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Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : administration of Governor William Eugene Stanley (1899-1903)

Creator: Kansas. Governor (1899-1903 : Stanley)

Date: 1899 Jan. 9-1903 Jan. 12

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Material Type: Government record

Call Number: See individual series

Unit ID: 309498

Restrictions: None.

Biographical sketch: Fifteenth governor of the State of Kansas (Republican); of Wichita.

Abstract: Correspondence and other items received from the administration of William E. Stanley, governor of the State of Kansas from 1899 Jan. 9 to 1903 Jan. 12. Included are general letters; official response letters from & letters concerning State agencies; subject files; and a few petitions, reports, copies of letters sent, & other types of documents. Some proclamations may have also been interfiled with other items received relating to the subjects of the proclamations. Subject files include applications & endorsements relating to candidates for appointments to the normal school, penitentiary, judicial, & other positions; county organizational papers; and letters relating to counties, crime & criminals, justices of the peace, lands, military affairs, relief aid, and Prohibition. Additional records of Governor Stanley are in separate series common to several governors, listed in the "Contents" portion of this finding aid.

Space Required/Quantity: 10 ft. (24 boxes)

Title (Main title): Records of the Kansas Governor's Office : administration of Governor William Eugene Stanley (1899-1903)

Titles (Other):

  • Kansas Governor William Eugene Stanley correspondence
  • Kansas Governor William Eugene Stanley records
  • Correspondence
  • Records
  • Records of the Office of the Governor of Kansas : William Eugene Stanley administration (1899-1903)
  • William Eugene Stanley administration, Jan. 9, 1899-Jan. 12, 1903

Part of: Records of the Kansas Governor's Office.

Language note: Text is in English.


Biog. Sketch (Full):

William Eugene Stanley, fifteenth governor of the State of Kansas, was born on 28 December 1844 in Knox County, Ohio, the son of Almon Fleming Stanley, a popular physician of Knox County, and Angelina Sapp Stanley; he grew up with one brother and one sister.

He was educated at area common schools, and later attended Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware.
Afterward, he studied law in Kenton, Ohio, at the office of Bain and King and continued his law studies in Dayton, Ohio, at the office of Conover and Craighead. Mr. Stanley was known for his meticulous attention to legal detail and his presentation style in deliberations. He was widely known and sought after in eastern Kansas and Missouri for his competence in the practice of law.

William Stanley was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1868, and after just two years in law practice, he moved to Jefferson County, Kansas. Upon finding his place on the Kansas prairie, Stanley also found his place in the Republican Party. He served as county attorney for the next two years. In 1872 he moved to the new community of Wichita where he became the Sedgwick County attorney serving three terms ending in 1880.

He married Emma Lenora Hills on 30 May 1876, and they had three sons, one dying at infancy, and one daughter. His religious preference was Methodist.

In 1880 he won election and served in the State House of Representatives for the following two years. Around that time Governor E. N. Morrill had offered him several appointments as judge on the Court of Appeals, but Stanley persistently declined. Instead he decided to remain in Wichita until he was nominated by the Republican State Convention for State governor in 1898. Knowing that he was popular enough to win election, he defeated the incumbent governor, John Whitnah Leedy, by about 15,000 votes.

William Stanley assumed the office of governor at the turn of the twentieth Century in the Progressive period, a time of new and vast industrialization, and also when the first automobiles would appear on the roads. He was largely considered a middle of the road governor, but very capable and honest. He entered the governorship in good economic times, and commodity businesses throughout the eastern half of the state were booming. There was an abundance of livestock production, and wheat harvesting was bountiful. The rapid paydown of the State's excessive public and private debt astonished financial authorities, but the sole explanation was in the natural resources of the State. For over a period of seven years, Kansas paid off more than $100,000,000 of debt because it produced more than $4,000,000,000 worth of farm products and livestock.

Governor Stanley worked hard to reorganize the business of state, and numerous changes to that affect were successful. But his perceived mandate to abolish what he considered “useless departments” was not as successful because of the redundant layers of State bureaucratic systems that had evolved over the years were incredibly solid and virtually unbreakable. The State's “First Couple” were the first to live in the newly built Kansas executive mansion in Topeka.

