Several Chinese restaurant men were driven from the area -- sometimes by municipal authorities, sometimes by young toughs who played "football" with the restaurants' fancy crockery. In nearby Emmett, the town marshal ordered Charlie Tong to leave town after he was accused of "familiarities with little girls. When the governor and John Rice announced plans in to launch a Caldwell beet sugar factory, the Tribune warned that this would encourage the employment of Chinese and Japanese. Did not Caldwell rise in her majesty a dozen years ago and expel from her noble precincts the radish raising Chinaman?
The one Jewish merchant -- clothier Isidor Mayer -- was something of a curiosity. One Halloween, he found his shop door blocked by a huge boulder, which took four men an hour to dislodge. Always ready for a little foolery himself, Frank Steunenberg once gave a dinner party served by a Negro who was positively obsequious to the governor and his guests: "Yassuh, boss" and "Sho nuff, boss" and all that.
Only at dinner's end did the servant reveal himself as Sam Clay, a senior clerk at the Caldwell Trust and an old family friend, who had used handfuls of ash from the iron stove to make himself up in blackface.
They all had a big laugh that evening. No Negroes lived in town in , a scant could be found in the entire state. Occasionally, a couple of black prizefighters, known as "thugs," came down from Boise to do battle for the delectation of the Pastime Club. People said the colored boy could ride anything that wore hair, but that didn't mean they wanted him at their supper table. Basque herders had begun to emigrate to Canyon County's sheep country but from the start were vigorously resisted by ranchers already working that range. Terming the swarthy newcomers "filthy, treacherous and meddlesome," the Tribune warned that "unless something is done [they] will make life impossible for the white man.
One of Caldwell's most indefatigable entrepreneurs, Dr. The next year, he resigned the post to settle in Caldwell and devote himself to a thriving private practice and a new pharmacy and soda fountain on Main Street. Caldwell's doctors often doubled as pharmacists, filling their own prescriptions, rolling their own pills. Later Isham launched a creamery to supply the town with fresh milk and butter, bought the Pacific Hotel, and built a new brick building to house his drugstore and medical office, rental business suites, and the Caldwell opera house.
Like a thousand other "opera houses" in towns across the land, Isham's had never played host to a real opera, and wasn't likely to. In nineteenth-century America, the word theater still had a disreputable ring, so managers routinely called their houses something else -- usually "opera house" but occasionally "museum," "auditorium," or "academy of music" -- to reassure virtuous ladies and high-minded gentlemen that attendance wouldn't blight their prospects for salvation.
Caldwell's opera house was a modest theater, with rows of benches toward the back, lines of kitchen chairs, and a few proper theater seats thirty-five cents if reserved in advance , with boxes draped in velour flanking the stage. Before long it was a regular stop for vaudevillians, blackface minstrel shows, itinerant culture on the Chautauqua lecture circuit, as well as traveling theatrical companies. Audiences were too small to attract New York road companies, but the house got regional troupes out of Chicago or Denver, sometimes traveling by wagon.
It was attractive to some companies because it helped round out their schedules between Salt Lake City and Portland. Graduation services and political rallies filled the rest of the bill. The governor attended the theater every chance he got. A passionate fan of the dramatic arts, he preferred "those entertainments that pictured the lighter side of life. The opera house's impresario, at age forty-seven, was a striking figure with a handlebar mustache, dark hair slicked with pomade, and piercing eyes. A bit of a dandy, Isham managed to appear onstage in a formal cutaway at every program, if only to announce coming attractions, and his appearances grew more elaborate as he ran for -- and became -- mayor.
Though he had a wife, Lida, and two daughters at home in his handsome Main Street residence, he was a notorious ladies' man who carried on a long surreptitious affair with Laura Patton, a Caldwell schoolteacher. He was also a skilled physician, regularly attending the Steunenberg family. That afternoon, finding the governor in good health, he certified as much to the New York Life Insurance Company. From the doctor's office, the governor crossed the street to his bank, the Caldwell Banking and Trust Company. That crossroads -- Seventh and Main -- was the heart of Caldwell's business district and its most prestigious intersection.
To the north, at the end of Seventh Avenue, loomed the Union Pacific-Oregon Short Line depot; to the south, the site of the new Italian Renaissance city hall, for which ground was soon to be broken. In the middle of Seventh Avenue, north of Main, stood the bandstand on which the eighteen-piece Caldwell Cornet Band -- the ultimate expression of community pride in turn-of-the-century America -- under the baton of its "musicologist," Professor A.
Gordon, performed each Friday evening from April through November.
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With snow banked up on all sides, the bandstand didn't look inviting that night. But the governor relished soft summer evenings when the whole town turned out, tapping their feet to the rat-a-tat-tat of the snare drums, singing along with those grand old patriotic airs. The setting sun glinted off the brass tuba, casting shimmers of golden light along Main Street; gray heads nodded over their knitting in camp chairs set against the bank's wall; sheep men, drowsy with beer, gawked from the windows of the Palace saloon.
The architectural vista at Seventh and Main inspired lofty comparisons. As plans for the new city hall were unveiled, the Tribune rhapsodized: "The scene that will present itself to a person as he steps off the train will be the most beautiful in the city. Seeking something truly distinctive, the Steunenbergs had turned to Idaho's preeminent architects, J. Tourtellotte and Company of Boise, who produced a structure quite unlike anything in town -- a graceful building, perhaps a bit eccentric, but right up-to-date in the "commercial style" of the fashionable Boston architect H.
Boston was clearly in the minds of Caldwell's young citizens, just as the trees of Iowa had stuck in the governor's head.
