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Governor John Henry Gear

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Office Dates:  Jan 17, 1878 - Jan 12, 1882

Born:  Apr 07, 1825

Passed:  Jul 14, 1900

Birth State:  New York

Party:  Republican

Family:  Married Harriet S. Foote; four children

National Office(s) Served:  Representative

JOHN H. GEAR, Iowa's eleventh governor, was born in Ithaca, New York on April 7, 1825. His education was attained at a military post at Fort Snelling on the Mississippi River. In 1843, Gear moved to Burlington, Iowa, where he worked in the mercantile business. He eventually worked his way up from clerk to owner of the successful W.F. Coolbaugh Company. He was involved with promoting railroad growth in the state, and also served as president of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Minnesota Railroad Company in 1867. Gear entered politics in 1852, serving as a one-term alderman of Burlington. He also served as mayor of Burlington in 1863, and was a member and speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1871 to 1877. Gear won the 1877 Republican gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor. He was reelected to a second term in 1879. During his tenure, he fought to reduce the large state deficit that his administration inherited. He initiated a progressive bookkeeping system, he secured legislation that dissolved the war and defense debt, and he advocated overhauling business procedures in the administration of state agencies. After leaving office, Gear served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1887 to 1891 and again from 1893 to 1895. He also was appointed and served as assistant secretary of the treasury from 1892 to 1893, and served as a member of the U.S. Senate from 1895 until his death in 1900. Governor John H. Gear died on July 14, 1900, and was buried at the Aspen Grove Cemetery in Burlington, Iowa.


Annals of Iowa, 5 (1903): 583-600.

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Iowa Historical Record, 18 (1902): 497-509.

Portrait and Biographical Album: Washington County, Iowa

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.