Governor Stanley also increased the number of Supreme Court justices from three to seven for reasons unknown to the Legislature or the people of Kansas, and this created some concern that he may have favored special treatment of individuals. Previously Governor Leedy had been criticized for calling a midnight pre-departure special session of the Legislature to enact new laws to regulate the railroads, mainly to place limits on passenger ticket and freight charges; this political ploy was named the Court of Visitation. Governor Stanley embraced Leedy’s intent but recommended a more conservative approach with more leniency toward the railroads. In the end, however, suits filed to test the validity of the court were successful, and the court was declared unconstitutional.

The governor was successful, however, in getting the funding appropriated to finally complete the Statehouse building in Topeka and to establish a binding-twine plant at the State Penitentiary in Lansing for the purpose of low cost competition for the binder-twine trust. The governor also officially authorized the first traveling library commission of Kansas. The idea of a traveling library was borne by women of the Kansas Book Club in May 1897 to promote a statewide literacy campaign. The traveling libraries proved a brilliant idea, and in many communities the program served as sole means to bring reading material to their citizens.

He was renominated for governor in 1900 and defeated the Democratic and People’s Party candidate, John W. Breidenthal, in the general election.

The Legislature of 1901 established a new Board of Railroad Commissioners and the members' specific duties were diligently defined. An appropriation of about $47,000 was also rendered to pay the cost of transporting the 20th Kansas Infantry Regiment home. The issue of the good-roads bill was frequently discussed, and a commission was appointed to investigate the matter.

A few episodes of unrest occurred on Governor Stanley’s watch, one of which involved a work strike at the State’s penitentiary in 1901 resulting in the deaths of two inmates and the subsequent punishment of the ringleaders. Poor working and housing conditions prompted another inmate revolt at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth when twenty-seven convicts escaped; eighteen of these were killed or captured within few days of the escape.

In 1902, when a Leavenworth County sheriff permitted the lynching of an African American man, Governor Stanley was outraged and publicly condemned the act. Afterward the State Legislature passed a resolution of tough language that would restrict the use of capital punishment for only those crimes that are considered most severe. As a result of this resolution's passage, Kansas did not execute another convict for over three decades.

The issue of Prohibition was another matter the Governor was dealt. Prohibition had lacked the urgency of former times, and for the Governor the order of enforcing Prohibition had become a non-issue. But the timing of this could not have been worse for Governor Stanley because Carry Nation was coming to Topeka. On 28 January 1901, Carry Nation, a staunch prohibitionist, literally invaded the office of the governor and for a solid hour scolded the Governor for not enforcing the laws of Prohibition and for not closing down illegal saloons of which there were many operating at the time. She called the Governor a blatant lawbreaker and perjurer to his face and insisted that he accompany her around Kansas to help smash up saloons. At one point, the Governor lost his temper and said to Nation, “You are a women, but a women must know a women’s place; you just can’t come in here and raise this kind of disturbance.” Only a few days before, Mrs. Nation had received a black eye from a saloon smashing party in Enterprise, Kansas. She even had her portrait drawn in the governor’s office depicting her heroic eye bruise for sacrifice to a moral cause.

In 1902, William Stanley refused to seek a third term as governor, but did have an eye on a seat in the United States Senate, then elected by the State Legislature. In the Senate selection of 1903, a deadlock on the first sixteen ballots ensued. Stanley’s frustration over what he thought would be a sure fill resulted in his withdrawal in favor of another lawyer from Wichita, Chester I. Long. After leaving Topeka in 1903, Mr. Stanley resumed his law practice in Wichita, and later that year he served on the Dawes Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes at its headquarters in Tishomingo, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.

William Stanley’s sport of relaxation was archery, and he was once the Kansas state archery champion, while his wife, Emma, was the champion women archer in Wichita.

William Stanley peacefully died of natural causes on 13 October 1910 at Wichita; he is buried in Wichita’s Highland Cemetery.

