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Aram Pothier from a 1908 campaign photo

Aram Pothier

If Edward Harris signifies Woonsocket's first industrial revolution, then Aram J. Pothier represents its second.

Born and educated in Quebec, Pothier joined his family in Woonsocket in 1872 at the age of 18 and took a job as a clerk in a grocery store. A bright young man, he was offered a position at the Woonsocket Institution for Savings three years later. Pothier worked hard to learn all facets of the banking business becoming a teller in 1889, Vice President in 1909 and President in 1913. Pothier remained President of the Woonsocket Institution for Savings until his death in 1928. He held a similar position with the Union Trust Company of Providence.

Pothier began his political career in 1885 as a member of the Woonsocket School Board. After two terms in the Rhode Island General Assembly in 1887 and 1888, he was introduced to the world of multi-national finance in 1889 when Governor Taft asked him to be Rhode Island's delegate to the Paris Trade Exhibition.

Lafayette Mills on Hamlet Avenue in 1930 Pothier felt that foreign investment was essential for Woonsocket to continue its industrial growth. Foreign owned mills would pay taxes to the city and paychecks to local workers, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy. It was during his first trip to Paris that Pothier probably met Belgian manufacturer Joseph Guerin. Guerin, with Pothier's help, set up the first large scale, "foreign" spinning plant in Woonsocket - the Guerin Spinning Company. Eventually, Guerin built the Guerin Mills on East School Street (now home to Tinsel Town) and his companies grew to include Alsace Spinning Company, Montrose Weaving Company, Rosemont Dying Company and the American Paper Tube Company. Pothier also met with the Lepoutre family of Roubaix, France who opened the Lafayette Worsted Company on Hamlet Avenue in 1899.

Upon his return from Paris, Pothier resumed his political career with several terms as Woonsocket City Auditor and several unsuccessful bids for Mayor. Finally, in 1893 on his forth attempt, Pothier was elected Mayor of Woonsocket - the first French Canadian to be elected to that office. Pothier served two terms as Mayor and then turned his attention to state politics in 1897 when he was elected to Lieutenant Governor.

In 1899, Pothier was again appointed to be the Rhode Island Delegate to the International Trade Exposition in Paris. On this trip, Pothier met his future wife, M. Francoise de Charmigny. They would marry two years later in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Pothier also met with important French manufacturers including the Tiberhien Family of Tourcoing who set up the huge French Worsted Company on Hamlet Avenue a few years later. In all, Pothier is credited with bringing $6,000,000 in foreign investment to Woonsocket.

Rhode Island Statehouse in Providence Pothier returned to statewide politics in 1908 when he was elected to his first term as Governor. He ran and was elected a total of seven times serving four one year and one two year terms from 1909 to 1915. He was elected again in 1924 and served until 1928.

While he was Governor, Pothier had a profound impact on the State of Rhode Island. He reorganized the state's financial structure making it more efficient, revamped the Port of Providence spurring the economic development of the Narragansett Bay and established the Rhode Island State Police. Pothier also fought for and a won a change from one to two year terms for state office holders.

Pothier was serving his seventh term as Governor when he died in 1928. He lived much of his life at his house on Pond Street. He is buried in the Pothier Mausoleum in the Precious Blood Cemetery. A monument to him was recently erected outside of the Museum of Work & Culture.

This page utilizes information from:

  • Woonsocket, Rhode Island - A Centennial History 1888 - 1988 published by the Woonsocket Centennial Committee in 1988.
  • Woonsocket - Highlights of History 1800-1976 written by Alton Pickering Thomas, MD and published by the Woonsocket Opera House Society in 1973.
For Woonsocket residents, both books are available at the Woonsocket Harris Public Library.

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