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Two stories high, the bank's red-brick facade was broken by rows of great white arches framing the windows. Barbershop, while a Romanesque doorway opened on a marble stairway leading up to the bank proper. The high-ceilinged main banking room presented a row of ornate brass tellers' cages across the rear wall and desks for junior officers up front; to the left and up a steep stairway was the Steunenberg brothers' three-room executive suite.
Clerks filled the first room. As befitted a former governor, Frank occupied the spacious corner office, bathed in light from five arched windows.
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All the offices, and the connecting hallway, were lined with polished oak wainscoting, lending those chambers a sobriety distinctive in that raw town-scape. Theodore Bird, the agent the governor had agreed to meet in his office that afternoon, represented the nation's largest insurance company. New York Life had been active in Idaho for four decades, paying its first death claim there in Given the perils of western life, insurance was a popular commodity nearly a third of those on whom New York Life paid death claims in nineteenth-century Idaho died violently, many by gunshot.
The company -- then in a spirited struggle with its major competitors, Mutual and Equitable -- pressed its branch offices to recruit and hold clients. In , it had established an elite rank of agents called Nylics, after the company's initials, who were awarded five escalating Nylic ranks in recognition of the business they brought in. Nylics were entitled to wear the appropriate badge on their watch chains.
At company conventions, cheerleaders sang the "Nylic Song": Nylic, Nylic, lic, lic, lic. When you write 'em, make 'em stick. Do we write 'em?
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Well I guess. Theodore Bird had displayed the requisite Nylic zeal in pursuing the governor's policy renewal. Barely forty-eight hours later, revelations of an immoderate pursuit of profit among these "protectors of widows and orphans" would drive New York Life's president, John A. McCall, from office. The insurance scandals -- revelations of political slush funds, retainers paid to U. But little of this was known to Bird and Steunenberg as they transacted their business.
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Handing over Dr. Isham's hour-old certificate and his new premium, the governor received a freshly endorsed policy, which he carefully folded into his coat pocket. After the insurance man had left, the governor spoke briefly with his brother and with Sam Clay. If Frank then kicked his feet up on the big oak partner's desk -- on which he liked to whittle with a favorite pen knife -- and gazed out the wide windows at the ever-falling snow, he could have reflected on the solvency of his multiple enterprises.
The Steunenbergs had realized a tidy profit from the sale of the Tribune to Rees Davis in They must have loved the newspaper game, since they couldn't stay out of it, at various times over the next decade owning part or all of the Caldwell Record and its successor, the Caldwell News.
But never again were they full-time newspapermen. By April , Frank -- with several Caldwell partners -- was panning for gold in the hills north of Boise. Steunenberg has great faith in the ultimate success of his venture," the Tribune reported, "and his host of Caldwell friends sincerely hope that inside of a year he will have acquired a few millions. In as well, A. A decade later, when Frank was brought in as president, it became the Caldwell Banking and Trust Company.
Spurred by A. Meanwhile, the brothers had moved into real estate with a land speculator, Colonel Charles A. Hand, laying out the "Steunenberg-Hand addition" in southeast Caldwell. Then there were the 10, merino sheep Frank owned with Charles S. A few years back, the Tribune had said he was "getting rich. Several weeks earlier, he'd written an Idaho industrialist a letter brimming with fresh prospects for profit: My business ventures are all looking well -- some of them a trifle slow -- but safe.
What mining deals I am in are all being conducted in the other fellow's money -- I am at such hand every day, either with the sheep, at the ranch or in the timber, and I have within the last month looked up a number of new things, and have two that are good viz, one, an irrigation deal of 12, acres in Eastern Idaho; some one of the roads building west will have to come through it I have also investigated the timber belt of Eastern Oregon on the lower Grande Ronde and entire Wallowa rivers.
It is the best lumbering chance I have ever seen If I find time this winter I will try to float a deal on both these propositions. Yet prosperity hadn't brought the governor peace of mind. The sepia photographs and other memorabilia of his gubernatorial years that covered his office walls never failed to stir a sense of loss, even bereavement. His years in public office had begun, as did many such careers in the West, with the very process of state making. In , his neighbors chose him as one of nine delegates to represent Ada County Canyon County wasn't carved out of Ada until in the convention called to write the Idaho constitution.
Thus emboldened, he won a seat the next year in the first state legislature, served two terms on Caldwell's city council and a stint as Canyon County auditor. By August , as his gold-mining operation failed to pan out, the Tribune reported that Steunenberg was getting serious about politics and henceforth would "engage actively" in it, and as a Democrat, too, although his father and brothers were all Republicans -- another sign of his stubborn independence. Soon he seized the critical position of secretary to the Democratic State Committee and from there made a nimble leap into the governor's office.
Frank couldn't escape the feeling that high office had been snatched away from him unjustly, that he'd been blamed unfairly for mishandling labor unrest in the state's northern panhandle.
In , recognizing that his gubernatorial days were over, he'd made a bold bid for a U. Senate seat, only to be humiliated by his "arch enemy," the former Republican senator Fred T. Sensing a power vacuum among the Democrats, the shrewd Dubois simply walked in, took over, and ensured his return to the Senate on the Democratic ticket. In , Steunie -- as the Dubois faction contemptuously called him -- tried to regain control of the party, hoping to install his sidekick Frank Martin as governor, then capture Dubois's Senate seat for himself. Instead, he was soundly thrashed again. By now Dubois had a firm grip on the state's Democratic machinery, keeping Steunenberg at bay.
Moreover, the continued flood of conservative Midwestern emigrants, particularly from the governor's native Iowa, had helped transform Idaho into a largely Republican state, erecting additional barriers to his ambitions. For all these reasons, Steunenberg took a couple of years off from politics in But the old itch kept demanding to be scratched.
With Fred Dubois's term in the Senate running out in March , Steunenberg dreamed of paying his old rival back.