Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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FOLGER, Walter, lawyer, born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, 12 June 1765 ; died 8 September 1849. He attended the common schools, studied higher mathematics, navigation, and French by himself, and became a proficient scholar. He was for many years a watch and clock maker, and in 1788 began an astronomical clock, which he completed in 1790. He calculated and published an almanac for 1790, and assisted in compiling others. He then studied medicine and surgery, and practiced gratuitously; also studied law, and followed this profession in the courts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island till about 1828. He was one year a representative in the Massachusetts legislature, state senator in 1809'15, was for six years a judge of the court of common pleas and of the court of sessions in Nantucker County, and at one time chief justice of both of these courts. He represented his state in congress from 1817'21, having been elected as a Democrat. During the war of 1812 he established a factory at home, where himself and his sons carried on carding, spinning, and weaving. His power looms were among the earliest in this country, and he manufactured many kinds of cotton and woolen goods. He kept a record of the weather for twenty-one years (1827'48), was for some time principal of Nantucket academy, and during two winters, in the evenings, taught navigation and nautical astronomy to several shipmates, he made observation on the comet of 1811, and afterward calculated the orbit of another comet. In his seventieth year he began a genealogy of the people of Nantucket, on which he continued to write till his death. He contributed mathematical problems to various newspapers and scientific journals in Boston and New York, and was the author of "Description of Nantucket," in the Massachusetts historical collections (1794), and "Observations of the Solar Eclipse of 1811."
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