William Knight Potter

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William Knight Potter
William Knight Potter mayor of Providence-2.jpg
Official portrait in Providence City Hall
17th Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island
In office
January 4, 1892 – January 1, 1894
Preceded by Charles S. Smith
Succeeded by Frank F. Olney
Personal details
Born (1844-12-27)December 27, 1844
New York City
Died August 13, 1914(1914-08-13) (aged 69)
Providence, Rhode Island
Resting place Oakland Cemetery, Cranston
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Anna Rice
Occupation Lumber businessman
Known for Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island

William Knight Potter (December 27, 1844 – August 13, 1914) was a businessman and the 17th Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, 1892-1894.

Early life[edit]

William was born December 27, 1844 in New York City and spent his early years there.[1] His father was Arthur M. Potter, a jewelry manufacturer.[2] The Potters moved to Providence and William graduated from Providence High School in 1862.[2]

At age 18, Potter got his first job working as a bookkeeper for the Archibald B. Rice Lumber Company;[1] in 1872, he married the owner's daughter.[2] In 1881 he became a partner in the business, which was renamed A.B. Rice & Company.[2]

Political life[edit]

Potter was a lifelong Democrat. Between 1887 and 1891 he was elected four times to the State House of Representatives and worked his way up to the chairmanship of the House Finance Committee. On November 24, 1891 he defeated incumbent Charles Sydney Smith in a tightly contested four-way race for Mayor of Providence.[2] No candidate received a majority, so a runoff election was held.[1] Potter won by just over 600 votes.[2] He was the first Democrat elected to the mayor's office since the Civil War.[1]

Running for re-election in 1892, Potter handily defeated Republican candidate Col. Arthur H. Watson.[1]

After his second term was over, Potter declined to run for a third term,[1] and returned to the lumber business.[2] After retirement, he lived in Cranston for a time.[1]


During Potter's two terms as mayor, the landscaped boulevards of Elmwood Avenue and Blackstone Boulevard were constructed.[2] He also embarked on a major project paving city streets in 1892.[2]

Personal life[edit]

On October 23, 1872, he married Anna Rice, daughter of the owner of the Archibald B. Rice Lumber Company (and Potter's employer). They had four sons.[2]

Potter died on August 13, 1914, at his home in Edgewood, Providence, of paralytic shock.[1] He had been ill for three months.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Ex-Mayor Potter Dead in Edgewood". Providence, Rhode Island: The Providence. 14 Aug 1914. p. 4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "William Knight Potter" (Informational panel next to his official portrait). Providence City Hall. Retrieved 19 June 2014. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Charles S. Smith
Mayor of Providence
Succeeded by
Frank F. Olney