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Manuscript Group 91

C. Ben Ross

Papers, 1922-1945
5 linear feet

This descriptive inventory of the papers of C. Ben Ross in the University of Idaho Library was prepared by Judith Nielsen in September 1979.


Idaho's first native-born governor, Charles Benjamin Ross, was born near Parma, Idaho December 27, 1876. He was one of eight children born to cattleman John M. Ross and his wife Jeanette Hadley Ross. He attended school in Parma, ending his education after grade six. In 1894, at the age of 18, he decided to continue his education by attending business colleges in Boise and Portland, graduating from Portland Commercial College. He returned to the ranch in 1897 where he and his brother W.H. Ross managed the holdings which their father had developed.

On February 14, 1900 he married Edna Reavis, who was a natural politician and a great asset to her husband's career. When Ross became governor she was often referred to as "Governor Edna." Although they had no children of their own, they raised four foster children.

C. Ben Ross was elected county commissioner in Canyon County, a position he held for three terms (six years) resigning it when, in 1921, he moved to Pocatello to manage his father's estate in that town. In 1923 he was elected mayor of Pocatello, and remained in office until he was elected governor in 1930. When Ross took office as mayor, Pocatello had only a few blocks of paved streets, and a few more were gravel; at the end of his term 54 per cent of Pocatello's roads were oiled. He also improved the city's water supply and lowered taxes. His interest in roads and taxes continued into his terms as governor.

He ran for governor five times, the first in 1928 when he was defeated. On May 2, 1930 he again announced his intention of running for governor. This time he was successful, but, as a democrat, was handicapped by a republican legislature. The election of 1932 saw the return of Ross as governor, but this time with a democratic legislature; his unusual bid for a third term in 1934 was also successful. In 1936 he received the democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, but was defeated in the general election by the incumbent William E. Borah. In 1938 he again ran for governor, receiving the nomination in the primary by defeating B.W. Clark by only 2,200 votes. The general election saw his defeat by C.A. Bottolfsen by 28,571 votes.

Following this defeat Ross retired to his farm. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945, the day of President Roosevelt's death, and lingered as a semi-invalid for almost a year. In mid March, 1946, he had a heart attack and on March 31 he died in St. Alphonsus Hospital, Boise. His wife refused to allow his body to lie in state in the Statehouse and he was buried quietly near his Parma home.


The five boxes of C. Ben Ross papers consist of letters, speeches and other memorabilia, the majority of which deals with Ross's tenure as governor of Idaho, 1930-1936. There are also items relating to the Ross Plan and miscellaneous items of campaign material.

There is also a collection of reports, some published by private organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Eagles, some are typescripts of articles and others are government reports.

Series V contains newspaper clippings, and occasionally complete newspapers, dealing primarily with Ross and Idaho politics, There are a few articles on W.E. Borah in the 1935 and 1936 folders.

Among the more interesting items of personal memorabilia is a collection of photographs. Unfortunately very few have been dated, and often there is no identification for Ross's companions in group photographs. There are a number of identification badges, ribbons, and souvenir programs for functions Ross attended, as well as magazines with articles about Ross.

The more personal items include farm leases, a Quit Claim Deed, check registers, correspondence with the Federal Land Bank of Spokane regarding the loans for S.S. Powers and E. Stemper, and property tax records.

The contents of each section are outlined in full in the following Description of Series. A name index for the correspondence is provided.

In addition to the five boxes of Ross papers herein described, the Special Collections Department of the University Library has the book C. Ben Ross and the New Deal in Idaho by Michael P. Malone (Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1970).


The papers of Governor C. Ben Ross have been arranged by keeping like material together. The correspondence is arranged chronologically by year, then alphabetically by correspondent within each year, thus the outgoing and incoming letters are kept together. Letters from local, state, and federal agencies or organizations are arranged under the name of the person signing the letter rather than the agency.

Reports and newspaper clippings are in chronological order. The items of personal material are sorted according to type. Property tax notices are arranged by county, then by date.


I. Correspondence, 1922-1945 File Boxes 1-3

II. Campaign Material File Box 3

III. Political Material File Box 3

IV. Miscellaneous Reports, 1923-1942 File Box 4

V. Newspaper Clippings File Boxes 4-5

VI. Personal File Box 5


I. Correspondence, 1922-1945

The correspondence included in the Ross papers contains original incoming letters, carbon copies of outgoing letters and copies of correspondence between third parties with a copy sent to Ross for his information.

Letters written in election years deal with campaign arrangements, election results, and include many letters or telegrams of congratulations, or, as in 1936 and 1938, condolence. Throughout this series are letters from people wanting jobs. Some letters can be called "tattle-tale letters," others are responding to specific questions concerning individuals in government work. There are a number of letters from A.A. Steel which deal with Ross's farm in Parma. Some letters deal with Pocatello politics, some with national policies which will affect Idaho. Beginning in 1933, Ross's friends were urging him to run against Senator W.E. Borah, and these continue through Ross's unsuccessful campaign to "retire Borah to private life" in 1936.

In the 1935 file there is a 103 page typed manuscript by Paul Davis entitled "Sales Tax."

