JOURNALIST, Legislator, Ex-Governor, and Congressman, Nelson Dingley, Jr., stands
in the front rank of the sons of Maine and is in very many respects a most excellent type of New England character.
Ability, industry, courage, and a capacity for work are the great causes of his success. It is these, coupled with
honesty and perseverance, that have made his pathway straight from the country school-house to the national capitol.
Mr. Dingley was born in Durham, Maine, February 15, 1832, being the eldest son of Nelson and Jane L. Dingley. The
following year the parents removed to Parkman, this state, where they kept a country store in connection with the
village hotel. The son was distinguished in the district school for his studious habits and good scholarship. At
twelve years of age he attended the high school, three miles distant,, walking each morning and night and carrying
his dinner pail. When sixteen years of age he organized a temperance society in his town, and from that time to
the present he has always taken a deep interest, and been an able and faithful worker, in the great cause of temperance.
When seventeen years of age he taught school in the town of China, and continued to teach every winter but one
for the next five years. In 1851, he entered Colby University, then Waterville College, where he remained one year
and a half, and then took a course at Dartmouth, from which he graduated in 1855 with high rank in scholarship.
After leaving college Mr. Dingley studied law with Morrill Fessenden at Auburn, and was admitted to the Bar in
1856. In September of that year he purchased one-half of the Lewiston Journal, and the year following he became
the sole proprietor and editor. At this time the Journal was a weekly paper. A daily edition was added in 1861,
and Frank L., a younger brother of Nelson, became associated with the paper, which has continued under their management
to the present time. It supported the first Republican nominee in this State, and has since that time been an able
In 1861 Mr. Dingley received his first election to public office, being only twenty-nine years of age. He was re-elected
a member of the Legislature in 1862, 1863, 1864, 1868, and 1873: was speaker in 1863 and 1864. In 1867-8 he was
at the head of the State Lodge of Good Templars, and was justly regarded as the leader in the temperance and prohibitory
movement in Maine. Mr. Dingley was elected Governor of the State in 1873, and re-elected by an increased majority
in 1874, but declined a re-election the following year.
In 1881 he was elected by the Republicans in the second district to fill the vacancy in Congress caused by the
election to the Senate of Hon. William P. Frye, and took his seat in the House at the opening of the Forty-seventh
Congress, in December of that year. He was re-elected to the Forty-eighth, Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, Fifty-first,
Fifty-second, and Fifty-third Congresses, and always by good majorities.
Mr. Dingley’s first speech in Congress was made April 25, 1882, on “Protection to American Shipping.” This speech
commanded attention both in Congress and throughout the country, especially in commercial circles. It was pronounced
by the Washington Star “a speech of much ability and force, giving promise of a. successful career in Congress,”
and by the Washington correspondent of the New York Tribune “one of the best speeches ever made by a new member.”
He has taken an active part in the discussions of many of the leading measures before the House during his congressional
career. Among those may be mentioned the various shipping bills, the silver question, reduction of taxation, compulsory
pilotage, the tariff, the fishery question, the French spoliation claims, the anti-Chinese bill, etc. Perhaps his
greatest efforts in Congress have been devoted to relieving American shipping of many of the burdens resting upon
it and to the promotion of that great industry in which many of his constituents have large interests:
Mr. Dingley has served on some of the important committees of the House, notably the Ways and Means, the Appropriations,
the Banking and Currency Committee, the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, and the Select Committee on
American Ship-building and Ship-owning Interests. In 1884 he reported from the Shipping Committee a bill to remove
certain burdens on Amerkan shipping, and a bill to “Constitute a Bureau of Navigation” in the Treasury Department,
and largely through his labor and influence these bills passed both houses of Congress the same year and became
As a legislator Congressman Dingley is industrious and painstaking, and as a debater he is vigorous and logical.
He is thoroughly conscientious and honest in all he does and says, and to these qualities may be attributed largely
his success in Congress and throughout his whole public career.