain in the Thirty-sixth Massachusetts, and joined his
regiment just after the battle of South Mountain, Maryland. With the Thirty-sixth he went through the rest of
the Antietam Campaign and battle of Fredericksburg, and was then, with the corps, sent to Newport News.
In June 1863, he went to join Grant's army at Vicksburg, taking part in the capture, and subsequently in the
march to Jackson and the fighting in that locality. His regiment was reduced by battles and sickness from
650 in June to 198 in September. During this campaign he was promoted major of the regiment. In August
1863, he returned to Kentucky, and marched through Cumberland Gap into East Tennessee. Here his
regiment stayed through the winter, engaging in the siege of Knoxville and battles of Blue Spring,
Campbell's Station and Strawberry Plains, Major Draper commanding after the 10th of October, Colonel
Goodell having been wounded. In the spring of 1864, his corps was moved to Annapolis, partially recruited,
and then joined the Army of the Potomic. In the Battle of the Wilderness, on the 6th of May, while leading his
regiment he was shot through the body, and fell on a rifle pit just being captured by his men. After having
been left on the field as hopelessly wounded, and being captured by the rebels, he was recaptured by his
men. He was commissioned lieutenant-colonel from this date, as his regiment was too small, from loss is
the severe fighting, to muster a full colonel.
After partially recovering from his wound, he joined his regiment during the siege of Petersburg, and took
command of a brigade at the Weldon Railroad engagement. A month later, at Poplar Grove Church and
Pegram Farm, his division was severely engaged and cut off from its corps. His regiment was the only one
of the brigade that came out as an organization, and they brought back the colors of several others. He was
again wounded in the shoulder by a nearly spent ball. On the 12th of October his service expired, and he
accepted a discharge, as his wounds were troublesome. He was brevetted colonel and brigadier general
for "gallant service during the war." Both his regiments were "fighting regiments." The Twenty-fifth
Massachusetts losing seventy percent of their number, killed or wounded, in one engagement (Cold
Harbor), a record broken by but three others in the whole army, while the Thirty-sixth Massachusetts, in the
campaign beginning with the Wilderness, had every field and line officer, except one, killed or wounded,
and three-fourths of the enlisted men.
After more than three years' service in the defense of his country, General Draper accepted employment
from the firm of E.D. & G. Draper, manufacturers of cotton machinery, at Hopedale, Mass. Both members of
the concern were lineal descendants of the original James Draper, who founded a textile business in
1650. In such a sketch, the historical story of the connecting links between the past and the present are
always of interest. The actual dates and the varied changes in the firm have been as follows: 1816, Ira
Draper, inventor and maker of revolving temples and looms; 1825, James, son of Ira, continued in the
same business as his father; 1838, E.D. Draper, brother of James, manufacturer of temples; 1852, E.D.
and George Draper, the latter also a brother of James, manufacturer of temples, let-off motions, and other
improvements; 1868, William F. Draper, the son of George, bought out the interest of his uncle, E.D.
Draper, and the firm of George Draper & Son came into existence. They continued the business, at this
time greatly enlarged, of improved cotton machinery. In 1877, G.A. Draper, the second son of George
Draper, was admitted and the name was changed to George Draper & Sons, and three years later E. S.
Draper, the third son, became a member of the firm. In 1887, George Draper died, and W.F. Draper, Jr., the
eldest son of W.F. Draper, was admitted to the firm, the name remaining unchanged. In 1889, George Otis
Draper, the second son of W.F. Draper, was admitted a member.
By successive steps, General Draper grew in business reputation, and since his father's death, in 1887,
he has been the head and controlling spirit of the firm of George Draper & sons. The story of the many
improvements this concern has introduced to the manufacturers of America, would make an interesting
volume in itself. It is too long to be inserted here.
Besides the head of the firm which bears his father's name, General Draper has been directly connected
with many other large manufacturing concerns, to which he has contributed no small share of the success
attained. At this time he is president of the Milford & Woonsocket Railroad, Hopkinton Railroad, Hopedale
Machine Screw Company, and the Dutcher Temple Company. His is a director of the Milford National Bank,
Barnaby Manufacturing Company (Fall River), Grinnell Manufacturing Company (New Bedford), Henderson
Cotton Mills (Kentucky), Glasgo Yarn Mills (Norwich, Conn.), Glasgo Thread Company (Worcester), Milford
Water Company, Milford Electric Light Company, Milford Shoe Factory, Sawyer Spindle Company (Boston),
American Mutual Liability Insurance Company (Boston), Merchants & Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance
Company (Worcester), Boston Manufacturers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company, and the Berkshire
Manufacturing Company (Adams, Mass.).
