To learn more about Arkansas’ political past, visit the Old State House Museum. Two of their permanent exhibits are especially of note this week.
First Families of Arkansas
The “First Families” of Arkansas varied in their background and experience. James Miller, the First Territorial Governor, spent little time in Arkansas, and his wife Ruth remained in Massachusetts. James Conway, the first governor of the state of Arkansas, came to Arkansas as a surveyor in 1820 and served in the Territorial Legislature. Conway was a founding member of an Arkansas dynasty known as “the Family,” a political alliance that dominated Arkansas until the Civil War. Conway’s wife, the former Mary Jane Bradley, came from a prominent Arkansas frontier family and was actively involved in furthering her husband’s political career.
Beginning in the 20th century, Anna Roark Brough served as her husband’s campaign manager. First Lady Brough, an active suffragette, posed on the steps of the capitol during a 1919 rally advocating voting rights for women.
On The Stump: Arkansas Politics, 1819 – 1919
In 1819 when the Arkansas Territory was created, the elimination of property requirements for voting combined with the raucous spirit of the frontier produced a new style of mass participation in American politics. The results were crude and often vulgar, but thoroughly democratic. This manifested itself in Arkansas politics less centered on political parties of Arkansas and the ideology of citizens than on the personalities of those involved. So personal were the politics of the times that political campaigns often culminated in duels. Carl Moneyhon, Professor of History at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, served as author and guest curator for On the Stump. Additional materials were provided by the museum’s staff.
In addition, the Old State House Museum website has features on the men who have served as Governor of Arkansas.