Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Crazy Day in 1871 When Little Rock’s City Council Voted 701 Times to Elect Its President

(Updated April 30, 2017)


Twelve clangs from the clock on the east wall of Little Rock’s city council chamber interrupted the aldermen as they were about to cast another vote to elect the council’s new president. It was midnight and most of them could not recall how many previous ballots had been taken on this question. Was it 670, or maybe 680? No matter how many, they were sure how the next ballot would tally: four votes for Alderman Frederick Kramer and four votes for someone else.

When the clock quieted, the man at the head of the oblong table in the middle of the council chamber called on the aldermen to resume voting. As usual, he, Frederick Kramer, the temporary chairman of this first meeting of the 1871-72 city council, received his own vote and those of Aldermen Daniel Parham Upham, Daniel Ottenheimer, and Asa L. Richmond. Also, unsurprisingly, his main rival, Alderman Dudley Emerson Jones, voted for himself and got the votes of Aldermen George Wilson Denison, Jerome Lewis, and Henry Thomas Gibb. Another 4-4 tie.
Frederick Kramer
Arkansas Gazette, Sept 9, 1896

After announcing the results, Kramer quickly called for another vote on the issue. As the familiar process restarted, the few remaining spectators stirred. White men, leaning uncomfortably on the wall by the clock, shifted positions. Next to them, the city clerk dipped his pen into an inkwell. On the other side of the room, across the tobacco-stained carpet, a small audience of black men clustered around a drum stove as they watched Alderman Lewis, the blackest and oldest man seated at the oval table, doodle images of a fish. [1]  Next to him, Denison, the whitest and youngest alderman, sat quietly.

The Aldermen and their Candidates

This meeting had started fifteen hours earlier, at 9 a.m. on Monday, November 13, 1871. Because new members had been elected to the council a week earlier, the new council’s initial task was to choose the council’s president. To fill in until the new president took over, council members voted to make Alderman Kramer its temporary chairman. [2]

               Nominations for Council President

Kramer opened the floor for nominations. Alderman Asa Richmond quickly nominated him for the office. Richmond was a mulatto and former slave, one of two Negroes on the new council. He had been elected to the Little Rock city council three times in the previous two years, winning in the local elections held on January 4, 1869, November 1, 1869, and November 6, 1870. The last vote had given him a two-year term as Alderman. Residing at 13th and Louisiana Streets, he represented Ward 3, which contained a concentration of black voters.

Richmond was 40 years old. Born in North Carolina, he had been taken to Mississippi when he was ten, then to Arkansas in 1848, when he was about seventeen. After living in Dallas and Ouachita Counties for eight years, he was bought by his owner to Little Rock. He was freed when Union troop arrived in the city in September, 1863. [3]

Richmond made his living as a carpenter and had gained some wealth through his rental houses. Viewed favorably by both black and white residents of the city, he was even appraised positively by the racist Arkansas Gazette, which described him in 1869 as, “a very sterling and good faced, hardworking and money making mulatto with his hair, wiry and tight, parted in the middle…. Richmond talks often and always intelligently and moderately.” [4]

After Richmond nominated Kramer, Alderman George Denison, who had won re-election a week earlier, nominated Alderman H. T. Gibb, newly elected in the November 6th vote. Denison, only 31 years old, was a native of Sacket’s Harbor, New York. He moved to Nebraska in 1859 where he was “engaged in government service”; from there he went to Little Rock after Federal troops occupied the city. In August 1865, he was appointed by President Lincoln to be the register of Little Rock’s United States Land Office, a plum patronage position. Denison was first elected Alderman in a special election on May 3, 1871 to fill a vacancy in Ward 1.[5] Denison lived at 110 Rock Street.
George Denison (from Ancestry-com)

Making the final nomination, Alderman Gibb, who had just been nominated by Denison, proposed Alderman Dudley E. Jones for council president.  Both Gibb and Jones had defeated incumbent aldermen a week earlier. The two were political allies

               The Nominees

Kramer, Gibb, and Jones, the council president nominees, had at least three things in common.  First, they were successful merchants with stores in the downtown area. Kramer co-owned Kramer, Miller, and Co., a popular grocery store on east Markham near the steamboat landing; Gibb co-owned Cook, Gibb, and Co., which sold building materials and operated its own mill; and Jones co-owned Jones, McDowell & Busby, a multi-state business selling farm implements and machinery. The Kramer and Jones stores were located across the street from each other, both occupying western corners of Markham and Commerce streets. Cook, Gibb and Co. had its sales office a few blocks to the west at 112 Markham Street.

Another thing the men had in common: they were not Little Rock or Arkansas natives. Kramer was born on December 20, 1829 in Germany, near Halle, a small city in the Prussian province of Saxony. He immigrated to the United States in 1848, and in September 1852 he enlisted in the U.S. Army for five years and was stationed in Indian Territory. When he left the Army in 1857, he moved to Little Rock, where he married Adelina (often spelled Adaline) Reichardt, a young woman who had immigrated with her family from Bohemia to Little Rock in 1853. [6]

Not long after settling in Little Rock in 1857, Kramer rejoined the army to work at the Little Rock Arsenal as a carriage maker. [7] He left the Army in late 1859, before the end of his five-year enlistment. Soon after that, as 1859 came to a close, he was granted U.S. citizenship and he started a grocery store with Ferdinand A. Sarasin, a German immigrant and fellow member of the Jewish faith. [8] They closed their store in 1862 so that Sarasin could join the Confederate army. After the Union army occupied Little Rock in September, 1863, Kramer opened a new grocery store with Charles Miller, another German immigrant. It prospered during the remainder of the war years and after, becoming one of the largest in the city. 
Advertisement, Daily Ark. Gaz., Dec. 29, 1868

Kramer was first elected alderman in November, 1869, to represent ward 1 and re-elected for a two-year term in November 1870. Earlier in 1871, he had built a new home at Second and Rector streets just before traveling to Minnesota in early June for a stay of nearly five-months. [9]

