Bio of William Widgery Thomas Jr.
A Collection of Biographical Sketches.
Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase
Portland, ME.
The Lakeside Press, Publisher

MR. THOMAS comes of an old Portland family, in fact the oldest, for be is a descendant, in the ninth generation, of George Cleeve, the first white settler of the city, and governor of the ancient Province of Ligonia.

He was born in Portland in 1839, received his earlier education in the public schools of the city, entered Bowdoin College in 1856, and graduated with the highest honors in 1860.

He at once commenced reading law, but in the Spring of 1862 left his studies and, as U. S. Bearer of Despatches, carried a treaty to Turkey. Here he became Vice Consul General at Constantinople, then Acting Consul at Galatz, in the Principality of Moldavia, and before the close of the year was appointed by President Lincoln one of the thirty "war Consuls" of the United States, and sent to Gothenburg, Sweden. For his services as Consul he received from Secretary William H. Seward "the special thanks of the Department of State."

Mr. Thomas returned to America in 1865, was admitted to the Bar in 1866, and at once won distinction as an advocate. In 1870, as Commissioner of Immigration for Maine, he visited Sweden, recruited a colony of fifty-one Swedes, sailed with them over the ocean, led them up the St. John River in flat boats, and founded the prosperous settlement of New Sweden in our northern forests. One result of this colony has been to attract an important portion of the Swedish immigration into Maine and the other New England States.

The city of Portland elected Mr. Thomas a member of the Legislatures of 1873, 1874, and 1875. In the first session he made his mark as an able and courageous debater, and in the two latter sessions he presided over the House as Speaker. He was also Senator from Cumberland County in 1879, but declined a renomination. On July 4, 1883, he delivered the oration at the quarto-Millennial celebration of the founding of Portland by his own ancestor, Cleeve; and immediately thereafter sailed to Stockholm as Minister Resident to Sweden and Norway, which post he filled until the close of President Arthur's administration in 1885. Here he was the first Minister to address the King in his own language; the first to hoist the American flag, and the first to successfully assist in starting a line of direct steamships between Sweden and the United States.

In 1887 he again visited Sweden and married Dagmar Tornebladt, a Swedish noble lady. The year after he was orator at the great Swedish celebration at Minneapolis in commemoration of the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the first Swedish settlement in Anierica-New Sweden on the Delaware founded by Gustavus Adoiphus. In 1889 Mr. Thomas was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenepotentiary to Sweden and Norway by President Harrison, and the Minister and his young Swedish wife were welcomed back to the Northland with distinguished honors by both King and people. During his second term, which still continues, he has helped secure the appointment of a Swedish jurist as Chief Justice of Samoa under the Treaty of Berlin, and a Norwegian statesman as member of the Tribunal of Arbitration between the United States and Great Britain on the question of the fur seal fisheries in Behring Sea. On September 14, 1890, on the deck of the American man-of-war, "Baltimore," lying in the harbor of Stockholm, he delivered, in an eloquent address, the honored ashes of the great Swedish-American, John Ericsson, to the King and people of Sweden.

The Minister's earnest offorts to secure a freer market for American products have been crowned with signal success, the Swedish Riksdag having in 1892 voted to reduce the duties on both grain and pork by one-half.

Mr. Thomas is an attractive public speaker, and from the stump or lecture platform has addressed large audiences in nearly all the Northern States He is also widely known as an entertaining writer. He published, in 1869, a translation of an historical novel, "The Last Athenian," from the Swedish of Victor Rydberg; and he has at intervals written many spirited articles for Harper's Monthly, The Cosmopolitian, and other magazines and periodicals. His greatest literary work, however, is "Sweden and the Swedes," a richly illustrated volume of seven hundred and fifty pages, published in 1892 in both America and Sweden, and in both the English and Swedish languages. This work has met with a flattering reception and large sale on both sides the Atlantic, and is characterized by the Swedish press as "the most correct and at the same time the most genial description of Sweden and its people ever published in any language."

Though but of middle age, Mr. Thomas has filled a life of many-sided activity. He has been lawyer, legislator, founder of a community, consul, diplomat, orator, and author, and in all he has been a success.

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