The mechanical and inventive talent shown in the last two and a half centuries of his family, finds full
expression in General Draper. He has personally patented more than fifty different inventions, most of them
of great value to manufacturers, These inventions have covered substantially the entire field of cotton
machinery, but have had special reference to spinning and weaving. Under General Draper's auspices and
by his own inventions and those of others controlled by him, the speed of spindles has been doubled, and
the cost of spinning cotton yarns been divided by two. These inventions have not only been thoroughly
introduced in America, but largely in other parts of the world. The savings to the people of America in the
cost of machinery alone, has not been less that fifty millions of dollars, while savings in labor, power, and
incidentals resulting, are probably as much more.
During the last few years General Draper has been giving attention to the improvement of weaving,
employing as skilled inventors, Mr. James H. Northrop and Mr. Charles F. Roper and others, and adding
the results of his own thought and study. His intention is to halve the cost of weaving, as he and his
associates have already halved the cost of spinning; and great progress has been made in that direction.
The machine may be said to be perfected for many lines of goods to-day, but its perfection for all lines is
the final mechanical task that General Draper has assigned himself.
In conducting a business having such extensive ramifications as that of which he is head, patent suits,
both defensive and offensive, are the natural consequence. In this portion of the management of the
business. General Draper has shown a marked legal instinct which has been of invaluable assistance in
securing the success of his causes. Mechanically considered, he is admitted to be the first expert in this
country on spinning machinery. His early training under his father and his long experience easily secure for
him this position. On this subject and on other mechanical appliances with which the firm has been
identified, he has written numerous articles, standard in their character.
His life has been so thoroughly bound up in the successful management of interests committed to his
case that up to 1892 General Draper had never held an elective office, except that of member on the town
School Committee. He served as a member of Governor John D. Long's staff during the three years that
gentleman filled the gubernatorial chair. General Draper was a prominent delegate to the National
Republican Convention which nominated President Hayes, and was one of the electors-at-large who voted
for President Harrison. In 1888 he received a handsome vote in the Republican State Convention as a
candidate for governor, and in 1889 he declined a nomination for that office which was practically assured.
As there seemed to be a demand in the Massachusetts delegation for practical businessmen in 1892, on
account of the tariff question, he allowed himself to be nominated for Congress from the Eleventh
Massachusetts District. His Congressional service fully justified the kindly words of Senator Lodge, who
said: "Coming down a step further on the ticket, we come to the Republican candidate for Congress in this
district. I have the pleasure to be the friend of General Draper. (Applause.) And I know that he would do the
honor to any district that he is called upon to represent. His military record is one of the best
Massachusetts can show, and to that he joins an honorable career in civil life. *** A man of unblemished
honor, and great force of character, he has shown himself in this campaign to be not only a successful
business man, capable of conducting large enterprises, but a writer and a speaker of great ability and
force. He is in all ways worthy of the votes of Massachusetts citizens. *** Such a career as General
Draper's is a fair example of what is best in American life, - ready for all sacrifices when the need of the
country is most bitter, and ready for the performance of all duties of peace when the people demand them.
And so I say that he, too, is an honor to the ticket, and richly deserves the cordial support of this district."
His work in this new field was so satisfactory to his constituents that in 1894 he was re-elected by one of
the largest majorities ever given a congressional candidate in this state. All who are in any way connected
with textile and machinery interests are thoroughly familiar with the value of his work in the halls of
Congress. He was ever looked upon as a bulwark of defense against the attack of enemies of these
interests, and the manner in which he fought their battles is gratefully remembered by the trades.
Service in Congress is very largely affected by the committee positions a member holds. While General
Draper, from his practical knowledge, deserved a membership on the Ways and Means Committee, which
deals with tariffs and other great business questions, and while as a matter of fact he has had marked
influence in regard to such questions, his special assignments were, for both terms, on the committees on
Foreign Affairs and Patents. The second term he has been chairman of the Committee on Patents, and
second in rank on the committee on Foreign Affairs, and acting chairman part of the time, owing to the
illness and necessary absence of the distinguished chairman, Mr. Hitt, of Illinois.