The second candidate, H. T. Gibb, was born on January 16, 1837, in Vermont and moved with his family to St. Charles, Illinois when he was eleven. The 1860 census showed that he was in St. Charles living with a roommate. When the Civil War started, Gibb joined the Union Army with the rank of Musician Second Class. After the war, in 1867, he moved to Little Rock to co-found a business that made and sold building materials. When that business dissolved in 1869, he joined with partners to form a new one, Cook, Gibb, and Co. He lived at 5 Broadway, a few blocks from his store, and represented Ward 4. [10]
Advertisement
Daily Arkansas Gazette,
October 8, 1870

Gibb first entered public life in 1868 when he was appointed to the Little Rock city council by the military governor responsible for Arkansas under Reconstruction laws. The appointed council was seated in February 1868, displacing the council that had been elected in January 1867. Gibb ran unsuccessfully for the city council at the next election, held on January 4, 1869. [11]

The final candidate for council president, Alderman Jones, was born in New York on January 30, 1829. As a young man, he joined the gold rush to California. After that, he moved to Keokuk, Iowa, arriving in 1854, where he opened a store selling farm implements. When the Civil War started, he joined the Third Iowa Cavalry, serving as an officer in the quartermaster corp. He came to Little Rock with the Union Army and stayed when the war ended, opening a store in partnership with two men who lived in other states. He also operated a cotton brokerage business. Jones and his family lived at 9th and Main streets; he represented Ward 2. [12]

The third thing the three candidates had in common was their wealth as documented by the 1870 census, which gathered information on the self-reported value of each household’s real estate and personal estates. Kramer informed census takers that his real estate was worth $30,000 and he had a personal estate of $20,000. Jones’s valued his real estate at $14,000 and his personal estate at $30,000. Gibb had a less robust estate: real estate valued at $5,000 and a personal estate of $13,000. (Multiply the values by 20 to get the approximate magnitude of the estates in present day dollar amounts.)
Alderman Jones and his Wife
(Ancestry.com)

Despite the things they had common, Kramer differed from Jones and Gibb in one key regard:  he was affiliated with the “regular” faction of the Republican party while Jones and Gibb were supporters of “reform” faction. These two factions had been bitterly fighting over control of state and local governments in Arkansas for more than a year. [13]

Although Kramer repeatedly claimed he was not a Republican, let alone a member of one of its factions, he was first elected in 1869 to the city council and to the Little Rock school board with the support of the Republican Party, and in November 1870, his candidacy for the city council was backed by the regular Republican faction, known as the “minstrels,” headed by Governor Powell Clayton.

Jones and Gibb were nominated for city council seats by the reform Republicans, nicknamed the “brindletails.” This anti-Clayton faction included both Liberal Republicans and disaffected Radical Republicans; Jones and Gibb were the latter. Gibb’s alignment with the brindletails illustrated the shifting Republicans alliances: in July 1868 he had been a member of a quartet that had sung at the inauguration of Gov. Clayton, but in 1871 was part of the Republican faction that vilified him. [14]

               The “Old Salts” vs. the “Gentlemen Fresh from the People” [15]

In addition to Kramer, three other aldermen on the 1871-72 Little Rock city council were affiliated with the minstrel faction. The four minstrels were “old salts” who had been elected in November 1870 and had not been up for re-election in 1871. One of them, Daniel Ottenheimer claimed to be a Democrat, but nonetheless had been supported by the minstrels in the 1870 election and had reciprocated by regularly voting with them.

Like Kramer, Ottenheimer was a Jewish German immigrant. He was born in Dettersee, in the province of Baden Württenberg, on July 8, 1835 and immigrated to the United States in 1853, settling in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Two of his brothers, Abraham (b. Sept. 6, 1838) and Phillip (b. Sept. 7, 1839) also immigrated to the state in the 1850s. Abraham settled in Little Rock and Phillip in Norristown, near Russellville.

When the Civil War came, brothers Abe and Phillip enlisted in the Confederate Army while Daniel moved to Los Angeles, California where he opened a store. After the war, in 1866, Daniel and Sallie Braun, whom he had married in California, moved back to Arkansas, where he joined his two brothers in Little Rock to operate Ottenheimer Bros., a clothing store located on Main Street. Ottenheimer, who lived on Markham between Arch and Gaines Streets, was elected alderman to represent Ward 4. [16]

In contrast to the reluctant minstrels (Kramer and Ottenheimer), two aldermen were enthusiastic faction leaders. They were Asa Richmond, who had nominated Kramer for council president, and Daniel P. Upham, a notorious ally of Governor Clayton. Richmond had been an active Republican in Arkansas since the party’s formation in April 1867. He remained committed to the regular Republicans even as increasing numbers of black voters were attracted to the brindletails in 1870 and 1871.

Upham had made a name for himself in northeastern Arkansas before he moved to Little Rock in 1869. Born in Dudley, Mass. on December 30, 1832, he spent most of the Civil War as a struggling merchant in New York City. As the war was ending in April, 1865, Upham moved to DuValls Bluff where a former business partner, Brig. General Alexander Shaler was commander. Receiving hard-to-get business licenses from his former partner, Upham prospered as co-owner of two saloons, a cotton plantation, and two steamboats.

After paying off his New York City debts in July, 1865, he and his wife settled in Augusta (Woodruff County) where he opened a merchandise store and operated cotton plantations. When Reconstruction started, Upham declared himself a Radical Republican. In March 1868, he was elected to represent three counties, including Woodruff, in the Arkansas state legislature. [17]

Not long after Upham became a state legislator, the Ku Klux Klan in Woodruff County began attacking blacks and republicans. To provide protection against the KKK, Upham helped organize a county militia consisting of about 110 white and black volunteers. He and his associates announced that for every republican killed, they would kill ten of those persons “who have been known to countenance acts of violence.” After that, Upham’s enemies offered a reward to whoever killed him, and several people tried. [18]

As KKK violence spread across much of the state, Gov. Clayton created, as authorized by legislation, a state militia to suppress its activities. In late October, he appointed Upham to command the militia in the northeastern part of the state, and in early November the militia went into action. Upham did his job decisively and with relish, commanding ill-equipped troops who were charged with various misdeeds. His tactics instilled fear in his enemies as evidenced in a famous episode that took place in his home city, Augusta, that he and about 100 of his men had occupied. A report submitted to Governor Clayton described what happened:

On the night of the 9th (December 1868), General Upham had reliable information of an intended attack by a force of insurgents, estimated to number three to four hundred men. He at once arrested fifteen of the leading sympathizers in town … and sent notification to the local citizens that if he were attacked he would kill the prisoners and burn the town.

