Alvan T. Fuller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Alvan Tufts Fuller
Alvin T Fuller.png
50th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 8, 1925 – January 3, 1929
Lieutenant Frank G. Allen
Preceded by Channing H. Cox
Succeeded by Frank G. Allen
48th Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 6, 1921 – January 8, 1925
Governor Channing H. Cox
Preceded by Channing H. Cox
Succeeded by Frank G. Allen
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1917 – January 5, 1921
Preceded by Ernest W. Roberts
Succeeded by Charles L. Underhill
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Born (1878-02-27)February 27, 1878
Charlestown, Boston, Massachusetts
Died April 30, 1958(1958-04-30) (aged 80)
Boston, Massachusetts
Political party Republican
Children Peter Fuller
Profession Motor Car Dealer

Alvan Tufts Fuller (February 27, 1878 – April 30, 1958) was a businessman, politician, art collector, and philanthropist from Massachusetts. He opened one of the first automobile dealerships in Massachusetts, which in 1920 was recognized as "the world's most successful auto dealership", and made him one of the state's wealthiest men. Politically a Progressive Republican, he was elected a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1916, and served as a United States Representative from 1917 to 1921. From 1925 to 1929 he was Governor of Massachusetts, when he notably refused to commute the death sentences of Sacco and Vanzetti.

Fuller was an avid collector of art, some of which has since been donated to museums in eastern New England, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He founded the Fuller Foundation, a charity that supports a variety of causes in eastern Massachusetts and the seacoast region of New Hampshire. Fuller Gardens, founded by him in North Hampton, New Hampshire, are now open to the public.

Early years[edit]

Alvan Tufts Fuller was born in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston on February 27, 1878, to working class parents,[1] Alvan and Flora Tufts Fuller.[2] His family moved to Malden, Massachusetts when he was still a child. He first worked in a rubber factory, repairing bicycles on the side. To promote his bicycle business he raced, winning local events.[1] He also engaged in a practice, shared by other bicycle shops in the area, of holding an open house on the Washington's Birthday holiday.[3]

Automotive business empire[edit]

Enamored by the new automobile, Fuller sold his racing trophies to finance a trip to Europe in 1899, where he learned more about the automobile industry.[1] He acquired two cars (French De Dion-Bouton voiturettes),[2] and had them shipped to Boston; they were the first motor vehicles brought in through that port.[1] In 1903 he was awarded the Boston franchise for selling Packards,[4] and later also acquired the local Cadillac franchise.[1]

Fuller was enormously successful in the automobile business, extending his sales reach as far west as Worcester and south to Providence, Rhode Island. He opened his first dealership on Commonwealth Avenue in the Allston neighborhood of Boston, then a largely undeveloped area known (by sheer coincidence) as Packard's corner, after the owner of a nearby livery yard.[1] He was, however, soon followed by other auto dealers, creating the Boston area's first auto row.[5] Fuller was a significant factor in the success of Packard sales on the east coast,[4] and was in 1920 dubbed the world's most successful car dealer.[6] In 1920 he began construction on a new building at 808 Commonwealth Avenue, that housed automotive sales until 1971 (it is now owned by Boston University, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places).

As a car dealer, Fuller continued the practice of holding Washington's Birthday open houses, but the scale of events he staged was significantly more elaborate, and he is generally credited with popularizing the idea of the President's Day car sale that is now common in the United States.[3]

Political career[edit]

Fuller became interested in politics around 1912, supporting Theodore Roosevelt in his Bull Moose candidacy for the presidency. He refused the Progressive Party nomination for Governor of Massachusetts in 1912, but won election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1914 under its banner.[2] Joining the Republican Party in 1916, he served as a delegate to its convention in 1916. The same year, he ran for the United States House of Representatives as an independent, winning a 16-vote victory over longtime incumbent Republican Ernest W. Roberts.[7] He served two terms, in the Sixty-fifth and Sixty-sixth Congresses, from March 4, 1917, to January 5, 1921,[8] winning election to the second term by a wider margin as a Republican. Fuller was an outspoken proponent of reform within Congress, and as a matter of principle never cashed paychecks he received for his public service, or used the Congressional franking privilege.[7]

In 1920 Fuller ran for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, and won two terms, serving as the 48th lieutenant governor from 1921 to 1925 alongside Governor Channing Cox. His principal opposition in both elections was in the Republican primary, where he was pitted against the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Joseph E. Warner.[7] The Democrats were then relatively disorganized and lacking effective leadership, and were unable to counter the basic Republican message of "economy and sound administration" that had characterized recent elections.[9]

Fuller was elected 50th Governor in 1924 after Cox decided not run for reelection. He was reelected to a second two-year term. As he had while in Congress, he refused compensation for his services.[10]

As governor, Fuller faced a significant budget deficit that required initiatives to reduce expenditures and downsize government operations. His term as governor also coincided with the Sacco and Vanzetti case, a series of trials for murder and robbery followed by legal appeals that culminated in calls for the governor to commute the death sentences of the two Italian immigrants. Governor Fuller appointed a three-member panel of Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, MIT President Dr. Samuel W. Stratton, and retired Probate Judge Robert Grant to conduct a complete review of the case and determine if the trials were fair.[11] The committee reported that no new trial was called for and based on that assessment Governor Fuller refused to delay their executions or grant clemency. On May 10, 1927, while Fuller was considering requests for clemency, a package bomb addressed to him was intercepted in the Boston post office.[12] A few months after the executions, he endorsed proposals to reform the state's judicial procedures to require a more thorough review of capital cases.[13]

In 1928, he was an early supporter of Herbert Hoover's presidential campaign, after considering his own run for the presidency,[14] and was rumored to be a candidate for a federal government post if Hoover won.[15] possibly as ambassador to France.[16] He was also considered a possible vice presidential candidate in 1932, but his actions in the Sacco-Vanzetti affair cost him support within immigrant communities.

