Saturday, September 25, 2010

No Neckties Allowed #1 - a Frank Steunenberg trademark, reader comments & links of interest

“No Neckties allowed” refers to the well-known habit of my great-grandfather, Governor Frank Steunenberg, of never wearing a tie during his tenure as governor or at any other time that I know of. He was informal, approachable and casual in nature. No ivory towers or layers of security. He grew-up a farm boy of meager means in Iowa and retained his relaxed, boyish nature and dry sense of humor. I think that is why when a question arose in the community, it would often be said,” let’s ask Frank what he thinks”.

Reading the first few pages of Big Trouble, we find:
“Most of the day, as wind-driven snow hissed on the windowpanes, the governor read and wrote in his study. At four o’clock, he put on his overcoat, a slouch hat and galoshes, but no necktie: he was known throughout the state for his stubborn refusal to throttle himself with those slippery eastern doohickeys. Some said the habit began in the governor’s youth when he was too indigent to afford a tie. In any case, for the rest of his life he’d button the shirt around his neck, leaving the uncovered brass collar to glint like a gold coin at his throat."

The Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1899

"People loved to speculate on this eccentricity. ‘His friends have exhausted all their persuasive powers on him,’ said the Populist James Sovereign. “Newspapers have raked him fore and aft with editorial batteries, theatrical companies have held him up to laughter and ridicule, he has become the basis of standing jokes in bar-room gossip and sewing circles, orators have plead (sic) with him, doctors have prescribed for him and politicians have lied for him, but all of no avail.’ Indeed, a fashionable Washington D.C., hotel had once refused to serve him because he wore no tie, an exclusion that he bore with ‘magnanimous mien.’ A bemused Wall Street remembered him, on one of his excursions East, as ‘a rugged giant who wore a bearskin coat flapping over a collarless shirt.’” --Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

The 1st Idaho Legislature

Celebration Of The One Hundredth Anniversary of the Establishment Of The Seat Of Government In The District Of Columbia

With the above in mind, I have decided to post an occasional “No Ties Allowed” blog entry for informal remarks, comments, passing on of new links, bits of information and sharing contacts I have had with people of interest. It is informal but hopefully informative. And informal means don't pick on me for grammar or typos. I will still watch it and do (or is that due or doo?) pretty well for an aging dyslexic. In the tradition of Governor Steunenberg, a tradition I uphold, and one that I learned we share with retired Idaho Supreme Court Justice Byron Johnson--no neckties are allowed here.

Recent happenings:
You may have seen my brief post regarding comments from the great grandson of Albert Horsley (aka Harry Orchard) made to the IPTV website, Assassination: Idaho's Trial of the Century Feedback page. I appreciate Larry Taylor stepping forward as his viewpoint is an important one. I do hope Larry and other Orchard/Horsley descendants will continue to contribute to the discussion as we try to understand the many tragedies of this story that have affected families for generations.

Harve Haskell, a Nampa resident and author, is working on a historical novel based on the connection between Governor Steunenberg and Sheriff Harvey Brown of Baker County Oregon. As you may recall, Sheriff Brown was assassinated in an eerily similar plot after he had assisted authorities in Idaho with the Steunenberg assassination investigation. Now I am not a big fan of historical novels. I always felt "historical novel" was an oxymoron as folks tend to confuse fiction with history as it is. We are all guilty from time to time as the lines between fact and fiction can be pretty blurred. I been happy to share information with Harve in the hope that some truth creeps in and perhaps we will see the end result later down the road. No doubt, he will have this amateur historian lining up for a copy of the book and giving my critical review.

Gary Heagy shared some interesting discussions with me (see Comments from a reader)and I welcome his input. Gary presents an SDA viewpoint that is always important to our family that still has a few SDA members. As some of you know, Great Grandma Belle was a founding member of the small SDA church in Caldwell. Frank did not covert to SDA but he did not object to Belle’s insistence on raising the children as members of the SDA. My grandfather Julian, the eldest, was rather resistant to the idea but at the urging of his father, and for the sake of peace in the family, he went along and even attended Walla Walla College. Belle raised quite a controversy in the family; particularly with her forgiveness toward Orchard and her belief in his conversion and redemption. We continue to discuss and debate that issue to this day and I am guess we always will. Appreciate your insights Gary and keep them coming.

I recently discovered the existence of a proclamation signed by Governor Steunenberg in 1899 creating the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) and naming Charles Arbuckle as the first game warden. Through our always helpful chain of Idaho contacts, I was led to Sharon Clark, an historian with the IDFG. She had helped put together an exhibit, "A Century of Hatcheries," that was at the Idaho Historical Museum in 2006. I am hoping to get a copy of the proclamation of the governors as well a more information on the formation of the IDFG in 1899. A future blog post perhaps.

Check out the following blog posts if you missed them:
Dr. Hans Schantz did a fine post on his blog summarizing Big Trouble: The Steunenberg Assassination.

Evan "Revue Guru" Fillby did a nice post on his blog commemorating Albert "A.K." Steunenberg.

Recent new links of interest:
Albert E. Horsley Diaries

Victor & Cripple Creek History

Feel free to browse my history documents. I suggest clicking on "Spotlights" as some of the other stuff gets redundant but check out whatever you like.

And of course don't forget to visit our Guest Book over near the top of the blog in the left hand column. Scroll through the entries and then enter your own comment or just say "howdy." If you are kinfolk of mine or of any of the participants in this historical drama, we would love to hear from you. If the Guest Book is too public for you, email me at:

More "No Necktie" sessions to come from time to time, usually on the weekends but could show-up anytime since I never have a necktie on anymore. John

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