Missouri State Archives
Benjamin Gratz Brown, 1871-1873
Benjamin Gratz Brown was born May 28, 1826, in Lexington, Kentucky, to Mason and Judith Bledsoe Brown, descendents of politically prominent families. Brown matriculated at Transylvania University in 1841, graduated from Yale College in 1847, and returned to Kentucky to study law with his father at the Louisville Law School. In 1849, Brown joined the law practice of cousins Frank and Montgomery Blair in St. Louis.
In 1852, he was elected to the Missouri General Assembly. His strong opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act almost cost him reelection in 1854. Brown spoke to the Missouri General Assembly in 1857 and forcefully demanded the end of slavery in Missouri. He was soundly defeated for reelection. In 1860, he attended the Republican National Convention as a delegate for Edward Bates, but Brown considered Bates too conservative. When the convention turned to Abraham Lincoln, he followed.
In 1863, Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate when Southern sympathizer Waldo P. Johnson was expelled. Senator Brown, citing poor health, returned to Missouri in 1867. He was nominated as the Liberal Republican Party nominee for the 1870 gubernatorial election and, with support from the Democratic Party, was elected in 1871 as the 20th governor of Missouri.
Brown’s tenure, although limited by law to a two-year term, was productive. Taxation laws were changed, and he quelled the Ku Klux Klan within Missouri’s borders. He also established the law and medicine departments at the University of Missouri and supported a new admissions policy allowing the enrollment of women.
In 1872, Brown was nominated as a vice presidential candidate under Horace Greeley for the Liberal Republican ticket. Greeley’s eccentricities, along with Brown’s reputation as a hard drinker, doomed the ticket. Following his defeat, Brown returned to his law practice in St. Louis. He died at home in Kirkwood, Missouri, on December 13, 1885, and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.
The Records (1861-1873) of Governor Benjamin Gratz Brown (1826-1885) include commissions, correspondence, court proceedings, indictments, invitations, invoices, legal opinions by the Attorney General, maps, newspaper clippings, petitions, proclamations, receipts, reports, telegrams, and writs of election.
Rights and Reproductions
Copyright is in the public domain. Preferred Citation: [Item description], [date]; Benjamin Gratz Brown, 1871-1873; Office of Governor, Record Group 3.20; Missouri State Archives, Jefferson City.
How to Use This Collection
The official title lists dates of service from inauguration to end of term. Records (1861-1873) refer to the date range of materials included within the collection. All references to places are within the state of Missouri unless indicated, and county is specified when known. The spelling of proper names varies greatly. When correct spelling could not be determined the original spelling was retained. Officeholders are Missouri officials unless noted (U. S. Senator, U. S. Secretary of State, U. S. Attorney General, U. S. Supreme Court, and etcetera). State Representatives are referred to as Representative. U. S. Representatives are noted with the title Congressman. Scanned images shown are the best available.
The collection finding aid provides information pertaining to additional Brown material held by the following institutions:
- Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
- Elmer Ellis Library, University of Missouri, Columbia
- Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky
- Missouri History Museum, St. Louis
- Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City
- New York Public Library, New York, New York
- Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
- St. Louis Public Library, St. Louis
- University of Chicago Library, Illinois
- State Historical Society of Missouri-Columbia, University of Missouri
- Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
For additional information on the Gratz family in Kentucky, see the Kentuckiana Digital Library.