John T. Towers

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John T. Towers

John Thomas Towers (1811–1857) was Superintendent of printing at the U.S. Capitol and Mayor of Washington City, District of Columbia, from 1854 to 1856.

Towers was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1811 to parents who had recently arrived in Virginia from Bingham, England. He was trained as a printer, joined the Columbia Typographical Society in 1834, and maintained several book and printing shops in Washington until 1852 when President Millard Fillmore appointed him superintendent of printing at the U.S. Capitol. (The position was the forerunner of the modern Government Printing Office.)[1]

Towers became involved in politics in the 1830s, publishing a journal called the Whig Standard. He was subsequently elected to the Common Council in 1842, where he served for four years until election to the Board of Aldermen in 1846.[2]

With the collapse of the Whig Party in 1852, Towers joined the Know-Nothing movement, the political party defined by its opposition to rights for immigrants and Roman Catholics. Banking on his strength as a member of city government and his reputation as a printer, the Know-Nothings put Towers up for mayor against incumbent John Walker Maury in 1854. The Know Nothings peaked all across America that year, electing mayors in most of its most important cities; Towers was no exception, sweeping into office.

Towers' accomplishment was largely limited to developing plans for an infirmary and workhouse on the Marine reservation in Southeast Washington.[3] At the time, the city was steadily growing from a small rural village to a busy metropolis, but Towers and his fellow government officials were unused to the changes and were not sure how to govern the changing city. He continually, but without success, petitioned Congress to fund and provide for the nation's capital.

Towers did not seek reelection in 1856. He died one year after leaving office and was interred in Congressional Cemetery.


  1. ^
  2. ^ ibid.
  3. ^ Historic Congressional Cemetery - D.C. Schools
Political offices
Preceded by
John Walker Maury
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by
William B. Magruder