by Florence Markoff

The story of the first mayor of the City of Providence.


Bridgham's resting place in North Burial Ground.

The first mayor of the City of Providence, His Honor, Samuel Willard Bridgham, stood before the newly formed city council at its opening session. He held his audience's attention as he spoke to them for the first time as their mayor. He was known as a great speaker and he chose his words carefully. Providence was no longer a township. It was a city, and he knew the job of mayor was going to be a difficult assignment. But the people of Providence knew what they were doing when they elected him. They had chosen their first leader well. He was a strong, popular, and capable administrator, an excellent example for the long line of distinguished men who were to follow him.

His political career was often a stormy one. His opinions and ideas were often in conflict with the times. When Providence became a city in 1832 it wasn't always easy to be progressive. He had the good fortune to share his thoughts with a good friend from Massachusetts, the distinguished Daniel Webster, with whom the mayor spent many hours discussing the problems of the day. Their correspondence is now part of the history of Providence.

An early issue of the Providence Journal said that the first mayor presided over city affairs with credit to himself and great satisfaction to his constituents. Even today his name is well known around town. It's the name of a school, a Providence street, and other landmarks familiar to many. This was the first mayor of the City of Providence—Samuel Willard Bridgham—a Rhode Island Portrait in Sound.

Providence resident Florence Markoff (1927-2017) was a speaker, performer, storyteller, and radio personality.

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This article last edited January 23, 2003

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