In response to this threat, the locals persuaded the KKK to call off its attack. Shortly after that, Upham’s militia routed the KKK at a battle that took place on his farm near Augusta. [19]

When the Militia War ended successfully in March 1869, Upham accepted a patronage appointment as clerk of the Pulaski County Chancery County, and he moved with his wife to a home at 15th and Cumberland streets in Little Rock. He also held the position of Brigadier General of the seventh district of the state militia. Popular with blacks and supporters of Gov. Clayton, Upham was elected to the Little Rock city council in November 1870 to represent ward 2.

The four “gentlemen fresh from the people” had joined the brindletails mainly because of their opposition to actions and policies of Gov. Clayton, the state’s first Reconstruction governor, elected in 1868. Three of them -- Jones, Gibb, and Denison -- were carpetbaggers. The fourth, Alderman Jerome Lewis, was a black man. All four believed that the Clayton regime had unfairly distributed patronage and, in too many instances, was corrupt.

Lewis was the oldest (born in Kentucky in 1825) and poorest of the council members. A former slave who could not read or write, he had a precarious economic existence, hiring himself out as a laborer. In the 1870 census results, where his occupation was listed as “policeman,” he declared that both his real estate and personal estates were zero. City directories published in 1871 and 1872 showed his residence as 801 West 10th St., and listed no occupation for him.

Lewis apparently devoted most of his time in 1871 to local politics, plus whatever odd jobs he could find.  He distinguished himself with his speaking ability and active involvement in Republican politics. In newspaper accounts of third ward, city, and county Republican meetings, Lewis was frequently present as an active participant, meeting leader, or speaker. He was popular in Ward 3, winning the 1871 election by a large margin. [20]

Despite this popularity within his ward, his political enemies at the Morning Republican (Minstrel supporters) presented an unflattering picture of him: 

Jerome Lewis has a new hat. It is white wool with a brown band, much similar to Bancrof’s, the late chief of the Times. Jerome and his cohorts make their headquarters on the steps of the old Bank building. We think Thompson is disgusted with them, and we know the occupants of the edifice are. Why does not our super efficient police force disband them, and prevent them from disturbing the peace? [21]

Although the Little Rock city council was evenly split between the two factions, most of Aldermen knew each other outside of politics. For example, Denison, Gibb, and Kramer were Masons, and beginning in early 1868, all (white) Masonic organizations in Little Rock had their headquarters and meeting room on the third floor of the Kramer and Miller Building.  Another example: When Jones had convened a group of businessmen in January 1867 to start the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, he was elected president and both Kramer and Gibb were charter members. In May 1867, Kramer was elected a vice president of the organization, and he kept that position for several years. [21a]

Despite these and other non-political connections among council members and candidates, the 1871 election campaign in Little Rock was filled with brindletail charges that the incumbent minstrels were corrupt and had mishandled city finances. These changes were amplified by hyperbolic charges against  minstrel aldermen published in the Arkansas Gazette, a temporary Democratic-Conservative ally of the brindletails. In short, in this local election, the factions engaged in the same acrimonious rhetoric and wild accusations that had dominated Republican party politics since the reform Republicans had broken from the party in 1870.

When the city council convened on February 13, 1871 to pick a new council president, each of the eight aldermen – regardless of their personal relationships with colleagues -- owed a debt to one of the two Republican factions fighting for supremacy in the city and in the state. Also, they had fresh memories of the emotional and vicious campaigns that had ended a week earlier. With their votes, they were determining not only which man would be the new council president, but more importantly who – minstrels or brindletails -- would prevail in their latest skirmish. With these stakes, they likely were being constantly reminded of their debts by factional zealots watching the drama.


The First Four Ballots and Beyond

With three candidates nominated for council president, the balloting started at about 9:05 a.m. The results of the first two ballots were as follows:

               For Kramer:  Aldermen Upham, Richmond, and Ottenheimer (3 votes)
               For Jones:  Aldermen Jones, Gibb, Lewis, and Kramer (4 votes)
               For Gibb:  Alderman Denison (1 vote)

No candidate received a majority of the votes, so no one was elected.  Note that Kramer voted for Aldermen Jones. 

Before the third ballot, the name of Gibb was withdrawn as a candidate. The result of the third ballot was as follows:

               For Kramer:  Aldermen Upham, Richmond, Ottenheimer, Denison (4 votes)
               For Jones:  Aldermen Jones, Gibb, Lewis, Kramer (4 votes)

Again, no candidate received a majority of votes. Kramer voted again for Jones, while Denison shifted his vote from Gibb to Kramer.  If Kramer had voted for himself on this ballot, he would have been elected council president.  If Denison had voted for Jones, he (Jones) would have been elected.

Ballots four through seventeen produced a different four-to-four tie:  Kramer switched his vote from Jones to himself; Denson changed his vote from Kramer to Jones:
              
               For Kramer:  Aldermen Upham, Richmond, Ottenheimer, Kramer (4 votes)
               For Jones:  Aldermen Jones, Gibb, Lewis, Denison (4 votes)

Interspersed with the ballots were three rejected motions to adjourn to a later time. At about 9:30 a.m. a motion to recess for 15 minutes was passed.  The Gazette reported: 

During its continuance, Kramer and Jones held a consultation, Denison and Gibb went out, Richmond and Lewis divided an apple between them, and Ottenheimer and Upham kept their seats. 

