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Governor Frank Steunenberg

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Office Dates:  Jan 04, 1897 - Jan 07, 1901

Born:  Aug 08, 1861

Passed:  Dec 30, 1905

Birth State:  Iowa

Party:  Democrat

Family:  Married Evaline Belle Keppel; three children

School(s):  Iowa Agricultural College


FRANK STEUNENBERG was born in Keokuk, Iowa, on August 8, 1861. At the age of sixteen, he left school to apprentice with a Knoxville, Iowa paper. After his stint in the newspaper business, he studied two years at the Iowa Agricultural College. In 1866, he co-partnered with his brother in the publication of the Caldwell Tribune. Steunenberg entered politics as a member of the 1889 Idaho Constitutional Convention. The following year, he served as a one-term member of the Idaho House of Representatives, and for several years he served as chairman of the Caldwell town council. Steunenberg won the 1896 Democratic gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor of Idaho. He was reelected to a second term in 1899. During his tenure, several new boards and agencies were established, such as the board of dental examiners, the board of arbitration of labor troubles, the board of medical examiners, a fish and game warden, and a commissioner of immigration, labor, and statistics. His administration also dealt with a series of violent labor clashes involving the Western Federation of Miners. Steunenberg took a hard line and declared martial law. Federal troops were sent in to suppress the riots and hundreds of union advocates were arrested and kept in stockades without trials. After Steunenberg left office on January 7, 1901, he retired from politics, and returned to his publishing duties at the Caldwell Tribune. On December 30, 1905, Steunenberg was returning home, when he opened the wooden slide on his front gate, detonating a bomb that killed him. His murder was linked to the Western Federation of Miners strike. Harry Orchard confessed to the crime and named three officials of the Western Federation of Miners as being involved in the conspiracy. The three officials were acquitted of all charges. Governor Frank Steunenberg, who survived for 30 minutes after the bombing, was buried at the Canyon Hill Cemetery in Caldwell, Idaho.

Sources:

Biographies of Key Figures in the Haywood Trial

Idaho State Historical Society Gubernatorial Manuscript and Archive Collections:

  • Archive Collection of Governor Frank Steunenberg, AR0002.0004.
  • Frank Steunenberg collection, 1897-1983. Manuscript Collection. MS0500.

The Political Graveyard

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Spartacus Educational