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He was the son of Philip Dorsheimer. He was educated in common schools, then at Phillips Andover Academy, and then studied at Harvard College from 1849 to 1851. He left Harvard without graduating because of a protracted illness, though in 1859 Harvard gave him the degree of M.A. After leaving Harvard in 1851, he settled in Buffalo, New York, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1854. In 1859, he formed a partnership with Solomon G. Haven. In politics, he began as a Democrat, joined the Republican Party in 1856, and in 1860 again supported the Republican ticket.
In 1861, he joined the Union Army as an aide-de-camp with the rank of major and served on the staff of General John C. Frémont, but at the close of the Missouri campaign Dorsheimer returned to civil life, and published a series of articles in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “Frémont's Hundred Days in Missouri.”
He was a delegate to the 1872 Liberal-Republican National Convention at Cincinnati, Ohio, and afterwards became a Democrat. He was Lieutenant Governor of New York from 1875 to 1879. During this time, he helped implement the measures against the Canal Ring, and was a delegate to the 1876 Democratic National Convention. Afterwards he resumed the practice of law in partnership with David Dudley Field in New York City.
He was elected as a Democrat to the 48th United States Congress and served from March 4, 1883, to March 3, 1885. In 1884, he published a biography of Grover Cleveland, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, and in July 1885, was appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York which office he resigned in March 1886.
Today Dorsheimer is best remembered for hiring American architect H.H. Richardson to design a house for him on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, which still stands, and for helping Richardson win the commission to design the New York State Asylum in Buffalo. He is also chiefly responsible for bringing landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to Buffalo to design its park system. The William Dorsheimer House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
John C. Robinson
|Lieutenant Governor of New York|
George Gilbert Hoskins
|United States House of Representatives|
P. Henry Dugro
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from New York's 7th congressional district
1883 - 1885
John J. Adams