A vintage photograph showing Fessenden after the cutter’s 1883 conversion to an iron hull showing the coal smoke blowing forward from a tailwind. (Historic New England)

The Long Blue Line: William Fessenden—the man and his cutters

In 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Maine Senator William Fessenden to be the 26th Secretary of the Treasury. Fessenden was faced with the Federal Government’s insatiable demand for funding for the war effort. With the aid of private Civil War financiers, Fessenden developed successful short-term loans holding generous interest rates that became popular with northerners. Named for this important public servant, Revenue Cutter Fessenden was one of two vessels contracted by the Treasury Department.