Davis H. Waite

  • Statehood Governor of Colorado from 1893-1895
    Governor Davis Waite
  • Party: Populist

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Political Career



Scope and Content Note

Series Descriptions

Political Career

The gubernatorial election of 1892 ushered in Colorado's populist experiment under the leadership of Davis Hanson Waite. Waite and his family moved to Leadville, Colorado, in 1879 to practice law. With the death of his spouse, Waite and two children moved to Aspen, Colorado. Before his governorship Waite was involved with numerous journalistic projects like the Aspen Union Era, became Pitkin County's first superintendent of schools, and served as the county's Justice of the Peace. Politically, Waite was the chairman of the Pitkin County Central Committee, secretary of the Knights of Labor Assembly, and a delegate to both the St. Louis and Omaha Populist conventions.


As governor, Waite was able to influence legislation and the political mainstream with his populist vision as espoused in his famous "Bloody Bridles" speech. Waite's main battle was with those he saw as possessing a monopoly over the common man. As such Waite supported bimetallism and was against any form of federalized banking that he saw as benefiting a monopoly entrenched aristocracy. His tireless attacks continued against the railroad monopolies that were acquiring huge federally subsidized land grants, and often took advantage of their industrialized labor force. Despite his actions in the Cripple Creek Strike and correspondence with Eugene V. Debs during the Pullman Strike, Waite was opposed to socialism. Waite was also instrumental in passing the legislation that gave women the right to vote in Colorado, but after his gubernatorial loss in 1894 he reversed his opinion of women's suffrage.

After his defeat Waite spent much of his time with speaking engagements that passionately supported the Omaha Populist Party Platform and continued his journalistic endeavors in periodicals like Our Nation's Crisis.

On November 27, 1901, Davis Hanson Waite died in his Aspen home while peeling apples for Thanksgiving dinner.


  • Besser, Virgle M. "The Administration of Governor Waite and the Populist Party in Colorado." Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Department of History, University of Colorado, 1924.
  • Fuller, Leon W. "Colorado's Revolt Against Capitalism." Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 21, June-July 1935, 131-144.
  • Fuller, Leon W. "Governor Waite and His Silver Panacea," Colorado Magazine, X (March 1933), 81-87.
  • Griffiths, Davis B. "Far Western Populist Thought: A Comparative Study of John R. Rogers and Davis Waite." Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 60: 183-92. October 1969.
  • Kountze, Harold Jr. "Davis H. Waite and the People's Party in Colorado." Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Department of History, Yale University, 1944.
  • Hartzell, Charles. A Short and Truthful History of Colorado during the Turbulent Reign of "Davis the First." Denver: C.J. Kelly, 1894.
  • Hornbein, Marjorie. "Davis Waite, Silver, and Populism." Essays and Monographs in Colorado History, #1, 1983.
  • Hurt, R. Douglas. "Davis H. Waite: Travels in Kansas." The Kansas Historical Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 1 (Spring 1976).
  • Lamm, Richard D. Pioneers &, Politicians: 10 Colorado Governors in Profile. Boulder, Colorado: Pruett Publishing, Co., 1984.
  • Langdon, Emma F. The Cripple Creek Strike: A History of Industrial Wars in Colorado. Denver, 1904-05.
  • Merchant, Frank. "Davis Hanson Waite: The Mould of His Reputation." Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Department of History, Denver University, 1950. Morris, John. "The Waite-Diaz Correspondence and the Mexican Dollar Plan." Colorado Magazine, 38:49-52, January 1961.
  • "The Women and Governor Waite." Colorado Magazine, 44:11-19. Winter 1967.
  • "Davis Hanson Waite: The Ideology of a Western Populist." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Colorado, 1965.
  • Papers on Waite: MSS III-38. State Historical Society of Colorado, State Museum Building, Denver, Colorado.
  • Waite, Davis H. "The Silver Question in Colorado," Harper's Weekly, XXXVII (July 1893), 715.
  • "Women's Suffrage in Practice," North American Review, CLVIII (June 1894), 737-744.

Scope and Content Note

This governor's collection includes 9 cubic feet of material related to Davis H. Waite during his term of office from 1893-1895. Series included in the collection are applications and appointments to office, correspondence, the Executive Record, extraditions and requisitions, proclamations, scrapbooks, and reports, manuscripts, and investigations. The materials date primarily from 1893-1895, although some correspondence pre- and post-date this range. The condition of the materials is good, and should remain so if current storage and conservation methods continue. Strengths of the material include documents related to the 1894 Cripple Creek Miners' Strike, the Pullman Strike, affairs of the State Penitentiary, and miscellaneous material related to his career as a populist figurehead, including letters from Eugene V. Debs and Paul Van Dervoort. One of the many gems in this collection is Waite's political scrapbook which holds a variety of correspondence and numerous speeches detailing his political vision and beliefs of the period.

Series Descriptions

  • Scrapbooks

There are two scrapbooks in the Waite collection. One contains newspaper articles concerning various subjects including the Pullman Strike, the Cripple Creek Strike, and the Trinidad Affair. The other scrapbook holds a variety of correspondence and numerous speeches detailing Waite's political vision. Subjects include: populism, silver coinage, socialism, labor, state rights, Cripple Creek difficulties, and women's suffrage.

  • Correspondence

This series consists primarily of incoming correspondence to Governor Waite and a letterpress book with both incoming and outgoing correspondence. Major correspondents include: Eugene V. Debs, Joseph C. Sibley, H.G. Clark, Patrick Meany, Paul Van Dervoort, John W. Breidenthal, Ralph Beaumont, W.S. Morgan, D.P. Tillman, Illinois Governor Altgeld, J.A. Edgerton, Ignatious Donnelly, H.E. Taubeneck, and John W. Sanborn. Major subject areas that are addressed include: populism, silver coinage, socialism, labor, state rights, Cripple Creek difficulties, women's' suffrage, the State Penitentiary and Reformatory, the State Industrial School, the Denver Riot, the Sopris Strike, conventions, exhibitions and conferences, and the Sheep Quarantine Proclamation.

  • Executive Record

The Executive Record contains executive orders, appointments, legislative messages, pardons, extraditions and requests, honorary citations, and proclamations which were issued by Governor Waite during his term from 1893-1895.

  • Extraditions and Requisitions

This series includes documentation concerning the surrendering of alleged criminals to a different jurisdiction for trial. Documentation may include the application for extradition, the warrant for arrest, and correspondence from the Attorney General's office concerning the extradition. There may be related documentation in the correspondence series.

  • Applications and Appointments

Appointments, nominations, endorsements, notifications, and related correspondence comprise this correspondence subseries. Appointments are also documented in the Executive Record.

  • Proclamations

Executive Proclamations were issued by Governor Waite and deposited as filings in the office of the Secretary of State. Subjects include: "laying down of arms," Arbor Day, rewards for murderers, quarantine of sheep, Labor Day, and a Thanksgiving Day proclamation in which Waite espoused his populist affirmations.

  • Reports, Manuscripts and Investigations

This series consists primarily of reports from agency officials such as the State Boiler Inspector, the State Fish and Game Commission, and the State Board of Charities and Corrections. It also includes material related to the People's Party and numerous investigative reports concerning the State Board of Charities and Corrections, the State Industrial School, the State School for the Deaf and Blind, and the Penitentiary.



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