Atwood Avenue is named after David Atwood (1815 – 1889), Madison’s eighth mayor and one of the city’s first newspapermen. He traced his ancestry to John Atwood, who settled at Plymouth in 1643. From 1838 to 1839 David traveled ten thousand miles on horseback endeavoring to sell The American Common Law as a book agent. In 1839 he and his brother began publishing the Hamilton Palladium, a weekly Whig newspaper, in New York. When young he had attended school with Horace Greeley, whose farm adjoined his in New Hampshire, and he anticipated that famous newspaperman’s advice by “going west” in 1847. He obtained a job on the Madison Express as a compositor and assistant editor for six dollars per week, plus board. He and Royal Buck purchased the paper in 1848; in 1852 he merged it with the Wisconsin Statesman to form the short-lived Wisconsin Daily Palladium. Later that year he founded the Wisconsin State Journal; in 1868, as its editor, he editorialized in support of the mayor - himself - promoting factories as the best way to increase wealth and population in Madison.
Atwood was elected to the legislature in 1860, and was appointed to Congress in 1870 upon the death of B. F. Hopkins. He served as treasurer of the State Agricultural Society from 1857 to 1870, director and president of the Madison Mutual Insurance Company, trustee of the State Hospital for the Insane from 1866 to 1882, and president of the Madison Gas Light and Coke Company. He was appointed internal revenue assessor by President Lincoln in 1862, but was removed by President Johnson in 1866 for “offensive partisanship.”
Atwood was originally in the anti-slavery wing of the Whig Party, but joined the Free Soil movement in 1853. He was one of the leaders in the organization of the Republican Party in 1854. He was clerk of the first Republican-majority state Assembly and served as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1868 to 1876. He was president of the school board and a member of the Wisconsin Historical Society beginning in 1849. Flags on the Capitol and city hall flew at half-staff on the day of his funeral.