Later years[edit]

After leaving office, he became chairman of the board of Cadillac-Oldsmobile Co. of Boston and continued to develop his reputation as a patron of arts and music.[17]

Fuller was a superb collector of art and among those painters represented in his collection were Renoir,[18] Rembrandt, Turner, Gainsborough, Sargent, Monet, Van Dyck, Romney, Boccaccino,[19] Boucher and Reynolds. His paintings were donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Donations include: Monet's "The Water Lily Pond," Renoir's "Boating Couple," and van Dyck's "Princess Mary, Daughter of Charles I."[20]

His philanthropy was wide ranging and included art, hospitals, education, religion, municipalities and social services. He established The Fuller Foundation, Inc., during his lifetime; it supports many charitable agencies in the Greater Boston area and the Seacoast area of New Hampshire.

Fuller died in Boston on April 30, 1958.[8] He was interred in East Cemetery (also known as the Little River Cemetery) in North Hampton, New Hampshire,[21] where he had a summer home.[15]

Family and legacy[edit]

Fuller married Viola Theresa Davenport of Somerville in Paris in 1910, with whom he had four children, two boys and two girls. She had a brief career as an opera singer, performing in Paris and then debuting in Boston in 1910. She died in 1959.[22]

His youngest son, Peter Fuller, was an avid supporter of civil rights and continued the family auto business. He was the owner of Dancer's Image, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby in 1968.[23] Fuller was stripped of his winning title because a banned drug was found in the horse's urine. He and his supporters claimed he had been singled out because he had recently donated a winner's purse of $77,415 from a different race to Coretta Scott King, the widow of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been assassinated a month earlier, and who the year before had disrupted derby events by demonstrating against housing discrimination in nearby Louisville. He lost a four-year legal battle to retain the Kentucky Derby title and prize money.[24]

The automobile dealership, established by Fuller with license #1, continues to be operated within the family. Dealing in rentals and used vehicles, it has locations in Watertown and Waltham, Massachusetts.[25]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Clarke, p. 48
  2. ^ a b c Herman, p. 208
  3. ^ a b DeMarco, Peter (February 19, 2012). "On Presidents' Day, hail to the chief salesman". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  4. ^ a b Einstein, p. 32
  5. ^ Clarke, pp. 48-49
  6. ^ "About the founder". Fuller Foundation. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  7. ^ a b c Gentile, p. 540
  8. ^ a b Time: "Milestones, May 12, 1958", accessed July 24, 2010
  9. ^ Huthmacher, p. 49
  10. ^ New York Times: "Fuller Explains Refusal of Salary, September 20, 1926, accessed July 24, 2010
  11. ^ New York Times: "Appoints Advisers for Sacco Inquiry," June 2, 1927, accessed January 6, 2010
  12. ^ Bruce Watson, Sacco and Vanzetti: The Men, the Murders, and the Judgment of Mankind (NY: Viking Press, 2007), 303-4
  13. ^ New York Times: "Fuller Urges Change in Criminal Appeals," January 5, 1928, accessed June 22, 2010
  14. ^ New York Times: F. Lauriston Bullard, "Bay Staters Cast Fuller's Hat in Ring," January 29, 1928, accessed July 24, 2010
  15. ^ a b New York Times: "Gov. Fuller Won't Run," June 26, 1928, accessed July 24, 2010
  16. ^ New York Times: "Says Ex-Gov. Fuller is Paris Post Choice," March 21, 1929, accessed July 24, 2010
  17. ^ New York Times: "Gov. Fuller Pays $31,000 for Painting," February 19, 1926, accessed July 24, 2010
  18. ^ "Museum of Fine Arts". Alvan Fuller Renoir's Boating Couple. 
  19. ^ "Alvan Fuller donates Boccaccino's Shepherd Boy Playing Bagpipes". Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 
  20. ^ Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Fuller donates van Dyck". Fuller, van Dyck. Boston Museum of Fine Arts. 
  21. ^ "Alvan T. Fuller". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 21, 2010. 
  22. ^ New York Times: Mrs. Alvan Fuller Dies," August 5, 1959, accessed July 24, 2010
  23. ^ Tower, Whitney (May 13, 1968). "And The Last Was First". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 9, 2013. 
  24. ^ Martin, Douglas (May 19, 2012). "Peter D. Fuller Dies at 89; Had to Return Derby Purse". New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2013. 
  25. ^ "About Peter Fuller". Peter Fuller Rentals & Pre-Owned. Retrieved 2016-03-29. 


  • Clarke, Theodore (2010). Brookline, Allston-Brighton, and the Renewal of Boston. Charleston, SC: History Press. ISBN 9781609491857. OCLC 681534964. 
  • Einstein, Jr, Arthur (2010). "Ask the Man Who Owns One": An Illustrated History of Packard Advertising. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 9780786456611. OCLC 667274241. 
  • Gentile, Richard H (1999). "Fuller, Alvan Tufts". Dictionary of American National Biography. 8. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 540–541. ISBN 9780195206357. OCLC 39182280. 
  • Herman, Jennifer (2008). Massachusetts Encyclopedia. Hamburg, MI: State History Publications. ISBN 9781878592651. OCLC 198759722. 
  • Huthmacher, J. Joseph (1959). Massachusetts People and Politics, 1919-1933. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. OCLC 460668046. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ernest W. Roberts
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1917 – January 5, 1921
Succeeded by
Charles L. Underhill
Political offices
Preceded by
Channing H. Cox
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Frank G. Allen
Preceded by
Channing H. Cox
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Frank G. Allen