Administrative History

Administrative History:

The Wyandotte Constitution of 1859 established the office of the governor of the State of Kansas. Some of the more important duties, functions, and responsibilities of the governor are to see that the laws are faithfully executed, to require written explanations from other executive officers—at that time the lieutenant governor, secretary of State, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, and superintendent of public instruction—upon any subject relating to their respective duties, convene by the Legislature by proclamation on extraordinary occasions, communicate in writing such information as the governor may possess in reference to the condition of the State at the commencement of every legislative session, recommend such measures as he/she may deem expedient, and commission officers of the State.

No formal qualifications for the governor have been legislated, aside from the provision that no member of Congress or officer of the State, or the United States, can serve. The governor is elected by a plurality, not necessarily a majority of votes cast. The governor takes office the second Monday in January following election. The governor is authorized to hire a private secretary, pardon attorney, and other staff as appropriations permit.

At the beginning of William Eugene Stanley’s term, the governor had the power to appoint Militia officers; members of part-time boards of directors, trustees, or regents of the State Penitentiary (now Lansing Correctional Facility), schools of higher education, the State insane asylum (now Osawatomie State Hospital), and schools for deaf and blind students; a Board of Visitors for the State Agricultural College (now Kansas State University); the Bureau of Immigration; the Commission for Care of Destitute Orphans and Children of State Soldiers; the State librarian; the superintendent of insurance; the office of commissioner of elections in each first class city; the commissioner of forestry and irrigation; members of the School Textbook Commission; and a number of minor commissions. He was also an ex officio member of the State Board of Canvassers, boards of directors of the Agricultural College and Normal School, the Bureau of Immigration, the Board of Treasury Examiners, the state accountant, an inspector general, four of the seven trustees of the Industrial and Educational Institute of Topeka, and other committees.

During Governor William Eugene Stanley's two terms, the governor was empowered to appoint with the consent of the Senate four trustees of the Industrial Department, Western University, Quindaro, now part of Kansas City, in 1899; five members of the Board of Trustees of State Charities and Corrections, successor to the Board of Trustees for the Control of of Charitable Institutions, in 1901; and the State Board of Medical Registration and Examination, also in 1901. New State agencies included the State Bureau of Labor and Industry, Parsons State Hospital for the Treatment of Epileptics and Insane Epileptics, and the Kansas Traveling Libraries Commission in 1899. In 1901 a new Board of Railroad Commissioners replaced the Court of Visitation and a Fort Hays Branch in Ellis County of the Agricultural Experiment Station in Manhattan and the Western Branch State Normal School, now Fort Hays State University, in Hays were established.

Scope and Content

Scope and content:

The records of the Governor William Eugene Stanley administration consist of one series of Correspondence Files, 1899-1903, series 193424, http://www.kshs.org/archives/193424 , containing 24 boxes.

Items in the series are primarily letters received by Governor Stanley, however there may also be proclamations and some petitions, reports, copies of letters sent, and other types of documents. The correspondence is organized into four sub-series: (1) Alphabetical File; (2) State Agencies File; (3) Subject File; and (4) Applications, Recommendations and Endorsements.

Documents that may have been addressed to Governor Stanley but dated or pertaining to the time period after his term expired in 1903 may be filed with the records of his successor, Governor Willis Joshua Bailey.

A more complete list of contents of this series by folder is in the "Summary: Detailed Description of the Records" section on web page http://www.kshs.org/archives/193424 . A detailed description of each sub-series is there as well.

Selected records from Governor Stanley's administration have been posted on Kansas Memory, the Kansas Historical Society's digital archives. These can be found at http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4894-4796-4938&

A number of series of records of the Governor's Office, while not specific to this administration, contain information from Governor Stanley's time in office; the complete list is in the Contents section of this record.

Records of other offices of Kansas’ government — particularly the secretary of State, Record Group 622, and attorney general, Record Group 82 — will give additional information about State activities during this period. Papers of other prominent political figures of the time, most of which are held by the Kansas State Historical Society, may also offer insights about Kansas politics and government during the Stanley administration.