The Chinese exclusion bill, on which General Draper made a speech urging moderate action, and the
Hawaiian question, were the principal ones in the 53rd Congress. General Draper's Hawaiian speech has
been many times reprinted, and was adopted as a part of the Senate report, and no consideration of the
Hawaiian question will be complete without it. During his second term the Venezuelan question, the
censure of Bayard, and various questions regarding Cuba, have been before the committee.
General Draper's position has been conservative throughout. He was the only Republican member of the
committee, and one of a half-dozen in the House, to oppose the resolutions which censured Ambassador
Bayard, and his speech explaining his position was widely copied and favorably commented on by
conservatives of both political parties. On Cuban questions he has taken the position that, whatever our
sympathies, we must be guided and governed by the rules of international law: and his views, which have
appeared in many speeches and interviews, while at first those of a small minority, have been recognized
by a constantly increasing number, both of members of the House and of the American people as sound.
The Patent Committee under his auspices has done more important work than has been accomplished
in this direction in the United States for a quarter of a century. A revision of the patent laws, important in
character, was prepared by the National Bar Association, and with some amendments was carried through
under General Draper's direction, in the House, and Senator O.H. Platt's in the Senate, and became law on
the last day of the session. The bill was signed by President Cleveland on the morning of the 4th of March,
1897. Besides this he was successful in passing a bill affecting dramatic copyright, which is considered of
the greatest value by our dramatic authors and the profession generally; and further bills regarding
injunctions and the price of copies of patents. While not given to addressing the House on subjects
outside of thse where his life experience or his committee work give him special knowledge, he has been
counted one of the most influential members.
In economic circles, General Draper is recognized as a hard student and a practical thinker. The protective
tariff has been his especial field for research, and he has personally investigated at great length economic
conditions, both in Europe and this country. His pamphlet and magazine articles on the tariff have been
widely read and discussed, He has served as president of the Home Market Club, founded by his father,
which is the strongest and most influential protective organization in New England, and second nationally
only to the American Protective Tariff League. He is also a member and officer of the Arkwright Club.
Socially, the General is well known from a large acquaintance, both at home and abroad. He is a member
of the Loyal Legion and the Grand Army, is a Knight Templar, member of the Sons of the Revolution,
Society of Colonial Wars, Union and Algonquin Clubs of Boston, the Hope Club of Providence, and many
General Draper was the permanent chairman of the Republican State Convention held in Music Hall,
October 1896. His address on that occasion was most favorably received at the time, was highly
complimented by the press and State, and was used as a campaign document by the Republican National
Committee. But there were still higher honors in store for his acceptance. On April 1st, 1897, General
Draper was nominated by President McKinley as ambassador to Italy, and a few days later this nomination
was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He is now filling this responsible position with great
acceptability, being in every way fitted to meet the requirements of his office.
General Draper was married in September 1862 to Miss Lydia Joy, adopted daughter of Hon. David Joy, of
Nantucket, Mass. The marriage took place during a four days' visit to Massachusetts, by reason of
promotion from one regiment to another; and the wedding trip was a journey alone to the front to join his
new regiment. Five children were the result of this marriage, all of whom are now living. William F., Jr., and
George Otis are associated with their father in business.
Mrs. Draper died in 1884; and six years later General Draper married again, this time Miss Susan
Preston, daughter of General William Preston of Kentucky, an officer in the Mexican War, a minister to
Spain under President Buchanan, and a Major-General in the Confederate army. This is perhaps the only
case on record where a general in the Union army married the daughter of a general in the Confederate
army. Representative Men of Massachusetts, 1890 - 1900. Published by Massachusetts Publishing Co.,
The Missing Statue The Statue in Milford
Draper Family Feud - Account by Gov. Eben S. Draper
Now and Then - Draper Mansion/High School Draper Menu HOME
Hopedale Junior-Senior High School occupies the site. It opened in 1927
under the name, General Draper High School. Click on the picture to go to
Now and Then at Draper Mansion/General Draper High School.
1920s, what is now an area of high-rise office buildings was once the most socially important
residential neighborhood of the city. Oversized mansions and spacious lawns lined K Street in the 19th
century. Three of these were built at 1701 to 1705 K Street facing Farragut Square that were designed in
1873 by Adolph Cluss, who would occupy the center townhouse himself; the elaborate Second Empire
corner mansion was built for Alexander “Boss” Shepherd, but purchased later by two very socially
Much has been written and attributed to Governor Alexander R. Shepherd (1835-1902), who made a
fortune in real estate speculation in the city following the Civil War. He became infamous during his
tenure as the head of the Board of Public Works, beginning in 1871, directing $30 million in contracts to
close acquaintances before becoming Governor of the District. However, the depression of 1873 and
corruption charges by Congress led to his removal from office in 1874, followed by personal bankruptcy.
