Lowden, Frank O. (Frank Orren), 1861-1943

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Lawyer, politician, landowner. A.B., University of Iowa, 1885. LL. D., Union College of Law, 1887. Congressman from Illinois, 1906-1911. Governor of Illinois, 1916-1921. Advocate for scientific farming and farmers' interests.

From the description of Papers, 1885-1943 (inclusive). (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 55818931

U. S. Congressman from Illinois (1906-1911) and Illinois governor (1917-1921).

From the description of Letter, January 9, 1920. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 697839155

Lawyer; member of Congress from Illinois; governor of Illinois; candidate for Republican presidential nomination, 1920; refused Republican nomination for vice-president, 1924.

From the description of TLS, 1923 Oct. 15, Sinnissippi Farm, Oregon, Illinois, to H.H. Kohlsaat, New York, N.Y. (Rosenbach Museum & Library). WorldCat record id: 122610738

Born in Minnesota, grew up in Iowa and attended law school in Chicago, Ill. this wealthy lawyer served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before being elected governor of Illinois in 1916. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 1920 and remained interested in politics throughout his life, especially as a vocal advocate for farmers.

From the description of Papers, 1919-1928. (Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library). WorldCat record id: 52538369

Frank Orren Lowden was born in 1861 in Sunrise, Minnesota but spent his childhood in Hardin County, Iowa. His father Lorenzo was a blacksmith. Lowden grew up in rural poverty, attending school sporadically when he could put aside his chores on the family farm. By the age of fifteen, he had cobbled together enough knowledge to qualify to teach at a small school in Hubbard, Iowa. He spent the next five years teaching in a one-room schoolhouse and saving up for college, entering the University of Iowa at the age of twenty.

Upon completing his degree, Lowden worked as a high school teacher in order to save up for his continuing education, aspiring to become a lawyer. He spent his spare time learning stenography, which allowed him to quit teaching after a year and accept a job as a law clerk at the prominent Dexter law firm in Chicago in 1886. While still working during the day, he attended evening courses at the Union College of Law (now Northwestern University Law School), completing its two-year program in only one year and graduating as valedictorian in 1887. He passed the bar and began practicing law in Chicago soon afterward, becoming a senior partner in the firm Lowden, Estabrook & Davis in 1898. Lowden maintained his affiliation with Northwestern University long afterward and lectured on federal jurisprudence there 1899-1902. A meeting hall in the law school was later named after him for his service to the university.

In 1896 he married Florence Pullman, daughter of the Pullman railroad car baron, George M. Pullman, whom he had met aboard an ocean liner during a trip to Paris two years earlier. Their wedding was widely covered by the media, due to Florence’s immense wealth and the fact that she had had several elite suitors prior to her engagement to the more humble Lowden. Florence became known for her philanthropic pursuits, among them providing aid to Illinois soldiers during the First World War and later establishing Hilltop, a retreat for sick urban children at the family’s farm. They had one son, George Pullman (1897-?), and three daughters: Florence (1898-1988), Harriet (1900-1987), and Frances (1903-?).

Lowden’s avowal to support his family on his own income, rather than rely on the Pullman fortune was facilitated by his success in law and in business. His excellent reputation as a trial lawyer and his re-organization of the National Biscuit and American Radiator Companies brought him a significant personal fortune. His claim to being a ‘self-made man’ lent him credibility when he entered Republican politics in the late 1890s. Lowden’s earliest Republican political involvement was his work on William McKinley’s successful presidential campaign in 1896. After the election, he was offered the post of First Assistant Postmaster General, which he declined.

Though he never actively served in the military, Lowden was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the First Regiment Infantry of the Illinois National Guard 1898-1903. This position earned him the title of “Colonel Lowden”, which would be often invoked in his later campaign literature.

In 1900, Lowden was a delegate to the Republican National Convention and in 1904 was a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor. He was defeated by Charles S. Deneen, who went on to become governor. Lowden then represented Illinois’ 13th District in Congress 1906-1911.

In 1916 he once again ran for and was elected Governor of Illinois. Described as “square cut in politics or out”, and said to milk his own cows whenever possible, Lowden established himself as a classic Progressive-era politician, committed to industry, direct democracy, and more efficient government. He supported agricultural development, bureaucratic restructuring, lower taxes, home rule for Chicago, improving public schools, and full suffrage for women. He was lauded for consolidating 125 government agencies into nine departments, a successful cost-cutting measure for the state of Illinois. Lowden also installed the first state budget in the country, and as a result was called in to consult the federal government on the development of a national budget.

During the steel strike of 1919, his refusal to use troops ensured Illinois was one of the only manufacturing states free of violence. He also passed child labor and workmen’s compensation laws – distinguishing himself from his father-in-law, whose coffin had to be encased in cement to prevent its desecration by labor activists angry over the treatment of Pullman Company workers and strikers.

