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Benjamin Tappan

In office
March 4, 1839 – March 3, 1845
Preceded by Thomas Morris
Succeeded by Thomas Corwin

Born May 25, 1773(1773-05-25)
Northampton, Massachusetts
Died April 20, 1857 (aged 83)
Steubenville, Ohio
Political party Democratic

Benjamin Tappan (May 25, 1773 - April 20, 1857) was an Ohio judge and Democratic politician who served in the Ohio State Senate and the United States Senate. He was an early settler of the Connecticut Western Reserve in northeastern Ohio and was one of the first settlers in Portage County and the founder of the city of Ravenna, Ohio.[1]

Tappan was born in Northampton, Massachusetts, the second child and oldest son of Benjamin Tappan and Sarah (Homes) Tappan, who was a grandniece of Benjamin Franklin. Two of his younger brothers were abolitionists Arthur and Lewis Tappan. He attended the public schools in Northampton and traveled to the West Indies in his youth. He apprenticed as a printer and engraver, also studying painting with Gilbert Stuart. Studying law, he was admitted to the bar in Hartford, Connecticut. He moved to the Connecticut Western Reserve in 1799 and founded what is now Ravenna, Ohio, laying out the original village in 1808.[1]

He married, March 20, 1801, Nancy Wright, sister of John C. Wright, afterwards a Congressman from Ohio. They had one son, Benjamin, born in 1812.

Elected to the second Ohio State Senate, Tappan served from 1803-1804.

He moved to Steubenville, Jefferson County, in 1809 where he continued his law practice.

After serving in the War of 1812, Tappan held a number of local offices. He served as county judge, judge of the fifth Ohio Circuit Court of Common Pleas from 1816-1823, and United States district judge of Ohio in 1833. He was also a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1832.

His first wife having died, Benjamin married second, in 1823, Mrs. Betsy (Lord) Frazer, widow of Eliphalet Frazer. They had one son, Eli Todd Tappan, later president of Kenyon College.

He was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1838, in which he served from 1839-1845. As senator he served on the Committee on the Library and was chairmain of the Committee to Audit and Control the Contingent Expenses. Tappan was censured on May 10, 1844 for disclosing the terms of a secret message from President John Tyler detailing the possible terms of the annexation of Texas to the New York Evening Post.

Tappan died April 20, 1857 in Steubenville, and was interred in Union Cemetery.


  1. ^ a b Brown, R.C; Norris, J.E. (1885, 1972 revision). History of Portage County Ohio. Chicago, Illinois: Warner, Beers, and Company. pp. 521–522.  


Ohio Senate
Preceded by
Samuel H. Huntington
Senator from Trumbull County
Succeeded by
George Tod
United States Senate
Preceded by
Thomas Morris
United States Senator (Class 1) from Ohio
Served alongside: William Allen
Succeeded by
Thomas Corwin
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Jonathan Roberts
Oldest living U.S. Senator
July 24, 1854 – April 20, 1857
Succeeded by
Littleton Waller Tazewell
Legal offices
New title President Judge of the Ohio Court of Common Pleas
5th Judicial Circuit

Succeeded by
Jeremiah H. Hallock


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