When the council reconvened, it conducted six more ballots with the same result as the previous thirteen. After that, the council voted 5-3 to adjourn until 2:00 p.m. Kramer joined the four brindletails to pass the motion. [22]

The Accusations and Showdown

When the council re-started its meeting at 2:00 p.m., two ballots were taken; the vote distribution was four votes for Kramer, three for Jones, and one for Denison. Then came some fireworks. Former Alderman Andy Alexander, a black man whom Alderman Ottenheimer had defeated in the 1870 election, rose to say that he wanted to contest the year-old election result because he thought he had won it. Alderman Jones moved to consider Alexander’s claim and to suspend Ottenheimer until Alexander’s credentials were examined. Also, he wanted Ottenheimer to be “ruled out” and not be allowed to vote on his own case. [23]

Perhaps angered by the actions of Jones and Alexander, Kramer turned over the temporary chairmanship of the meeting to Upham to make a statement. As reported in the Morning Republican, Kramer said that when he and Jones had conferred at the morning recess, Jones had told him that if Kramer would vote for him, he would “cover up all of his wrong actions and doings as a member of the council,” but if he did not vote for him, “he would prosecute and expose him, and make his seat hot for him.” Kramer continued that he had been ashamed to vote for himself on the ballot when his vote would have given him a majority. He also said he was afraid of no exposures or prosecutions.

Jones replied, again according to the Morning Republican, that Kramer had said to at least twenty men that morning that he would vote for Jones “if he shielded him (Kramer), and would stick with him through thick and thin.” Jones also said Kramer had taken city money, “which was sacred funds,” and disposed of it at the banks for a large discount and paid off street laborers and police against the consent of Aldermen Fitch and Upham. After that, the Gazette reported, “Crimination and recrimination followed for a brief spell.”

Resuming his role as temporary chair of the meeting, Kramer ruled Jones’ motion out of order. The meeting resumed its regular order. 

               Voting Continues, Up to 701

With the  brindletail challenge terminated, voting continued, interspersed with rejected motions to adjourn. The Morning Republican wrote that the remaining ballots (25 through 701) had the same results: four votes for Kramer and four for other candidates.  The Gazette told a richer story. Its reporter wrote that when three p.m. came, the council had taken 71 ballots.  Then: 

               On the eighty-third ballot Richmond voted for Denison, but went back to Kramer ever after

At the 110th ballot, Denison asked for and received a fresh chew of tobacco from an individual behind him.

At the 120th ballot, Upham laid in a fresh supply of legal cap.

At the 133rd ballot, the clerk received an assistant.

Four o’clock was struck after the 175th ballot had been called.

The clerk took a drink of water at the 214th ballot.

At the 200th ballot, a temporary intermission was caused by the aldermen going out in threes in the rain….

The 275th ballot .. resulted in Kramer getting four and Gibb four.

At five p.m. the council adjourned until 8 p.m. When the meeting resumed, balloting, along with several unsuccessful motions to adjourn, continued until past midnight. Kramer repeatedly got the same four votes. Again, here is the Gazette’s report:

               Nine o’clock- 405th ballot since noon. Gibb 2, Jones 1, Denison, 1, Kramer 4

               Ten o’clock – 500th ballot since noon. Gibb 4, Kramer 4.

               Eleven o’clock – 526th ballot since morning, Kramer 4, Denison 4.

               Midnight – 683rd ballot, Kramer 4, Gibb 4

               Fifteen minutes past twelve this morning – 701st ballot. Kramer 4, Gibb 2, Jones 2.

At that point the council passed a motion to adjourn until 8:00 p.m. on the following Friday. [2]

Out into the Night

The meeting over, the aldermen shuffled out the doors of the two-story city hall onto Markham Street just west of its intersection with Main Street. [24] The wind was howling, causing the gas lights dimly illuminating the streets to flicker; a few had gone out and were surrounded by a sulfurous odor. [25]

Bundled up against the cold winds, the exhausted men headed home on unpaved streets lined by dwellings inhabited by the 12,500 residents of the city. Aldermen Denison, Kramer, Gibb and Ottenheimer were only a few blocks from their homes. Perhaps they walked, or maybe had horse and carriages waiting for them. The others lived ten or more blocks distant, and they needed a ride through dark and muddy streets to reach their homes. Whether on foot, in a carriage, or on a horse, even at this late hour the aldermen passed several noisy bars, and likely at least one of them stopped in a rollicking establishment for a quick snort.

The Reaction to the Vote

In the next couple of days, the aldermen learned that the meeting did not sit well with the righteous editors of the Daily Arkansas Gazette, who had successfully urged its Democratic-Conservative readers to vote for the brindletails. The Gazette had approved the results of the election held a week earlier, calling it “a triumph of honesty over rascality,” and was outraged at the council president impasse. [26]

The paper lambasted Kramer, accusing him of lying, saying he had repeatedly told them that his sentiments were not with the Minstrels.  The editors wrote:
              
Prior to the election, during the election, and after the election, Alderman Kramer professed the most conservative sentiment. He stated prior to the election that he could not and would not vote for the ring candidate for mayor – Mr. Hartman – and that if the conservatives nominated a ticket he would support it – for he intended hereafter to work for the people’ interest alone come what may; that the reason he had acted in the manner in which he had heretofore, he was but one man, and was utterly powerless to do any good; that by keeping in with the ring he could do a little for the people.

They also backed up Jones assertion that Kramer had said he would vote for Jones:

After the election, he stated repeatedly that Mr. Jones was his candidate for president of the city council; that the ring men would probably nominate him, but he would cast his vote and influence for Jones, and that, he thought would elect him. [27]

According to the Gazette, even on the day of the city council meeting, February 13th, Kramer had again proclaimed at a lunch with three men, including the Gazette manager, that he would vote for Jones:

After adjournment in the morning until the afternoon, he called together three friends – among them the manager of this paper – and agreed to abide whatever advice they might give. They were unanimous in the opinion that he ought to support Mr. Jones, for the reasons that he would give general satisfaction to the people and the further reason that very grave charges had been brought against the old council, and it would be better if some man directly from the people be put at the head of the council that these charges might be thoroughly investigated. Mr. Kramer agreed to this, and stated that as soon as the council convened, he would end the contest electing Jones. 

