Eben Sumner Draper

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Eben Sumner Draper
44th Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 7, 1909 – January 5, 1911
Lieutenant Louis A. Frothingham
Preceded by Curtis Guild, Jr.
Succeeded by Eugene F. Foss
40th Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
In office
January 4, 1906 – January 7, 1909
Governor Curtis Guild, Jr.
Preceded by Curtis Guild, Jr.
Succeeded by Louis A. Frothingham
Personal details
Born (1858-06-17)June 17, 1858
Hopedale, Massachusetts
Died April 9, 1914(1914-04-09) (aged 55)
Greenville, South Carolina
Political party Republican

Eben Sumner Draper (sometimes incorrectly Ebenezer, June 17, 1858 – April 9, 1914) was an American businessman and politician. He was for many years a leading figure in what later became the Draper Corporation, the dominant manufacturer of cotton textile process machinery in the world during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He served as the 44th Governor of Massachusetts between 1909 and 1911.

Early life and career[edit]

Eben Sumner Draper was born in Hopedale, Massachusetts on June 17, 1858, the third and youngest son of George and Hannah B. (Thwing) Draper. His brothers were William F. Draper, who would become a general and a U.S. representative, and George A. Draper, with whom he would control the family business. He was educated in the public schools of Hopedale, in Allen's School at West Newton, and in the class of 1880 of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[1]

The Drapers were one of the leading families of Hopedale, a community that had been established as an experiment in Christian communal living. At the center of the community were a collection of factories principally engaged in the production of textile manufacturing equipment. Eben's father, a major shareholder of the community, capitalized on financial difficulties in the businesses and the informal means by which they were organized to gain complete control of them in the 1850s. He then took advantage of patents developed by his brother Ebenezer and protectionist tariffs to build a dominant monopoly position in the production of cotton textile processing machinery, and expanded his business interests to include a variety of other industrial manufacturing in Hopedale. All three of his sons were eventually drafted into the business.[2] By the time Eben Draper graduated, his father controlled the largest plant for manufacturing cotton machinery in the world.[1] Draper spent three years in apprenticeship in various cotton mills learning all he could about cotton manufacturing before being made a partner in his father's firm.[1][3]

When the Hopedale companies organized into one, Draper was given charge of the selling department.[3] Following the elder Draper's death in 1887 control (and majority ownership) of the business passed to William.[4] He incorporated the Draper Company (later the Draper Corporation), which introduced the innovative Northrop Loom to great success. The Draper Company eventually became one of the largest Department of Defense contractors during times of war.

William Draper, however, was a largely absentee owner, serving first in the United States Congress and then as United States Ambassador to Italy. The family business was reorganized (historian William Tucker describes it as a "coup" by Eben and his brother George) in the 1890s, at which time Eben Draper became its president.[4]

Hopedale as at the time seen as a model company town. The Drapers owned most of the housing in the town, but did not charge excessive rents to the factory workers, and offered services such as medical care to their employees.[4]

Entry into politics[edit]

Draper served as a private in the First Corps of Cadets (Massachusetts) before, during the Spanish–American War, serving as president of the Massachusetts Volunteer Association.[3]

Like his father and brothers, Draper was a strong supporter of protectionist tariffs. He assisted his father in founding the Home Market Club of Boston, a protectionist organization in New England. He served as chairman of the Congressional campaign committee which wrestled the Hopedale district from the Democratic Party and sent his brother William as a protectionist to the House of Representatives in Washington. He was then elected as chairman of the Republican State Committee, serving on several victorious campaigns before, in 1896, being chosen as chairman of the Massachusetts Republican delegation to the St. Louis Convention, which nominated William McKinley for president. He served in the presidential election of 1900 as Presidential elector.[1]


In 1905, Draper was nominated and elected for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, being re-elected in 1906 and 1907. In 1908, he was elected to stand as Governor of the state, successfully standing for re-election in 1909.[1] In 1910, Governor Draper drove with President William Howard Taft, on an official state visit, to pay respects to Taft's ancestral family homes in Mendon, and Uxbridge, just west of Hopedale.[5] President Taft's grandfather was born in Uxbridge.

Later years[edit]

In 1910 Draper was defeated by Democrat Eugene Noble Foss.

Draper continued to serve as the managing head of the family business.[6] The company became the focus of labor organization by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or "Wobblies"), who engineered a strike in 1912. Although they nominally sought higher wages and a shorter work week, there was a political dimension to the strike: the IWW specifically targeted Draper because of his protectionist and anti-labor actions taken while governor.[7] Both Nicola Sacco, a former employee of The Draper Company, and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were very active in this strike and several others that affected The Draper Company.[8]

Personal life and death[edit]

Draper married Nannie Bristow, the daughter of United States Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow, in 1883. The couple shared three children, sons Benjamin Helm Bristow Draper and Eben Sumner Draper, Jr., and daughter Dorothy Draper, who eventually wed Thomas B. Gannett, Jr.[1][3]

Draper was active in the Unitarian church. His wife died in 1913. Draper followed on April 9, 1914, in Greenville, South Carolina, following what was described in his obituary as "a shock of paralysis" suffered as he was making "a visit to the far South in search of health."[1][6] His funeral in Boston was attended by then Governor David I. Walsh, among others.[6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g National Association of Wool Manufacturers (1914). "Eben S. Draper, Obituary". Bulletin. National Association of Wool Manufacturers. pp. 187–189. Retrieved 23 January 2013.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Tucker, The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund, pp. 17-19
  3. ^ a b c d Commercial and financial New England illustrated. Boston Herald. 1906. pp. 125–126. Retrieved 23 January 2013.   This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ a b c Tucker, pp. 19-20
  5. ^ "Taft Visits Home of His Ancestors" (PDF). New York Times. August 20, 1910. Retrieved 2007-11-27. 
  6. ^ a b c The Tariff Review. American Tariff League. 1914. p. 235. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  7. ^ Tucker, pp. 20-21
  8. ^ In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti. Penguin Publishers Ltd. 2012. p. 51. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Curtis Guild, Jr.
Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Louis A. Frothingham
Preceded by
Curtis Guild, Jr.
Governor of Massachusetts
Succeeded by
Eugene Foss