Isaac R. Harrington
Buffalo, New York City Hall Portrait Collection
11th Mayor of Buffalo, New York
In office
March 2, 1841 – March 8, 1842
Preceded bySheldon Thompson
Succeeded byGeorge W. Clinton
9th Postmaster of Buffalo, New York
In office
May 17, 1849 – August 20, 1851
Preceded byHenry K. Smith
Succeeded byJames O. Putnam
Alderman from Buffalo, New York's Fifth Ward[1]
In office
March 5, 1840 – March 1, 1841
Serving with Peter Curtiss
Preceded byPeter Curtiss, Augustine Kimball
Succeeded byJohn R. Lee, Henry Roop
Personal details
Born(1789-12-07)December 7, 1789
New Haven, Connecticut
DiedAugust 20, 1851(1851-08-20) (aged 61)
Buffalo, New York
Political partyWhig
Spouse(s)Amanda Lyman (m. 1810-1851, his death)
EducationUniversity of Vermont

Isaac R. Harrington (December 7, 1789 - August 20, 1851) was a prominent businessman and entrepreneur in Burlington, Vermont and Buffalo, New York. He became active in politics as a Whig and served as mayor of Buffalo from 1841 to 1842.

Early life

Isaac Russell (or Russel) Harrington was born in New Haven, Connecticut on December 7, 1789.[2][a] Harrington's mother was Hannah (Upson) Harrington (1763-1840).[3][4] His father was Benjamin Harrington (1762-1810), a prominent citizen of Shelburne, Vermont, who served several terms in the Vermont House of Representatives.[5] Benjamin Harrington was a native of Connecticut and commanded ships on ocean voyages before moving to Shelburne, which resulted in Shelburne residents frequently referring to him as "Captain Harrington".[5]

In 1793, Benjamin Harrington moved his family to Shelburne, where Isaac Harrington was raised and educated.[5] He graduated from the University of Vermont in 1809.[6] During the War of 1812, Harrington served as a private in the 1st Regiment (Judson's) of the Vermont Militia.[7]

Harrington became active in several business ventures in Burlington, including a store where he sold dry goods, groceries, hardware and housewares.[8][9] He also bought and sold other items when he had the opportunity, including horses, farms, and barrels of beer.[10][11][12] In 1816, Harrington became the proprietor of a Burlington inn and hotel, which he purchased from Joseph King.[13]

Another early Isaac Harrington business venture was operating the Phoenix, a Lake Champlain steamship which made regular trips to and from Whitehall, New York and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec.[14] Harrington was the ship's sailing master, and as a result was frequently addressed as "Captain Harrington", as his father had been.[14][15] He left Vermont in about 1830 and moved to Buffalo, New York; an 1832 letter by a Vermonter traveling to Cleveland, Ohio was published in a Burlington newspaper, which indicated that the author had stayed at the Eagle Tavern in Buffalo, of which Harrington was the proprietor.[16]

Career in Buffalo

In addition to Harrington's business career in Buffalo, he became active in the city's local government.[17] In the mid-1830s, he was appointed to several commissions that assessed property owners in order to finance improvements to several Buffalo streets.[17][18] The owners were required to pay based on the value the improvements would add to their homes and businesses.[17][18] In Buffalo, Harrington was popularly known as "Cuff" or "Old Cuff", but the origin of the nickname is not known.[19][20]

Harrington was also involved in Buffalo-area politics as a member of the Whig Party.[21] In 1836 he was a delegate to the party's 8th New York State Senate District Convention.[21] In 1840, Harrington was a candidate for alderman from Buffalo's fifth ward.[22] He was elected, and took his seat in March.[23] Though he was a Whig, in 1841 Harrington entered the race for mayor against the party's preferred candidate, Ira A. Blossom.[24] Harrington was supported by most of Buffalo's Democrats and defeated Blossom.[24][25] In March, 1841 he succeeded Sheldon Thompson as mayor.[24][25][26] He served until March 1842, when he was defeated for reelection by George W. Clinton.[25][27] Among the initiatives Harrington undertook as mayor was an effort to persuade New York's state government to fund improvements to the Erie Canal, which were intended to ensure that Buffalo-area shipping could continue during periods when the water level of Lake Erie receded.[28]

After leaving the mayor's office, Harrington continued his involvement in Whig politics.[29] He supported Henry Clay for president in 1844, and attended Whig party meetings to organize the Clay campaign in New York.[29] Harrington supported the presidential campaign of Zachary Taylor in the election of 1848.[30] Taylor won and Harrington was one of the honorary managers of a February 1849 Whig inaugural ball held in Buffalo.[30]

Harrington's support for the Whig Party was recognized in May 1849, when he was appointed as postmaster of Buffalo, succeeding Henry K. Smith.[31][32] He continued to serve in this position until his death, and was succeeded by James O. Putnam.[32][33] Harrington became ill in the summer of 1851 and died at his home in Buffalo on August 20.[33] He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.[34]

Electoral history

  • George W. Clinton, 1462 (61%)
  • Isaac R. Harrington, 909 (39%)
  • Isaac R. Harrington, 1122 (52%)
  • Ira A. Blossom, 996 (48%)
  • Isaac R. Harrington, 221 (31.5%)
  • Peter Curtiss, 205 (29.2%)
  • A. Q. Stebbins, 170 (24.2%)
  • Henry Roop, 105 (15.0%)


In 1810, Harrington married Amanda Lyman (1790-1874) in Burlington.[37] They were the parents of six children -- Edmund, Laura, Juliet, Charles, Donald, and Marion.[38][39][40]


  1. ^ Harrington was most likely born in New Haven, Connecticut. His Vermont birth record indicates he was born in Shelburne, Vermont. Records created during his lifetime, including census entries, indicate he was born in New York. His gravestone was created when his wife was still living, and it indicates New Haven as his birthplace. Since Harrington was born in 1789 and his family moved to Vermont in 1793, it is likely that he was not born in Shelburne. Since town histories for Shelburne indicate his father moved there from Connecticut, a New York birthplace is also not likely. Harrington's wife presumably knew where her husband was born, and would not have made a mistake on the gravestone.