Following the folder of undated correspondence is one labeled "J.C. White." White was maintenance engineer in highway district #5 (Coeur d'Alene) and the correspondence in this file, dated 1932-33, deals with the excessive cost of maintaining the roads in the district.

Most years have a miscellaneous folder, the contents of which are described following the alphabetical list of correspondents. There are also, for several years, extra folders with specific labels, the contents of which are included in the following list and are identified by the following codes: RP = Ross Plan (1933), NP = Nominating Petition (1934), CP = Candidacy Petition (1936), CAEG = Campaign Advertising Expenses (Governor, 1934), CAES - Campaign Advertising Expenses (Senate, 1936).

II. Campaign Materials

The campaign materials are separated into six folders which contain the following items:

Handbills and Ads

31/2" x 2" cards "Ross for Governor" - undated

Ross Saves Taxpayers Money. Booklet, 1954

Broadsides. Campaign for Senate, 1936

Poster. Campaign for Senate. 1936

You have heard the arguments, here are the facts. Booklet, 1932.

Newspaper ads. Campaign for Senate, 1936

Poster: Canyon County Democratic Ticket. 1932

Several amateur poems

Travel Itineraries

1934 campaign

1936 campaign


A Challenge to taxpayers, Typed sheet

Defenbach's speech made at Boise. November 2, 1932. Typed. 12 p.

Feeney dubious of Ross' claims. Idaho Statesman. October 30, 1934

Fish and Game. 2 p. typed. Bannock County Sportsmen's Assoc.

Roosevelt--or--Ross? 1934. 5 p.

Voters Attention. Endorsement of Young Men's Democratic Club. 1934

Printed letters from Frank Martin. May 15, August 1, 1934

Opposition, Frank Stephan (1934)

A Gentleman for Governor. 1 p. typed

Speech made at Emmett, Idaho. October 10, 1934. 14 p. typed

Record of Frank Stephan in the 18th session of the Idaho legislature. 1 p. typed

Stephan attorney fees - includes copies of legal papers

Other Democratic Candidates.


Alfred E. Smith (reprinted from Oregon Journal, June 30)

Chase A. Clark (reprinted from Mackay Miner)


J.M. Hartley. County Commissioner, lst district. 1934

John Knox Coe. Lieut. Governor. 1938

James F. Ailshee. Justice of Supreme Court. 1934

Dave C. Hally. State Senator. 1934

Paul H. Reiniger. County Commissioner, 3rd Dist. Kootenai Co.

George M. Servick. Clerk of District Court

I.B. Horne. Sheriff of Benewah County. 1934

Meyers, Cohn. County Commissioner, lst Dist. Bannock Co. 192

Albert W. Fricke. County Auditor

Election Returns

1934 incomplete state returns

1944 state ticket

1914-1932 votes for governor

1932 Canyon County returns

1934 Bannock County nominating ballot returns

1930 printed table of returns

III. Political Materials

The political materials are contained in six folders which may be described as follows.

Speeches (1)

Statement. November 4, 1936

Statement. October 22, 1936

Inflation and Expansion of Currency- 3 p., typed

Pro Defenbach speech (speaker unidentified) 1932. 12 p. typed

Ross Speech. 1930- 3 p. typed

Facts given out by Gov. Ross in his speech at Middleton, Oct. 1, 1932- 3 p. mimeographed

Gov. Ross's address at Lewiston, Oct. 12, 1932. 8 p. mimeographed

Transcript of conversation between Ross and L.D. Cox regarding potatoes. undated. 4 p. typed

Speech in Canyon County regarding state expenditures. 1932.

Speech. 1934. 4 p. typed

Fish and the game. 1934

Governor's message to the 23rd session of the legislature of the State of Idaho. 1935. 11 p. typed

Speeches (2)

Governor's message to the 22nd session of the legislature of the State of Idaho, 1933. 12 p. typed. (various drafts)

Radio Addresses

Idaho Falls. November 1, 1934. 6 p.

Twin Falls. October 24, 1936. 4 p.

Boise - November 2, 1936. 5 p.

Twin Falls. 1938. 9 p.

Telephone Conversations (Typed transcripts)

Between Gov. Ross and D. Worth Clark. January 23, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and D. Worth Clark. March 19, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and Albert Goss. December 18, 1934

Between Robert H. Hinckley and P.C. Meredith. November 26, 19--

Between Gov. Ross and Harry L. Hopkins. April 1, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and Aubrey Williams. August 31, 1934

Between Aubrey Williams and P.C. Meredith. November 10, 1934

Between Gov. Ross and Aubrey Williams. January 15, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and Aubrey Williams. January 17, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and Aubrey Williams. January 31, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and Aubrey Williams. March 1, 1935

Between Gov. Ross and Aubrey Williams. March 18, 1935

Between Gov. Ross, A.E. Duke and Mr. Rich. n.d.

Press Releases

Oct. 1, 1932. Facts given by Gov. Ross in his speech at Middleton

August 1, 1934. Address of James A. Farley, Pocatello.

September 1936 B.W. Clark begins campaign

September 10, 1936. Ira J. Taylor seeks re-election as state chairman

Ross Plan

An analysis of the Ross Plan by Earl Bunting. typed. 5 p.