The Gazette said that Kramer had brought shame on himself through his actions and suggested that Kramer had invited suspicion that he was trying to cover up some minstrel corruption.

Alderman Kramer has gone back on his old and his new friends – he has forfeited their respect; he has sold himself for a mess of pottage… He has been faithless to his trust; he has demeaned himself in a matter to merit, as he will receive, the contempt of the people of Little Rock.
               ….
The four members – Kramer, Richmond, Upham, and Ottenheimer – acted as though they were bound together by some terrible oath and that idea is beginning to gain ground.

People think there is something the ring desires to cover up, and that Alderman Kramer is lending his assistance to them. [28]

The Gazette concluded its November 15th article with a call for a boycott of the thriving grocery store Kramer owned with two partners:

…we advise the people further to withdraw their patronage from a house the head of which has proved recreant to the trust reposed in him, and is no longer worthy of the confidence and support of a generous public.

The Morning Republican, a newspaper with an equally sharp tongue used on behalf of the regular Republicans, rebuked the Gazette – which it called the “kuklux organ” -- for its attack on Kramer, “one of our most substantial citizens…honored and trusted by all….” Its editorial asserted that the “Ignorant Calumniator” of the Gazette had libeled Kramer and had attacked the “German population of the city and state.” It asserted that during the Civil War men “of the Gazette stripe” had tried to force Germans in Arkansas to go to war and failing to do so “cut off their hands and feet, tied them naked in the woods, and left the wild beasts to eat them.” [29]


The Temporary Chairman Becomes the Council President

When the city council reconvened on Friday, November 17th, it did not resume balloting to elect a council president. Instead, the matter was resolved with parliamentary trickery accompanied by a conciliatory gesture. By creatively interpreting the rules of the city council, Kramer’s appointment as temporary chair of the council at the previous meeting was transformed into its presidency. That interpretation of council rules could be overturned only by the votes of five aldermen and an effort to do so lost by a four-to-four vote. [30]

Just before that maneuver was announced, Kramer appointed Jones, who had made harsh charges against Kramer’s role in the finances of the city, and two of Jones’s allies to a city council committee to investigate his actions. Kramer said he wanted them to look into all of the financial allegations made against him.

This action installing Kramer as president of the city council drew much criticism, including that of the Daily Arkansas Gazette.  Also some questions were raised about its legality. To make sure Kramer was, legally, the council president, a resolution was introduced at the council’s November 25th meeting, which was not attended by Aldermen Jones, Gibb, or Lewis. The resolution, which passed, stated:

Whereas, The legality of the organization of the city council, made on Monday succeeding the election by placing Alderman Fred. Kramer in the chair, has been questioned by some members of the council, therefore be it

Resolved, That said Kramer is hereby declared permanent president of the council during the ensuing year. [31]

With that resolution passed by a 5-0 vote, Alderman Kramer was without question the council president.


The Chamber of Commerce Ends the Fray

The core of Jones’s accusations that Kramer had mishandled city finances centered on allegations that the city – and Kramer – had broken a promise to the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce (of which Alderman Jones was president and Kramer a former vice president) by selling high-quality engraved certificates of debt to raise money to pay four months of back salaries to city street workers and policemen. In April 1871, Kramer had promised the Chamber of Commerce – which opposed issuing more debt certificates -- that the high-quality bonds would be sold only to retire mutilated city currency from circulation. That way, their use would not increase city debt. [32]

At a meeting of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce on November 29th, a resolution was offered to create a committee to investigate whether a person (clearly Kramer) had broken his promise to the Chamber. The resolution was as follows:

Whereas, It is currently reported that a member of the City Council, by the concurrence of one or two other members, in violation of his agreement with the Chamber of Commerce, he being a member of this body also, paid out eight thousand dollars or more of the bonds which were printed to take the place of mutilated currency, before a similar amount of the later had been destroyed; and whereas, if this report be true, such conduct on behalf of a member of this Chamber is deserving of the severest censure; therefore

Resolved, That a special committee of three be appointed to inquire into the truth of the charge, and report the facts at the next meeting of the Chamber. [33]

Told that the resolution would be introduced, Kramer was at the meeting, which had a large attendance.  
Jones did not preside at the meeting, but participated as a member to argue for the appointment of the special committee to investigate Kramer’s actions.

What emerged from the discussion was that, in fact, about $8,000 of high-quality bonds had been sold with the proceeds used to pay back salaries. The high-quality certificates of debt had been sold because no one would purchase the city’s regular certificates of debt, even at 60 percent of their face value. [34]

This action took place when Kramer, who had left Little Rock in early June for St. Paul, Minn., returning in late October, discovered the city had not been paying its street workers and policemen. [35] To solve the problem, he and two other members of the council’s finance committee asked the Mayor, who had  the engraved high-quality bonds in his possession, to sell about $8,000 worth of the bonds to pay the back salaries, with the promise that the first revenues collected by the city would be used to redeem them. The mayor had agreed; the bonds had been sold, and the money used as promised.

Kramer’s defense was that he had not lied to the Chamber because he had no control over the high-quality certificates of debt and had not made the decision to sell them for a purpose other than replacing mutilated currency. He asked, “Am I responsible for [the mayor’s] decision?”  He said he had not made the decision to sell the bonds, so he had not broken his promise to the Chamber.

As the debate proceeded, it seemed that most speakers knew that Kramer had, technically, broken his promise to the chamber. However, they also understood that he had done it in an extreme circumstance and not for his own benefit. One of his allies said that “he understood the matter and everyone present had made their verdict,” so no study committee was needed. Another speaker said that he thought Kramer had acted in good faith as far as the city was concerned, but not the Chamber. However, he did not think Kramer had any sinister motives.

For his part, Kramer, who seemed highly excited at the meeting, claimed that the “cry on the street” was that “Kramer stole $8,000.” He complained that “this thing was agitated to injure his business.” Kramer told the group that he intended to remain in Little Rock and wanted the charges settled. 

