Skip to main content

Otis, Harrison Gray, 1765-1848

 Person

The father of Harrison Gray Otis was Samuel Allyne Otis, and his mother was Elizabeth Gray, daughter of Harrison Gray, a Loyalist. Otis, who was born October 8, 1765, could remember standing at the window of his birthplace, which stood on the estate that joined the Revere House, and watching the British regulars march to Lexington.

In 1783, when but eighteen, he was first-honor man at Harvard, and had already given evidence of brilliant oratory that was to give him such a prominent place in New England. He studied law with Judge Lowell, and was admitted to the bar. Each morning at a very early hour, Benjamin Bussy, a merchant, on his way to open his store, noticed a pair of shoes posted at the window of Judge Lowell's office, and led by his curiosity to learn who could be there, discovered young Otis at study. More curious to know if young Otis studied all night, Bussy went by one morning before daylight, and there were the shoes. He went in, and again found young Otis with his feet on the sill, who told him that the early morning was his favorite time to study. So impressed was the merchant that he straightway made Otis his attorney.

In 1796 Otis succeeded Fisher Ames as Congressional representative from Suffolk County. He became one of the leaders of the Federalist party, and upon his retirement from Congress was active in local political affairs, serving as Speaker of the House, and also as president of the Senate. In December of 1814, he was one of the delegates to the much-maligned "Hartford Convention," which met for the purpose of asking the federal government to allow Massachusetts and the neighboring states to assume their own defense and to raise taxes for this purpose. He was appointed, in 1814, judge of the newly established Boston Court of Common Pleas, and served until he resigned in 1818, having been elected in 1817 to the United States Senate. He was one of the great orators of his state. His wife, Sarah, was the daughter of William Foster.

His speech, in reply to Pinckney on the Missouri Compromise, was one of the great speeches of the debate. Upon his retirement from the Senate in 1823 he ran for the governorship, for which he had in 1816 declined a nomination, but was defeated. In 1829 he was elected mayor, and held office until 1831. He died October 28, 1848.

Taken from "Boston's 45 Mayors from John Phillips to Kevin H. White," City Record, Boston, 1979.

Found in 8 Collections and/or Records:

Boston Tercentenary Committee records

 Collection
Identifier: 0200.002
Scope and Contents note This collection includes records relating to the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of Boston. Mayor James M. Curley served as the honorary chairman of the Boston Tercentenary Committee. Included in the collection is a time capsule that was created by the city government for the bicentennial celebration with instructions to be opened by the Mayor on September 17, 1930. The materials in the time capsule document the 200th anniversary celebration. Also included is a letter from...
Dates: 1829-1830, 1928-1930 (bulk, 1930)

City Council correspondence relating to the Sale of Eastern Township Land owned by City of Boston in Maine

 Series — Box: SB - 008, Folder: 1-2
Identifier: 0140.020
Scope and Contents note These materials are primarily composed of letters from Hill & Starrett to Mayor Harrison Gray Otis or Francis Jackson, Land Commissioner. They also include offers or inquiries from various persons interested in purchasing the property. Two or three copies of letters from Mayor Otis are included. A hand-drawn map of the property can be found in the City Council Docket Documents, # 1833-0074-B3.
Dates: 1829-1833

Harrison Gray Otis House, 1975 December

 Item — Box: 1
Identifier: 9800007_240
Scope and Contents note From the Collection: Collection of color slides of buildings, events and scenes in Boston donated to the City Archives by photographer Peter Dreyer. The photographs reflect various locations in and around the Boston area. Examples of subjects include the Boston Public Garden, the Massachusetts State House, the John Hancock Tower, and the Prudential Tower. There is also an extensive group of photographs of the Tall Ships when they returned to Boston in 1980 as part of the celebration for Boston's 350th anniversary.
Dates: 1975 December

Harrison Gray Otis House, 1975 December

 Item — Box: 1
Identifier: 9800007_242
Scope and Contents note From the Collection: Collection of color slides of buildings, events and scenes in Boston donated to the City Archives by photographer Peter Dreyer. The photographs reflect various locations in and around the Boston area. Examples of subjects include the Boston Public Garden, the Massachusetts State House, the John Hancock Tower, and the Prudential Tower. There is also an extensive group of photographs of the Tall Ships when they returned to Boston in 1980 as part of the celebration for Boston's 350th anniversary.
Dates: 1975 December

Harrison Gray Otis House, Mt. Vernon Street, 1975 December

 Item — Box: 1
Identifier: 9800007_241
Scope and Contents note From the Collection: Collection of color slides of buildings, events and scenes in Boston donated to the City Archives by photographer Peter Dreyer. The photographs reflect various locations in and around the Boston area. Examples of subjects include the Boston Public Garden, the Massachusetts State House, the John Hancock Tower, and the Prudential Tower. There is also an extensive group of photographs of the Tall Ships when they returned to Boston in 1980 as part of the celebration for Boston's 350th anniversary.
Dates: 1975 December

Mayor Harrison Gray Otis, 1829-1831, undated

 Item
Identifier: 5210004_015_003
Scope and Contents From the Collection: Photographs and other images collected by the Boston Landmarks Commission for reference use and for publications as well as photographs taken by the Landmarks Commission documenting their work and city neighborhoods.
Dates: undated

Mayoral addresses

 Series
Identifier: 0200.001
Scope and Contents Includes two compilation volumes of addresses from 1822-1867 and printed copies of annual and inaugural addresses of the Mayor from 1824-1980 with gaps.
Dates: 1822-1980 with gaps