The Kansas Historical Society has a small William Eugene Stanley miscellaneous manuscript collection including correspondence and speeches, primarily concerned with Kansas politics and William Eugene Stanley's service on the U.S. Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes, also known as the Dawes Commission. Included is a 1903 Legum Doctoris, honorary doctor of laws diploma, awarded him by Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas. Additional information is at http://www.kshs.org/archives/43890


Records specific to this administration: Ser. 193424. Correspondence files, 1899-1903, 10 ft. (24 boxes), http://www.kshs.org/archives/193424

Records that include this administration: Ser. 193450. Executive proclamations, 1861-1987, 11 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193450 -- ser. 193660. Pardon and parole files : Womens' Industrial Farm, 1863-1919, 75 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193660 -- ser. 193397. Letter press book, 1865-1905, 19 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193397 -- ser. 193781. Death sentence warrants, 1872-1908, 0.2 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193781 -- ser. 193782. Record of death sentences, 1872-1906, 0.2 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193782 -- ser. 194090. Applications For Requisitions : series I & II, 1874-1953, 37 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/194090 -- ser. 193802. Citizenship pardons 1876-1960, 8 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193802 -- ser. 191789. Extraditions 1877-1994, 163 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/191789 -- ser. 193470. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1885-[ca. 1929], 1 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193470 -- ser. 193814. Requisitions from other states, 1886-1932, 1 cubic ft., http://www.kshs.org/archives/193814

Portions of Collection Separately Described:


No Locators Identified

Related Records or Collections

Related materials:


Finding Aid Bibliography:

Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1918; Open Library website; https://archive.org/details/standardhistoryo00conn (viewed 23 July 2014).

Drury, James W. The Government of Kansas. 3d ed. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, ©1980. Available in the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) Reference Room: call no. K 350.7 D845 1980.

Harder, Marvin A. The Governor of Kansas: An Analysis of Decision-Making Opportunities, Constraints, and Resources. Topeka, Kans.: Capitol Complex Center, University of Kansas, 1981, ©1982. Available in the KSHS Reference Room: call no. SP 378 Z C172 pam.v.1 no. 1.

Socolofsky, Homer E. Kansas Governors. Lawrence, Kans.: University Press of Kansas, ©1990. Available in the KSHS Reference Room: call no. K BB So13.

Index Terms


    Kansas. Governor (1899-1903 : Stanley)
    Kansas. Legislature
    Republican Party (Kan.)
    Kansas -- Officials and employees -- Selection and appointment
    Kansas -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950
    Kansas -- Relations -- Missouri
    Missouri -- Relations -- Kansas
    Stanley, William Eugene, 1844-1910
    Governors -- Kansas -- Archives
    Governors -- Kansas -- Records and correspondence
    Civil-military relations -- Kansas
    County government -- Kansas
    Criminal justice, Administration of -- Kansas
    Criminals -- Kansas
    Finance, Public -- Kansas
    Government correspondence -- Kansas
    Justices of the peace -- Kansas
    Lawyers -- Kansas
    Patronage, Political -- Kansas
    Public institutions -- Kansas
    Public lands -- Kansas
    Public officers -- Kansas
    Public records -- Kansas
    Public welfare -- Kansas
    State-local relations -- Kansas

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Specific Administrations.
    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Specific Administrations. Stanley, William Administration.
    Kansas State Agencies. Governor's Office. Main Office. Pardon and Extradition Attorney.

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions: None.

Use and reproduction:

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Most documents created by governmental entities, including the State of Kansas, are considered in the public domain, although copyright to documents found in public records that were written by individuals or organizations and sent to government agencies may be owned by the writers or their heirs.

Add'l physical form: Selected items: Also available on Kansas Memory, electronic resource. Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, c2007-14; http://www.kansasmemory.org/locate.php?categories=4894-4796-4938&

Cite as:

Note: [document description], William Eugene Stanley administration (1899–1903), Records of the Kansas Governor’s Office, Record Group 252, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Bibliography: Kansas, Governor’s Office, William Eugene Stanley administration (1899–1903), Record Group 252, State Archives, Kansas Historical Society.

Action note: Inventory written by David F. Manning, volunteer, 2009.

Accumulation/Freq. Of Use: No additional records are expected.

Holder of originals: State archives, Kansas Historical Society (Topeka).