When it came time to vote, many members of Chamber decided to overlook the obvious transgression of their long-time friend and well-intentioned alderman. To the chagrin of the Chamber’s president, his allies, and the Arkansas Gazette, a majority of the Chamber members voted against appointing a committee to investigate Kramer’s actions.

Kramer Moves On

Although Kramer won the fight for the council presidency, his victory was a hollow one. Kramer, who prided himself on his public spiritedness and integrity, was apparently jarred by the attacks of Jones, the Gazette, and others. He decided to make some major changes in his life. 

First, he announced his retirement and he dissolved his partnership with Charles Miller and Charles Penzel with whom he owned the Kramer, Miller, and Co. Grocery Store. [36] Also, he resigned as president of the Arkansas Fire, Marine, and General insurance company.

Then he decided he would not run for re-election to the Little Rock city council in November 1872, and he took a leave of absence from the Little Rock school board to which he had been elected for a three-year term in 1869.

After that, free of his business ties and governing responsibilities, Kramer departed on June 15, 1872, with his two daughters aboard the Weiser, a ship sailing from New York City to Bremen, for a long stay in Germany. [37] He returned to Little Rock just as the November 1872 election was taking place.  

The results of the 1872 election were a disaster for Little Rock’s minstrels. Not only did Kramer not seek re-election, but Aldermen Richmond and Oppenheimer were defeated by brindletail candidates. Of the four minstrels on the 1871-72 council, only Upham managed to win re-election. After the 1872 election, most Little Rock aldermen were reform Republicans; they elected Alderman Jones to be council president for the 1872-73 term.

Looking back on the curious episode of the 701 ballots, it seems clear that it had no long-term significance for state or local politics; nevertheless, it provided a good snapshot of the dynamics of reconstruction politics on the local-government level in Arkansas. Also, it also gave an unflattering glimpse of the life of a man, Frederick Kramer, who would later be elected to serve four terms as Little Rock’s mayor.

The episode raised several questions about Kramer and his behavior:  had he, in fact, repeatedly promised to vote for Jones and then reneged on the promise? Why had he not voted for himself on the third ballot when the vote would have given him a victory? If it was because he was ashamed to do so, why was he not ashamed to vote for himself on following 697 ballots? Were his votes a matter of principle, a response to threats, a repayment of debts, or a practical decision under pressure from minstrels? Did he act freely or was he being coerced? In short, what was going on behind the scenes and in Kramer’s mind as the 701 votes were taken?

These questions, whose answers we will never know, must have raised some doubts at the time about Kramer and his character. Nevertheless, Kramer quickly recovered from his hurt feelings and rebounded from the rough treatment he had received from the Gazette and others. He came back to local politics for another battle in November, 1873, when he was the minstrel-supported candidate for mayor, opposed by a candidate backed by the Democratic-Conservative party. Although the Gazette had plenty of bad things to say about him again that year, he easily won that election.


FOOTNOTES

[1] The description of the interior of the city hall meeting room is based on this article: “Local Sketches,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, December 15, 1869, p. 4. The tobacco stained carpet was mentioned in “The City Council,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 10, 1871, p. 4. Also, see the following quote from “City News,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 14, 1871, p. 4:  “Alderman Lewis is the only artist of the new city council. He spread all sorts of fishes on a paper last night, while voting.”

[2] The position of city council president had gained in importance in Little Rock after the city’s Mayor, Dr. A.K. Hartman, was suspended from office on December 31, 1870 and many of his powers transferred to the council president, including the power to preside over council meetings and to manage the city’s finances. See “Reminiscence.” Daily Arkansas Gazette, October 19. 1871, p. 4.

The description of the city council meeting on November 13, 1871 is based on these two articles: “The City Council,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 14, 1871, p. 4 and “City Council,” Morning Republican, November 14, 1871, p. 4.

[3] A biographical sketch of Richmond was included in Chapter 25, Prominent Colored Citizens of Central Arkansas, in Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski, Jefferson, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland, and Hot Springs Counties, Arkansas. Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889. It noted that Richmond at the time owned 33 rental houses in Little Rock. 

A glimpse of Richmond’s life can also be seen in Adolphine Fletcher Terry, Charlotte Stephens: Little Rock’s First Black Teacher, Academic Press. 1973. Soon after federal troop occupied Little Rock, Wallace Andrews, Charlotte Stephen’s father and Richmond opened together a cabinet making business in Little Rock with a store on Main Street (p. 46).

Also see a brief obituary, “Asa L Richmond Dead,” Arkansas Democrat, March 25, 1902, p. 6. (The Gazette did not publish his obituary). The obituary states that Richmond had been a federal soldier (which is not documented elsewhere) and was “one of the oldest and wealthiest colored citizens of Little Rock.”

[4] “Local Sketches,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, December 15, 1869, p. 4.

[5] The appointment was announced in the Weekly Arkansas Gazette, August 26, 1865, p. 7. For information on his election to fill a vacant council seat, Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 4, 1871, p. 4.
Also see, “George W. Denison Dies,” Arkansas Gazette, March 8, 1916, p. 9.

[6] U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1848 – 1854. Accessed on Ancestry.com. According to this record, Kramer’s civilian occupation was “painter.”

Adelina [Adaline] [Adeline] Margaret Reichardt was born October 20, 1834 in Asche, within the Bohemian province of Austria. She died on June 21, 1909. She and Kramer were married on June 30, 1857. Pulaski County Arkansas Marriage Record Index. Conway: Arkansas Research, 2000, p. 209 (accessed through Ancestry.com)

[7] Kramer’s second enlistment in and separation from the army are documented in U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1855 January – 1857 September (accessed on Ancestry.com). His enlistment began on September 12, 1857. He separated from the military on October 21, 1857 by order of the Adjutant General’s Office. 