Lowden served as Governor until 1921. He came close to becoming the Republican presidential nomination in 1920 and 1928, and he declined the nomination for Vice-President in 1924. He lost the presidential nomination to Herbert Hoover in 1928.

Lowden maintained his affiliation with the Republican Party and remained engaged with politics after 1928, but focused his energy on his experimental farming. In 1900, Lowden had purchased the 5,000 acre Sinnissippi Farm (originally Hemenway Farm), in Oregon, Ogle county, Illinois and spared no expense in modernizing it. In 1903, Lowden abandoned his law practice and moved his whole family to the estate. When President Coolidge offered Lowden the post of ambassador to England in the late 1920s, he refused, saying he and his family were happier to remain on the farm.

American farms at the turn of the twentieth century were becoming increasingly industrialized, particularly in the Midwest, where new machinery and techniques of crop specialization allowed the expansion of arable land and the creation of large-scale enterprise. Lowden considered himself a modern farmer in technology and in marketing, and he advocated selling directly to the consumer. He frequently hosted other farmers and planters to demonstrate his innovative methods. Sinnissippi soon became a lucrative dairy operation, producing close to 500 pounds of butter per week by 1915. Sinnissippi farm functioned additionally as a wild game preserve and observatory. Lowden also purchased two Arkansas plantations, South Bend and Florenden. He served as the president of the Holstein-Friesian Association, the United States’ largest dairy breed association, 1921-1930.

Lowden was also a proponent of proper forest management and reforestation. In 1938, Lowden invited the newly formed forestry department at the University of Illinois to conduct research on the developing pine forest in his farm; the forest still serves as a field laboratory for the university. By the 1940s, Sinnissippi had become a prominent tree farm and Christmas tree retailer and wholesaler.

After his retirement from active politics, Lowden focused his energy on experimental farming; however, in 1933 became a receiver for the bankrupt Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. Florence Lowden died in 1937, leaving her husband a significant fortune. Lowden retired to Tuscon, Arizona, where he died in 1943. In 1992, much of Sinnissippi farm was sold by Lowden’s grandsons to the State of Illinois, becoming the Lowden-Miller State Forest; the state acquired the remainder in 1993.

