Joseph Little Bristow, junior United States senator from Kansas, was born in Wolf county, Kentucky, July 22, 1861, the son of Rev. William and Savannah (Little) Bristow. His father was a Methodist circuit rider, and young Bristow, born in a country log cabin, had to work his own way from boyhood. His early education was received in the country schools of his native state, and then by his own efforts he went through Baker University at Baldwin, Kan., graduating with the class of 1886. In that same year Mr. Bristow was elected district clerk of Douglas county, Kansas, and held that office for four years. In 1890 he purchased the Salina (Kan.) Daily Republican from J. L. Brady, combining it in 1893 with the Journal, purchased from C. B. Kirtland, and he was editor and publisher of the Republican-Journal until 1895. From 1894 to 1898 he was secretary of the Republican state central committee, and from 1895 to 1897 was private secretary to Governor Morrill. His work as secretary of the state committee brought him in touch with William McKinley in the campaign of 1896, and when McKinley became president he appointed Mr. Bristow fourth assistant postmaster general. This office he held from April 1, 1897, to Jan. 20, 1905, and during that time he won wide distinction by his efficient and fearless administration of the office. Postal frauds in Cuba attracted attention in 1900 and Mr. Bristow was sent to the island to investigate them. Though the politicians involved had abundant political influence back of them, he lost no time in sending them to jail. In 1903 he did more work of the same sort, when, under the direction of President Roosevelt, he conducted a sweeping investigation of the postoffice department, which cleared the postal service of abuses and frauds of a shocking extent. In 1905 he was appointed special Panama railroad commissioner by President Roosevelt, in which capacity he filed two elaborate reports, one in August, 1905, and the other in January, 1908.
In 1895, when he sold the Salina Republican, Mr. Bristow bought the Ottawa (Kan.) Herald, which he owned for more than ten years. In 1903 he again purchased the Republican-Journal at Salina and is still the owner and publisher of that paper, which is now known as the Salina Evening Journal. In August, 1908, in the first state-wide primary ever held in Kansas, Mr. Bristow was nominated by the Republicans of Kansas to succeed the Hon. Chester I. Long as United States senator, and was elected by the legislature in January, 1909, for the term expiring on March 3, 1915. In the senate Mr. Bristow has been an active member of the progressive group of Republicans. In the tariff fight of 1909 his attacks on the lead and sugar schedules were notable, and he was one of the seven Republican senators who voted against the Payne-Aldrich tariff bill on its final passage. In the long fight in 1910, over the amending of the interstate commerce law, he was equally active, and he had a leading part in the framing of the long-and-short-haul clause that was then adopted. But foremost of all the reforms for which he has contended has been the election of senators by direct vote of the people. On June 12, 1911, the senate for the first time in its history passed a resolution providing for direct elections of senators, and that vote was the result of a fight in which, for more than two years, Senator Bristow had been a leader.
Mr. Bristow was married on Nov. 11, 1879, to Margaret Hendrix, daughter of Philip and Jane Hendrix, of Flemingsburg, Ky. Three children are living: Joseph Quayle Bristow, of Washington, D. C.; Frank Baker Bristow, now a Rhodes scholar from Kansas at Oxford University, and Edwin McKinley Bristow, a student, at home with his parents.Pages 25-26 from volume III, part 1 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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