William Jennings Bryan Wishes A Wyoming Governor Happy New Year

Mrs. Bryan wrote this note to Gov. and Mrs. Osborne wishing them "a happy and prosperous New Year" (WSA P73-28_2, RPPC, no date)

Mrs. Bryan wrote this note to Gov. and Mrs. Osborne wishing them “a happy and prosperous New Year”
(WSA P73-28/2, real photo postcard, no date)

John E. Osborne was among other things, governor, congressman and assistant secretary of state during the Wilson administration.  A little known fact is that he was a good friend of William Jennings Bryan, Populist politician and silver-tongued orator best known for his “cross of gold” speech and anti-evolution activism.

Gov. Osborne was one of the most colorful governors of Wyoming. In addition to playing a major part in the Big Nose George Parrot story, he also barricaded himself in the governor's office. (WSA Sub Neg 2758)

Gov. Osborne was one of the more colorful governors of Wyoming. In addition to  playing a major part in the Big Nose George Parrott story, he also barricaded himself in the governor’s office.
(WSA Sub Neg 2758)

Within the State Archives there are a handful of letters from Bryan to Osborne dating from 1908 to 1913.  The earliest letters deal with the presidential election of 1908.  In October, a campaign manager informed Osborne about the political outlook.  The detailed communication suggests that Osborne was considered a close confidant within the Bryan circle.  Although Bryan lost the election, he wrote a short letter to Osborne, expressing how appreciative he was of Osborne’s work.

Bryan visited Wyoming during his first presidential campaign in 1908. A large crowd met him at the depot in Cheyenne. He is marked striding toward the camera at the bottom.  (WSA Sub Neg 5723)

Bryan visited Wyoming during his first presidential campaign in 1908. A large crowd met him at the depot in Cheyenne. He is marked striding toward the camera at the bottom.
(WSA Sub Neg 5723)

Magnification of the photo reveals a smiling Bryan talking with an unidentified man. (WSA Sub Neg 5723)

Magnification of the photo reveals a smiling Bryan talking with an unidentified man and followed by a group of boys.
(WSA Sub Neg 5723)

Byran wrote Osborne to thank him for his "devotion and labors during the campaign" after his defeat in the 1908 presidential election.  (WSA H65-71, John Osborne Papers, letter dated 11-7-1908)

Byran wrote Osborne to thank him for his “devotion and labors during the campaign” after his defeat in the 1908 presidential election.
(WSA H65-71, John Osborne Papers, file 2)

The remaining letters are more social in tone, reflecting a long-standing friendship between the two men.  It is apparent that they corresponded frequently and visited each other when the opportunity presented itself.

This ca 1909 note from Bryan to Osborne says: "My Dear Osborne, Your letter just received. I shall be delighted to eat dinner with you if the lecture people have not made other arrangements. See them at once. You must not invite anyone else. It will take most of the time to inspect the baby and the rest to talk politics and winter homes.  In haste yours,  Bryan" (WSA H65-71, John E. Osborne Papers, undated letter)

This ca 1909 note from Bryan to Osborne says:
“My Dear Osborne,
Your letter just received. I shall be delighted to eat dinner with you if the lecture people have not made other arrangements. See them at once. You must not invite anyone else. It will take most of the time to inspect the baby and the rest to talk politics and winter homes.
In haste yours,
Bryan”
(WSA H65-71, John E. Osborne Papers, file 2)

In 1909, after purchasing a winter home near Mission, Texas, Bryan suggested that Osborne settle near him.  “Why don’t you buy a little piece near us and do the same thing so that we can have the pleasure of visiting together each winter?”   In another letter, after noting all the property improvement he had made and plan to make, he commented “you will see that there are local advantages in this particular place.”  To Bryan, Mission, Texas would make an ideal winter home for the Osbornes and, more importantly, they would be close to the Bryans. “It would delight us to have you near, for as we get old we will have more time for companionship than we have had during the last twelve years.”

Bryan wrote Osborne several times about the advantages of wintering in Mission, Texas. (WSA H65-71, John E. Osborne Papers, file 2)

Bryan wrote Osborne several times about the advantages of wintering in Mission, Texas.
(WSA H65-71, John E. Osborne Papers, file 2)

The Bryan House, possibly in Texas. Bryan attempted to convince Osborne to purchase a lot near his home in Texas so that the two families could spend the winter together.  (WSA P73-28)

The Bryan House, possibly in Texas. Bryan attempted to convince Osborne to purchase a lot near his home in Texas so that the two families could spend the winter together.
(WSA P73-28)

By 1923 the Bryans had moved to Miami, Florida.  Here he bought a sizeable amount of property with the objective of selling parcels to his friends.  Once again, Bryan encouraged Osborne to move and build a summer house next to the Bryans.

Unfortunately, we do not know how Osborne responded or what action he took, if any, to Bryan’s kind proposals.

Bryan’s last letter is dated August 22, 1924 in which he outlined the terms for selling a parcel of his property to Osborne.   He died less than a year later on July 26, 1925 in Dayton, Ohio. No doubt Osborne mourned the loss of a close friend.

In this letter, Bryan talks about how busy he was in the State Department and looks forward to things calming down in the coming year. The calm probably did not come as the US watched World War I developing in Europe. "I wish I could get a little time to fish and hunt with you in Wyoming, but possibly we will have more time next year when the strain is off. With a revolution in China, an insurection in Mexico, and Castro just landing in Venezuela, we are having more than our fair share of trouble." (WSA H65-71, John E. Osborne Papers, file 2)

In this letter, Bryan talks about how busy he was in the State Department and looks forward to things calming down in the coming year. The calm probably did not come as the US watched World War I developing in Europe.
“I wish I could get a little time to fish and hunt with you in Wyoming, but possibly we will have more time next year when the strain is off. With a revolution in China, an insurection in Mexico, and Castro just landing in Venezuela, we are having more than our fair share of trouble.”
(WSA H65-71, John E. Osborne Papers, file 2)

— Carl Hallberg, Reference Archivist

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Filed under WSA Collection Highlights, Wyoming Governors

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