Biography and History

Biography of Francis Preston Blair

Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876), journalist and politician, was born in Abingdon, Va., and raised in Kentucky. His grandfather, John Blair, held the first chair in theology at Princeton University. He was graduated from Transylvania University in 1811 and married Eliza Violet Gist (1733-1877) a year later. Blair was admitted to the bar in 1817 but never practiced law. He became interested in Kentucky politics joining the New Court party and aiding his political ally, Amos Kendall, in editing the Argus of Western America and the Patriot in Frankfort. Blair became an advocate of Andrew Jackson, and on the advice of Kendall, Jackson called him to Washington in 1830 to become editor of the Globe, which became the official newspaper of the administration. A loyal Jacksonian, Blair was a confidential member of the Kitchen Cabinet and served Jackson faithfully from 1830 through 1837. The Globe continued to be a powerful voice through the Van Buren administration (1837-1841). Blair was forced to resign in 1845 by the new president, James K. Polk.

Retiring to his country estate, Silver Spring, in Maryland, Blair continued to exercise political power and influence, often through his sons, Francis "Frank" Preston (1821-1875) and Montgomery (1813-1883).

Biography of Samuel Phillips Lee

Samuel Phillips Lee (1812-1897), an officer in the United States Navy, was born in Fairfax, Va., the son of Francis Lightfoot Lee, grandson of Richard Henry Lee, and great nephew of Francis Lightfoot Lee, both signers of the Declaration of Independence. In 1825 he was appointed a midshipman and proceeded to work his way through the ranks, becoming a rear-admiral in 1870. When commanding the Dolphin in 1851, Lee was employed in coastal survey duty making deep-sea soundings, testing currents, and searching for shallow ocean spots. His report of this work, The Cruise of the Dolphin (1854), was of considerable help to Matthew F. Maury, the oceanographer. During the Civil War, Lee remained loyal to the Union and participated in the Charleston blockade, the attack on New Orleans, and the battle of Vicksburg, and commanded both the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron and the Mississippi Squadron. After the war, he served at various posts, and his last command was as head of the North Atlantic fleet (1870-1872). In 1873 he retired from the navy.

While a young officer, Lee courted Elizabeth Blair Lee (1818-1906), the only daughter of Francis Preston Blair, the journalist, politician, and personal friend and advisor of Andrew Jackson. After a lengthy courtship, Elizabeth Blair and Samuel Phillips Lee were married in 1843. One child (Francis Preston) Blair Lee, was born in 1857. The family lived in Washington and at Silver Spring, Md., the country estate of Francis Preston Blair. After his retirement from the navy, Lee ran the day-to-day activities of the farm, and it was here that he died in 1897.

Biography of Elizabeth Blair Lee

Elizabeth Blair Lee (1818-1906), the only daughter of Francis Preston Blair and Eliza Violet Gist Blair, grew up in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., immersed in the politics of the day. A favorite of Andrew Jackson, "Lizzie" lived in the White House for a time to please him. After she married Samuel Phillips Lee, a naval officer, in 1843, she often wrote to him keeping him up to date not only on family matters but also on local and national politics, much of which were gathered through the comments of her father, editor of the Democratic organ, the Globe, and her brothers, Montgomery Blair, postmaster general under Lincoln, and Francis "Frank" Preston Blair, Jr., a general in the Civil War. Also, her political interests included serving as her father's amanuensis and sometime ghostwriter of his speeches.

Beside being an avid follower of the political scene, Elizabeth Blair Lee spent most of her time raising her only child, (Francis Preston) Blair Lee born in 1857, meeting the obligations of a large extended family, and participating in the busy social scene in Washington and Maryland. She also served for many years as a director of the Washington City Orphan Asylum. In 1906, Elizabeth Blair Lee died at Silver Spring where she had lived with her son and his family.

Biography of Andrew Alexander Blair

Andrew Alexander Blair (1848-1932), son of Francis "Frank" Preston Blair, Jr., and grandson of Francis Preston Blair, was graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., in 1866, being the youngest graduate to complete the full course up until that time. He served in the navy for two years and then resigned because of illness. Blair then became an analytical chemist and was a founding member of the firm of Booth, Garrett and Blair. He was well-known in his field, publishing many papers and reports.

Biography of Blair Lee

Blair Lee (1857-1944), lawyer, legislator and social reformer, was born in Silver Spring, Md., the only child of Samuel Phillips Lee and Elizabeth Blair. He was educated at Princeton University (Class of 1880) where he was a founding member and president of the Ivy Club, and at Columbian (now George Washington) Law School earning a law degree in 1883. A practicing attorney in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, Lee also participated in Democratic politics, an interest which had been nurtured by his mother and grandfather, Francis Preston Blair (1791-1876). He was twice elected to the Maryland state senate (1905 and 1909), and among his accomplishments there was the passage of legislation establishing the primary law for party nominations and the creation of the Maryland State Roads Commission. Although narrowly defeated in 1911 as governor of Maryland, Lee was elected to the United States senate in 1913, the first senator elected under the l7th Amendment, in a special election following the death of Isidor Rayner. While in the United States senate, he was active in passing legislation such as the Farm Loan law, the amending of the Federal Reserve law, and the Hay-Wadsworth bill. A delegate to eight Democratic national conventions, he worked actively for the election of William Jennings Bryan (1896 and 1900) and Woodrow Wilson (1912 and 1916).

In 1891 he married Anne Clymer Brooke and, after her death (1903), helped raise their sons, Edward Brooke Lee (1892-1984, Princeton Class l916) and Phillips Blair Lee (1895-1983, Princeton Class of l9l8). Lee's interests included social reform and philanthropy, and he was active in the National Junior Republic, National Mary Washington Memorial Association, and the Washington City Orphan Asylum. He also participated in fraternal groups such as the Society of the Cincinnati in the State of Virginia, the Princeton Class of 1880 and the Ivy Club, and the K.F.R. Society.

Source: From the finding aid for C0614

Occupations

  • Editors -- United States..
  • Journalists -- Washington (D.C.).
  • Lawyers -- Maryland. -- lcsh.
  • Statesmen -- United States..
  • Blair and Lee Family Papers. 1688-1946 (inclusive), 1840-1920 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0614

    The Blairs and the Lees were prominent families in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Lee papers concern politics, journalism, and naval and domestic interests. There are also letters between Lee family members, naval records, new clippings, lecture notes, and essays. The Blair papers consist primarily of Francis Preston Blair's documents, including family correspondence, articles for The Globe, lectures, estate records, and correspondence with prominent political figures.

  • Blair and Lee Family Papers. 1688-1946 (inclusive), 1840-1920 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0614

    The Blairs and the Lees were prominent families in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. The Lee papers concern politics, journalism, and naval and domestic interests. There are also letters between Lee family members, naval records, new clippings, lecture notes, and essays. The Blair papers consist primarily of Francis Preston Blair's documents, including family correspondence, articles for The Globe, lectures, estate records, and correspondence with prominent political figures.