[8] Kramer was born into a Jewish family and is listed as one of the “pioneer members” of the B’nai Israel congregation in Little Rock. (See Carolyn Gray LeMaster. 1994. A Corner of the Tapestry. Univ. of Arkansas Press, p. 118.) His wife, Adelina Reichardt, was a Protestant. Kramer’s business partner, Charles Miller was a Lutheran. In 1868, the Lutheran Church held its first organizational meeting in Miller’s house, and Kramer was attended it, but he was never active in the church. (“German Lutherans,” Arkansas Gazette, September 9, 1888, p. 5) . 

Likely Kramer and his family were members of Little Rock’s Christ Church (Episcopal). Several of his children were baptized in that church, and his and his wife’s funerals were held there. Although Kramer was active in a broad range on local civil and volunteer organizations, he did not hold leadership positions in any of church organization.

According to LeMaster, Ferdinand Adolph Sarasin was a pre-Civil War Jewish merchant in Little Rock (p. 25). He was born April 23, 1820 and died April 28, 1891. He joined the Confederate army in 1862.

Both Kramer and Sarasin were volunteers with the local militia, The Capitol Guards, before the Civil War. However, both men resigned from the Guards before the unit was incorporated into the Confederate Army in 1861. Calvin Collier. 1961. First In – Last Out: The Capitol Guards. Pioneer Press, p. 9.

[9] The construction of the new house was mentioned in the Daily Arkansas Gazette, April 19, 1871, p. 4.

[10] For more on his life, see “Death of Henry T. Gibb,” Arkansas Gazette, July 11, 1882, p. 4.

[11] See “Council Chambers,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, February 29, 1866,” p. 3.

[12] See “Dudley E. Jones Died at Home,” Arkansas Democrat, January 24, 1913, p. 7. Also see a biographical sketch of Jones – one of the University of Arkansas’ first trustees -- in John Hugh Reynolds and David Yancy Thomas. 1910. History of the University of Arkansas. Univ. of Arkansas, accessible at https://archive.org/details/historyuniversi00unkngoog

[13] The Republican party dominated state and local politics during the Reconstruction era because many Democratic-Conservative voters – mostly men who had served in the Confederate Army -- either were not permitted to vote or refused to sign the loyalty oath required of all voters. In 1871, the Democratic-Conservatives did not nominate candidates for city offices in Little Rock and instead strategically supported brindletail candidates because they favored lifting voting restrictions.

For the history of the post-Civil War era from the traditional white Southerner perspective, see these books:

Thomas S. Staples. 1923. Reconstruction in Arkansas: 1862-1874, Columbia University Press.

John Harrell. 1893. The Brooks and Baxter War: A History of the Reconstruction Period in Arkansas. Slawson Publishing

George H. Thompson. 1976. Arkansas and Reconstruction: The Influece of Geography, Economics, and Personality. Kennikat Press.

Ira Don Richards. 1969. Story of a Rivertown. (self published).

For less narrow views of the era, see:

John William Graves. 1990. Town and Country: Race Relations and Urban Development in Arkansas, 1865 - 1905. University of Arkansas Press

Thomas DeBlack.2003. The Fire and Sword: Arkansas, 1861-1874. University of Arkansas Press.

Carl H. Moneyhon. 1994. The Impact of the Civil War and Reconstruction in Arkansas. Louisiana State University Press.

The Republican split helped speed up the return of the Democrats as the dominant party in the state. That happened after voters approved a new state constitution in 1874.

[14] Gibb’s participation in the inauguration is documented in “Inauguration of Governor Clayton,” Morning Republican, July 3, 1868, p. 1.

The “minstrel” and “brindletail” nicknames were widely used in newspapers. The regular republicans were called “minstrels,” because supposedly one its leaders had performed with a minstrel troupe. The label “brindletail” was derived from the bombastic voice of the faction’s leader, Joseph Brooks, an orator who was said to bray like a brindletail, a type of bull. 

[15] The Daily Arkansas Gazette, December 9, 1871, p. 4, noted: “In the council, the Brindle-Tail quartet is called by the minstrel four ‘the gentlemen, fresh from the people.’ The minstrels are denominated ‘Old Salts’.”

[16] Carolyn Gray LeMaster. 1995. The Ottenheimers of Arkansas. Rose Publishing Co. p, 9 – 12.

[17] For a summary of Upham’s life, see this Encyclopedia of Arkansas entry:   http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?search=1&entryID=1790

[18] Charles Rector. 2000. D.P. Upham, Woodruff County Carpetbagger. Arkansas Historical Quarterly, LIX(1), p. 65.

For a sensationalized film depiction of Upham’s militia adventures, see this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n84IuaK9YyM

[19] “Letter dated December 12, 1868 from Adjutant General Keyes Danforth to Governor Powell Clayton” in Powell Clayton. 1915 (reprinted 1969). The Aftermath of the Civil War in Arkansas. Negro University Press.

[20] For example, see Lewis speaking at a Republican gathering as reported in “Republican Council,” Morning Republican, August 2, 1872, p. 4 and “Republican County Conventions,” Morning Republican, August 28, 1870, p. 4.  Also see, Arkansas Gazette, October 7, 1871 p. 4.

[21] Morning Republican. September 10, 1872, p. 4.  After Lewis’s death, the Arkansas Gazette did not publish his obituary. The Arkansas Democrat noted his death briefly on August 20, 1887, p. 3, writing “Jerome was an inoffensive man and had the good will of all who knew him” His burial site is unknown. Donations had to be solicited to pay for Lewis’s burial:  Arkansas Democrat, August 29, 1887, p. 8.

[21a] Weekly Arkansas Gazette, See January 22, 1867, p.2 for a story on the founding of the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. See Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 7, 1867, p. 4 for Kramer’s election as a vice president of the Chamber of Commerce. Kramer was re-elected vice-president in 1869, see April 27, 1869, p. 3.

[22] As mentioned in footnote 2, this description of the meeting is drawn from two articles: “The City Council,” November 14, 1871, Daily Arkansas Gazette, p. 4 and “City Council,” Morning Republican, November 14, 1871, p. 4.