Federal unemployment relief program of Gov. C. Ben Ross of Idaho

Outline of a plan for a national public works program in the United States War Dept. by Pierce Williams. 1933. 4 p. typed

Program of Gov. C. Ben Ross of Idaho, 1933, for National Economic rehabilitation.

The Ross Plan. 4 p. mimeographed.

Six fold plan: an immediate national necessity. 13 p. typed

Van Polen, H. The master plan. 1934

IV. Miscellaneous Reports

The reports contained in Series IV represent a great diversity of subject matter. Some reports are published in the form of booklets, some are mimeographed sheets and others are typescripts. Some of the reports are contained in notebooks which appear to have been used by Ross in his campaign speeches. These are usually single sheets and are not listed separately in the following list.

V. Newspaper Clippings

The newspaper clippings are arranged chronologically and occupy eleven folders; the last folder contains undated clippings, most of them from the years 1930-1936. The majority of the clippings are from Idaho papers, with occasional articles from Salt Lake City or Portland papers.

The clippings deal with Ross's activities as governor and also include both political reports of campaigns and paid political advertising. In 1932 there is a series of clippings on Byron Defenbach. The two folders for 1934 contain articles on prayers for rain, the State Board of Equalization, the Highway Department, state finances state Automobile Association, Pardon Board, relief, IERA, FERA, CWA, NRA, and Idaho Wool Growers in addition to articles on Ross's bid for a third term as governor.

Ross's attempt to gain Borah's Senate seat is the primary interest in the 1935-1936 folder, while his decision to run for a fourth term as governor is the subject of clippings in the 1937 file. The remaining clippings are concerned with Idaho politics. There are two articles in 1946 written upon Ross's death.

VI. Personal

The final series in the papers of C. Ben Ross is comprised of eight folders of personal items, notebooks, souvenir programs, photographs, legal and financial documents


The notebooks appear to have been used by Ross in his 1930 campaign tour and include the itinerary, lists of democrats by county, lists of state committeemen, and lists from each county of the democratic nominees for office.


Most of the photographs in this collection are of C. Ben Ross. Most of the photographs are undated, and unfortunately Ross's companions in group photographs are also unidentified.

Programs, Souvenirs

Identification ribbons: Annual Governors' Conference, 1931; Governors' Conference, 1933; I.O.O.F. 51st Annual Session, 1933; American Legion 17th Annual Convention, 1935; Caldwell Pioneer Celebration, 1540.

Souvenir of Conference of Governors of the United States, held at French Lick, Indiana, 1931.

Music: Twilight on the River Salmon. Music by J. Chas McNeil, words by Lee Muckensturm. Autographed by Lee Muckensturm.

Invitation and passes to the White House, January 18, 1934

Bowers, Claude G. "Back to the fundamentals." An address delivered at the Jackson Day Dinner, Washington, D.C., January 12, 1938

Third Annual Governor's Day, Boise High School. Program.

Aims and Purposes of Western Range and Sheep Association.

Dairymens News Bulletin. II:6, February 15, 1929

Several amateur poems


Copper. I:12, December 25, 1931. There is a picture of C-Ben Ross on the Cover

The Improvement Era. XXXVI:6, April 1933- "Governor C. Ben Ross, a crusader" by Lamont Johnson, pp. 332-334, 360

The Sheriff. IV:2 April 1945. Article on John F. Ross, p. 21; IV:3, August 1945. Picture of John F. Ross on cover

Psychiana Quarterly. December 1932. "Democratic" p. 25 mentions Ross

Yandel Springs Project

Two blueprints

Legal Documents

Consolidated Mine and Dredge Co. Certificate for 100 shares

Farm lease between C. Ben and Edna Ross and O.J. and Dora English. October 3, 1927

Crop Mortgage between Henry Y. and Suyeyo Otani and Ora J. and Dora English. November 18, 1937

Farm Lease between C. Ben and Edna R. Ross and W.G. and Nancy J. Sparks. January 1, 1934

Chattel Mortgage between Helen Usadel and Denver Hickox and T.F. Nakamura. April 17, 1929

Chattel Mortgage between Helen Usadel and Denver Hickox and Jack Takogi. April 17, 1929

Contract between Helen Usadel and T.F. Nakamura. 1931

Quit Claim Deed between Florence Bartlett and William F. Hutchinson and Charles B. Ross. July 15, 1925


Check registers. January 1938-July 1939

Federal Land Bank, Spokane. Correspondence regarding loans for S.S. Powers and E. Stemper. February 1928-December 1940

Sudler, Wegener & Co., Investment Securities. Statements, September 1933-March 1935


Canyon County. 1907, 1909-1913, 1925, 1930, 1931, 1940-1946

Power County. 1920, 1921, 1542, 1945, 1946

Bannock County. 1919-1922, 1924-1927, 1931-1941

Twin Falls County. 1930, 1933-1935

Ada County. 1936

Federal Income Tax. 1945

Estate Taxes--Edna R. Ross. 1956, 1957

Federal Income Tax of Helen Usadel. 1957

July 1997 / mg091.htm

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