John Crockford: A Standout English Immigrant

Using the Voting Viva Voce website,, the percentage of English immigrants, who voted either for the Democratic or Opposition ticket, were nearly equal in Alexandria, Virginia in 1859. Of the 109 English immigrant men, only 34 men were either eligible to vote or chose to vote.[1] The low turn out rate for voters was reiterated in the book, Invisible Immigrants, in which Charlotte Erickson declares that English immigrants “showed little interest for participating in government.”[2] Most English immigrants traveled to the United States to escape economic stagnation and an overbearing government apparatus; they wanted as little government intervention in their day-to-day lives.

By studying patterns in voting habits in 1860, I was able to figure out two things. First, English immigrant men living in Alexandria were almost evenly split between the two parties on the 1859 ticket. 44% of men who voted chose the Democratic nominees, while 50% voted for the Opposition candidates. [3]

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Map from Voting Viva Voce

For the English immigrant men, as well as most other groups of voters, the general trend was that richer citizens tended to vote for the Opposition party, while the Democratic voters were significantly poorer. In 1859, many more Opposition voters owned or rented slaves compared to the Democratic voters.

There was one Democratic voter that stood out from the rest of the voters in the party.  John Crockford was born in England in May 1840.[4] When Crockford was 22 years old, he and his young wife, Ellen, boarded a ship named “President” in London to come to New York City.[5]

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New York Passenger Lists (Ancestry.com)

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1860 U.S. Federal Census (Ancestry.com)

As written in the 1860 U.S. Census, Crockford’s total estate was $60,000.[6] He was one of the richest English immigrants in Alexandria, as well as the richest recorded Democratic voter in this group.  As a slave owner, he might have particularly invested in the Democratic party.

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(Courtesy of Voting Viva Voce)

While it is difficult to pinpoint why exactly Crockford voted for Democratic candidates when others voted for the Opposition, he proves to be a very interesting man to research. He obviously was a very successful railroad contractor and made plenty of money. According to Erickson, cultural differences between English and Americans “were often masked by language similarities [7].” One can assume that if Crockford was not English, he likely would not have been as successful as he was if he emigrated from another country. Because of the similarities between English and American cultures, Crockford was able to get far in his job and make a good living.

[1]: Don DeBats, “Social Groups in Alexandria, males born in United Kingdom,” Voting Viva Voce, accessed September 24, 2016,  http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu.

[2]: Charlotte Erickson, Invisible Immigrants: The Adaption of English and Scottish Immigrants in Nineteenth-century America (Coral Gables, FL: U of Miami, 1972), 30.

[3]: Don DeBats, “Social Groups in Alexandria, males born in United Kingdom,” Voting Viva Voce, accessed September 24, 2016,  http://sociallogic.iath.virginia.edu.

[4]: 1860 U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Virginia, sheet no. 24, John Crockford, line 24, digital image, accessed September 24, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[5]: Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1820-1897, John Crockford, line 39, digital image, accessed September 24, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[6]: 1860 U. S. Census (Population Schedule), Alexandria, Virginia, sheet no. 24, John Crockford, line 24, digital image, accessed September 24, 2016, http://www.ancestry.com/.

[7]: Erickson, 3.

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