Hannibal Hamlin was born August 27, 1809, at Paris Hill, Maine. He attended the local schools and Hebron Academy, studied law in Portland, and was admitted to the bar in 1833. Moving to Hampden, he set up a law practice that flourished. He soon entered politics, serving as the Hampden representative in the legislature in from 1836 to 1841 and in 1847.
In 1842 he was elected to Congress, and he served for five years. While he was serving in the state legislature in 1848, Hamlin was elected to serve the balance of Senator Fairfield's term and was reelected in 1851. He served briefly as governor of Maine in 1857, but resigned to return to the Senate. He served with distinction as Lincoln's first vice president. Hamlin then served as port collector in Boston and as president of a small railroad company. He returned to the Senate in 1869 and served until 1881, when he became Minister to Spain. Following this last political appointment, he returned to his home in Bangor.
Hamlin's statesmanship was based on common sense and simple rhetoric, qualities that earned him the respect of his peers. His active public service career extended to other institutions. For 16 years he was a regent of the Smithsonian Institution and for 20 years he was dean of the Board of Regents for Waterville College, now Colby College. Hamlin died on July 4, 1891, in Bangor.