[23] The purpose of this maneuver was transparent. If Ottenheimer were “ruled out” until the matter was settled, he would not be able to participate in the election of the council president.  With only 7 alderman allowed to vote, the 4 brindletails would have a majority.

Also, if the challenge were pursued and Ottenheimer could not vote on the issue, the four brindletails would have the majority needed to install Alexander as an Alderman instead of Ottenheimer.

Of course, Kramer ruled Jones’s motion out of order and five votes were not available to overrule him.

[24] The new City Hall (120-122 W. Markham) had been completed three years earlier, in November 1867. As described by the Morning Republican, it was a busy place:

City Hall is a fine edifice, and may be considered one of the principal business institutions. The lower story is used by city officials, City Council, Recorder, Collector, and Police Judge, and head quarters for the police force; also head quarters for the Pat Cleburne Fire Company, front room set apart for their steam engine, and the rear room is being fitted up for use of the members of the company. In the second story, we have a spacious hall, for theatres, concerts, and other public entertainments, and hence we look upon City Hall as being one of our main business pillars.  (“Our Business Houses: Names of Firms and Business of Each. North Side of Markham Street,” Morning Republican, April 14, 1869, p. 3.)

[25] This item was in the Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 14, 1871, p. 4: “The wind last night snuffed out the gas lamps on many of the streets. In passing the the sulphurous smell reminded one of Pluto’s regions.

[26] “The Results of the City Election,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 9, 1871, p. 2.
 
[27] The criticisms cited here, unless otherwise noted, are from: “Alderman Fred. Kramer,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 15, 1871, p. 1.

[28] “The Municipal Muddle,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 16, 1871, p. 1 and “Municipal Affairs,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 17, 1871, p. 1.

[29] “The Arkansas Gazette,” Morning Republican, November 16, 1871, p. 2; “Politics in our City Council – Democratic Persecution of the Germans,” Morning Republican, November 16, 1871, p. 4.

[30] See “City Council: City Finances to be Examined – Presenting Bonds – A New Question Sprung,” Morning Republican, November 18, 1871, p. 4.  This article explained how Kramer became president of the Council:

When Jones moved that the council take up the business of electing a city council president, “Alderman Upham then said

…I find here, referring to the charter of the city of Little Rock, the following on page 90 of laws and ordinances: ‘The aldermen elected from each ward in the city shall annually, on the next Monday after their election, assemble and organize the city council.’ In pursuance of that provision of law, this council did meet on the Monday following the late election, and placed Alderman Kramer in the chair. Now I hold that, by virtue of law, he is president of the council; that the organization made on that day is the only organization this council can have under any authority of law; however unsatisfactory it may be to any individual member, that had we failed to meet at all on that day, there was no authority of law by which we could have met and organized had it passed over that day, without some special provision of the legislature….The organization made on that day is the only organization that this council can have.’”

Alderman Jones replied that the Upham’s assertions were “preposterous.”  He asked Kramer if he considered himself the chairman. Kramer replied “that by virtue of the law he believed that he was, although he did not want it.”

The council then voted on whether to resume balloting on electing a city council president, and the motion failed.

[31] “Common Council,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 26, 1871, p. 4.

The Gazette story about the City Council meeting had its own little commentary on the vote. It reported that:

…the resolution was carried, Kramer voting aye, he explained, to settle the question. [Laughter behind the bar.] Kramer at this returned thanks and said he was no Minstrel, no Brindle, no democrat, but a citizen and pax-bayer [sic] of Little Rock. [Applause].”

(The use of “pax-bayer” was likely a Gazette dig at Kramer’s imperfect English.)

The Gazette had a note in its November 26, 1871 paper (p. 4): “The Minstrels, after the result of the deliberations of the council last night was made known, were very happy, and ‘smiled’ often.” 

 [32] The city had issued such a large volume of city currency (warrants and script) and regular certificates of debt that their value had plummeted. Because supply exceeded demand, and there was some risk the debt instruments would not be honored in the future, brokers would purchase them only at large discounts, as low as 60 percent of the face value. By selling their debt at a discount, the city got some cash immediately, but reduced its revenue collections.  For example, if the city sold a $100 certificate of debt for 60 percent of its face value, it would receive $60 in dollars. However, when the holder of the certificate owed the city $100 in taxes, he could pay the city with the $100 certificate of debt (for which he paid $60). As a result, the city got only $60 in currency for the tax liability of $100.

Apparently because the “high-quality certificates of debt” were officially engraved (not printed, as were the regular certificates of debt), they had greater implicit backing by the city and thus a lower risk of default. As a result, investors would buy them at a price much closer to their par value.

[33] For an account of this meeting, see “Chamber of Commerce,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 30, 1871, p. 4.

[34] A story in the Daily Arkansas Gazette about the November 9th meeting of the city council (the last meeting of the old council) reported that the council had voted to approve action by the city finance committee (of which Kramer was chairman) to “effect a loan” to pay street laborers and police for August, September, and October. Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 10, 1871 p. 4.

[35] The Daily Arkansas Gazette noted his planned departure in its May 23, 1871 issue, p. 4.  The October 28, 1871 issue of the Daily Arkansas Gazette (p. 2) reported his return to Little Rock after an absence of “almost five months.”

[36] “We take pleasure in noting the success of a good citizen, and are pleased to chronicle the fact of the retiracy of Mr. Fred Kramer from active life and the firm, which he originated, in conjunction with Mr. Charles Miller, nine years ago, in the Krebs building on Main Street. Although Mr. Kramer will be missed in business circles, where his name is all that could be desired, he will still remain in the city, and contribute his wealth and influence to adorning and building up our beautiful ‘City of Roses’.” Morning Republican, May 10, 1872, p. 4

Also see the public notice, Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 15, 1872, p. 4.

[37] His travel was mentioned in “Boggy Johnson at Home,” Daily Arkansas Gazette, June 21, 1872, p.1. The Morning Republican reported on November 12, 1872 (p. 4) that Kramer had returned a few days earlier from Europe where he had gained 25 pounds. The paper noted, he “is looking extremely well.”


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