Thomas W.  Bicknell

Thomas W. Bicknell

Thomas W. Bicknell (September 6, 1834 - 1925) was an American educator, historian, and author. Thomas Williams Bicknell was born in Barrington, Rhode Island to Harriet Byron Kinnicutt (1 September 1791 - 15 December 1837), daughter of Josiah Kinnicutt and Rebecca Townsend Kinnicutt, and Rhode Island minister and Senator, Lt.-Col. Allin Bicknell (13 April 1787 - 16 August 1870), who had served with the Bristol County, Rhode Island Militia. Thomas Bicknell attended Thetford Academy in Vermont and Amherst College in Massachusetts, taught school and became principal in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, then principal in Elgin, Illinois. When he returned to Rehoboth, serving as principal once again, he earned a master's degree from Brown University. While a senior at Brown he was elected State Representative in the Rhode Island General Assembly. After graduating from Brown, he became principal of Bristol High School and then Arnold Street Grammar School, then back to Bristol High School. Rhode Island Governor Seth Padelford (Republican 1869-1873) selected Bicknell to be the Commissioner of Public Schools in 1869. As commissioner he focused on re-establishing the Normal School (now Rhode Island College). He was a gifted speaker and fundraiser, who would triple the amount of money spent on public education; he also established a Rhode Island State Board of Education, oversaw the selection of school superintendents in every town and city in the state, dedicated over 50 new schoolhouses, and increased the school year from 27 to 35 weeks.