From the guide to the Lowden, Frank O. Papers, circa 1870-1943, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Lowden, Frank O. (Frank Orren), 1861-1943. Papers, 1885-1943 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
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referencedIn Illinois. Governor (1917-1921 : Lowden). Frank Orren Lowden correspondence, 1917-1921. Illinois State Archive
referencedIn Family papers, 1853-1954. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
creatorOf Garford, Arthur Lovett, 1858-1933. Papers 1877-1933. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
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referencedIn Parker, Francis Warner, 1858-1922. Papers, 1913-1917. University of Chicago Library
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referencedIn Hanna-McCormick Family Papers, 1792-1985, (bulk 1902-1944) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Daugherty, H. M. (Harry Micajah), 1860-1941. Papers 1920-1939. Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
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creatorOf Wallace, Henry Cantwell, 1866-1924. Papers, 1904-1930. University of Iowa Libraries
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referencedIn [Scrapbook about Frank Orren Lowden, his wife Florence Pullman Lowden, and their families, ca. 1880-1944]. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Junius E. Beal Papers, 1869-1946 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
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referencedIn Herbert F. Baker Papers, 1904-1926 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Hutchinson, William T. (William Thomas), 1895-1976. Papers, 1912-1976 (inclusive). University of Chicago Library
creatorOf Macbride, Thomas H. (Thomas Huston), 1848-1934. Papers of Thomas H. Macbride, 1845-1954. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933. ALS, 1923 Oct. 20, to Herman Henry Kohlsaat. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn Robinson, Corinne Roosevelt, 1861-1933. Papers, 1847-1933 Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
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referencedIn Hanna, Marcus Alonzo, 1837-1904. Hanna-McCormick family papers, 1792-1985 (bulk 1902-1944). Library of Congress
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creatorOf Meredith, Edwin Thomas, 1876-1928. Papers of Edwin T. Meredith, 1898-1949 [microform]. University of Iowa Libraries
referencedIn Illinois Library Association. Records, 1892-1940. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
referencedIn Robb, Ellis. Ellis Robb collection of Iowa autographs, 1893-1936. University of Iowa Libraries
creatorOf Lowden, Frank O. (Frank Orren), 1861-1943. TLS, 1923 Oct. 15, Sinnissippi Farm, Oregon, Illinois, to H.H. Kohlsaat, New York, N.Y. Rosenbach Museum & Library
referencedIn University of Chicago. Office of Public Relations. Records, 1924-1926 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
creatorOf Lowden, Frank O. (Frank Orren), 1861-1943. Letter, January 9, 1920. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
referencedIn Miller, Florence Lowden, 1898-1988. Pullman-Miller family papers, ca. 1823-1988. Chicago History Museum
referencedIn Stone Mountain Commission photograph, 1924. University of Georgia, University of Georgia, Main Library
creatorOf Aldrich, Vernice, 1901-1959. Papers, 1902-1959 (bulk 1923-1947). University of North Dakota, Chester Fritz Library
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referencedIn Lowden Plantation financial records, 1922-1930. Arkansas History Commission, Department of Archives and History
referencedIn Henry L. Dawes Papers, 1833-1933, bulk 1833-1903 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Taylor, Henry C. (Henry Charles), 1873-1969. Henry C. Taylor papers, 1896-1968. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
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referencedIn Black, John D., 1883-1960. Papers, 1915-1960. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn University of Chicago. Office of Public Relations. Records, 1924-1926. University of Chicago Library
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referencedIn Correspondence and compositions collected by The Carl H. Pforzheimer Library, 1878-1923. Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
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creatorOf Lowden, Frank O. (Frank Orren), 1861-1943. Papers, 1919-1928. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library
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Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Aldrich, James Franklin, 1853-1933. person
associatedWith Aldrich, Vernice, 1901-1959. person
associatedWith Baker, Herbert F., 1862-1930 person
associatedWith Beal, Junius E. (Junius Emery), 1860-1942. person
associatedWith Black, John D., 1883-1960. person
associatedWith Blaine, Anita McCormick. person
associatedWith Boos, John E., 1879-1974. person
associatedWith Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Company corporateBody
associatedWith Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway Company. corporateBody
correspondedWith Cole, Corinne Robinson Alsop, 1886-1971 person
associatedWith Coolidge, Calvin, 1872-1933. person
associatedWith Daugherty, H. M. (Harry Micajah), 1860-1941. person
correspondedWith Dawes, Henry L. (Henry Laurens), 1816-1903 person
associatedWith Day, Frank A. (Frank Arah), 1855-1928. person
associatedWith Decker, Frank Norton, 1882-1969. person
associatedWith Emmerson, Louis L. (Louis Lincoln), 1863-1941. person
associatedWith Fifer, Joseph Wilson, 1840-1938. person
associatedWith Garford, Arthur Lovett, 1858-1933. person
correspondedWith Hanna family family
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923. person
associatedWith Harrison, Carter H. (Carter Henry), 1860-1953. person
associatedWith Howard, James Raley, 1873- person
associatedWith Hutchinson, William T. (William Thomas), 1895-1976. person
associatedWith Illinois. Governor (1917-1921 : Lowden) corporateBody
correspondedWith Illinois Library Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Knox College (Galesburg, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Kohlsaat, Herman Henry, 1853-1924, person
associatedWith Kohlsaat, H. H. (Herman Henry), 1853-1924. person
associatedWith Leonard, Levi O. person
associatedWith Lowden, Florence person
associatedWith Macbride, Thomas H. (Thomas Huston), 1848-1934. person
correspondedWith McCormick family family
associatedWith Meredith, Edwin Thomas, 1876-1928. person
associatedWith Merritt, Ralph Palmer, 1883-1963. person
associatedWith Miller, Florence Lowden, 1898-1988. person
associatedWith Page, Thomas Walker, 1866-1937. person
associatedWith Parker, Francis Warner, 1858-1922. person
associatedWith Parker, Francis Warner, 1958-1922 person
associatedWith Preus, J. A. O. (Jacob Aall Ottesen), 1883-1961. person
associatedWith Pullman, George Mortimer, 1831-1897. person
associatedWith Reily, E. Mont. person
associatedWith Republican Party (Ill.). State Convention (1918 : Springfield, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith Robb, Ellis. person
associatedWith Robinson, Corinne Roosevelt, 1861-1933 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919 person
associatedWith Smith, Henry Justin, b. 1875 person
associatedWith Taylor, Henry C. (Henry Charles), 1873-1969. person
associatedWith University of Chicago. Office of Public Relations. corporateBody
associatedWith Vernon, Leroy Tudor person
associatedWith Vernon, Leroy Tudor. person
correspondedWith Villard, Oswald Garrison, 1872-1949 person
associatedWith Wallace, Daniel Alden, 1878-1954. person
associatedWith Wallace, Henry Cantwell, 1866-1924. person
associatedWith West, Roy O., person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Great Britain
Illinois
Illinois
Subject
Agriculture
Diplomatic and consular service, American
Governor
Legislators
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1861-01-26

Death 1943-03-20

Information

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