With the mansion being just a year old, it languished in the court system until 1876 when the owner of a
$45,000 private mortgage note on the house, George Seckel Pepper (1808-1890) of Philadelphia,
petitioned to obtain title to the house. The Shepherd legacy reappeared, however, when it was
discovered that his note only covered the front portion of the house, and excluded a 29-foot extension of
the house that featured a picture gallery. The court also discovered that Shepherd had also obtained a
$35,000 mortgage from Mary J. Gray for the same property.
The legal situation took almost two decades to resolve, during which time the house was leased to the
Russian Legation and as a residence for its Minister by Pepper and the court trustees. Pepper
eventually gained title to the house, but not until 1890 – the year he died. He was a philanthropist and
lawyer who had graduated from the College of New Jersey in 1827. He had been left a large estate by
his father and devoted himself to its management and to philanthropic work focusing primarily on the
financial concerns of Philadelphia. He also served as the president of that city’s Academy of Music and
of the Academy of Fine Arts, and upon his death, bequeathed half of his $2 million estate to the
University of Pennsylvania, the Free Library, and the Academy of Art.
Following Pepper’s death in 1890, the corner mansion was sold to General William F. Draper (1842-
1910), the same year he married his second wife, the former Susan Preston. Draper was a well-known
Union General during the Civil War; Susan was the daughter of William Preston of Kentucky, a Major
General in the Confederate Army. This is perhaps the only case on record of a General of the Union
Army marrying a daughter of a General of the Confederate Army. To tie the families even closer, Susan’s
sister Jessie married William’s brother, George Albert Draper.
William’s first wife was Lydia D. Warren Joy Draper, whom he married in September of 1862 and had
five children: William Franklin Draper Jr., George Otis Draper, Edith Draper, Arthur Joy Draper, and Clare
Hill Draper. Lydia died in 1884.
Draper spent four years during the Civil War in a remarkable career that eluded both serious injury and
death. In the Burnside Expedition he became signal officer on the General’s staff, engaging in the
battles of Roanoke Island, New Berne, and Fort Macon when he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and
returned to his regiment. In August of 1862 he was commissioned Captain in the 36th Massachusetts
and went through the rest of the Antietam campaign and battle of Fredericksburg, and was then sent to
Newport News. In June, 1863, he joined Grant’s army at Vicksburg, taking part in the capture, and
subsequently in the march to Jackson and the fighting in that locality. His regiment was reduced, from
fighting and sickness, from 650 in June to 198 in September.
The war over, he then engaged in the manufacture of cotton machinery, forming a company with his
father called George Draper & Sons. A mechanical expert, he received a record 50 patents on various
implements and machinery that earned him a fortune.
He served as Colonel on the staff of Governor John Davis Long of Massachusetts from 1880 to 1883,
and then was elected as a Republican to the 53rd and 54th Congresses, serving from March 4, 1893 to
March 3, 1897. He was also served as Ambassador and Minister Plenipotentiary to Italy between 1897
and 1899. His daughter Margaret from his second marriage met and married Prince Andrea
Boncompagni-Ludovisi-Rondinell-Vitelli of Italy in a lavish ceremony at the K Street house in 1916.
William Draper, unfortunately, did not live to see his daughter marry, having died six years previously, on
January 28, 1910. He was interred in Hopedale, Massachusetts, where he maintained a summer
house. The K Street houses were all converted to office uses in the 1920s, and were razed in 1952 for
the construction of the present day office building. From the Washington, D.C. paper, The InTowner,
April 11th, 2010.
There are a couple of things to wonder about in this article. One is the mention of Oliver
Harold Lane Draper. A mistake, I'd say. O. H. Lane was the general's secretary, but I
haven't seen anyone named Oliver Harold Lane Draper anywhere else. The other thing is
the absence of mention the general's other son, Arthur. The general's first son, William
Franklin Draper, died in Paris in March 1910. Since he was still living at the time the article
above was published, it leaves the question of why his name doesn't appear there.
|Scenes from the Past...
A Short History of the Corner of Connecticut and K: 1871 to the Present
(General Draper's Washington, D.C. Home)