Emanuel Downham

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Emanuel Ethelbert "E. E" Downham
Mayor of Alexandria, Virginia
In office
Preceded byJohn B. Smoot
Succeeded byHenry Strauss
Personal details
BornMarch 23, 1839
Newport, New Jersey, US
DiedSeptember 17, 1921 (aged 82)
Alexandria, Virginia, US
Political partyDemocrat
Spouse(s)Sarah Miranda Price
ProfessionPolitician, whiskey seller, miner

Emanuel Ethelbert "E. E" Downham (March 23, 1839 – September 17, 1921) was an American businessman, miner, and mayor of Alexandria, Virginia from 1887 to 1891, serving two terms.[1] He was a prominent member of the Masonic Order in Virginia, and helped in the development and raising funds for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. He died in 1921.

Family and Career

Early life

Downham was born March 23, 1839, in Newport, New Jersey, the only son of Emanual Downham, and Eleanor. He was orphaned at a young age and grew up in the care of his relatives. In his youth, he went west as a Fifty-Niner during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush in Colorado. He returned home in 1862, and later moved to Alexandria, Virginia and started a liquor business, after deciding not to join the war.[2]


After moving to Alexandria in 1862, Downham decided not to join the war effort, and instead focused on the development of his liquor business. In 1869, Downham was involved in a legal dispute with the city of Alexandria, which reached the Supreme Court and was decided in DOWNHAM v. ALEXANDRIA.[3] This case became a legal precedent and is cited to the present day.

Later in his career, despite his previous relationship with the city council, he was elected himself to the council in 1874. Upon the death of mayor, John B. Smoot, in 1887, he was elected by the council to fill out his term. He was very popular amongst the population and was elected outright in 1890, serving with distinction until 1891, before retiring from public office.


Downham married Sarah Miranda Price, daughter of a prominent merchant family, on November 16th, 1865, and together they had 6 children, 5 of which lived into adulthood.

His son, Robert Forsythe Downham, bought the Lee–Fendall House in 1903, and it was kept in the Downham name until 1937.

His son, Horace English Downham, along with his company, was involved with mining operations in Arizona, and Mexico in the late 1800s.[4]


Downham died on September 17th, 1921, at the age of 82, and was buried in The Presbyterian Cemetary in Alexandria.[5][6]


  1. "Mayors and Postmasters of Alexandria, Virginia". Political Graveyard. Retrieved 16 May 2023.
  2. "North and South: Tales of Two Whiskey Men" (PDF). Retrieved 16 May 2023.
  3. "DOWNHAM v. ALEXANDRIA". Retrieved 16 May 2023.
  4. "Alexandria gazette. [volume], December 08, 1896, Image 3". Retrieved 21 May 2023.
  5. "Notable Burials in The Presbyterian Cemetery". Retrieved 16 May 2023.
  6. "Image 16 of The Washington herald (Washington, D.C.), September 18, 1921". Retrieved 16 May 2023.

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