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ADAMS, John Taylor

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John Taylor Adams. Photo courtesy: Iowa Digital Library


ADAMS, John Taylor. (Dubuque, IA, Dec. 22, 1862--Dubuque, IA, Oct. 29, 1939). President, Carr, Ryder and Adams Company; Republican Party leader. Adams was born in Dubuque into one of the oldest families in New England. (1) Educated in the public schools, he was considered an expert on American history and eventually owned what was considered one of the finest private libraries in Iowa. After leaving high school, Adams began a life of self-education that included teaching himself French and German.

Adams rose to importance in Republican circles as the manager of the last campaign for William B. ALLISON. Adams delivered Iowa, in 1912, for President William Howard Taft, later directed President Harding's "front door campaign," and led the 1924 campaign of President Coolidge. (2)

In 1859 Adams earned $3.00 per week as an office boy at Carr, Ryder and Wheeler. In 1886 he joined the FARLEY AND LOETSCHER MANUFACTURING COMPANY, but returned to Carr-Ryder when given the opportunity of organizing and establishing distribution branches of the company. By 1895 he was named president of the renamed CARR, RYDER, AND ADAMS COMPANY and later CARR, ADAMS AND COLLIER COMPANY until his death. (3)

Among the first to warn local lumber companies of decreasing supplies of timber from northern forests, Adams acquired large timber holdings on the West Coast beginning in 1901. He is also remembered for establishing one of the West Coast's first cutting mills. (4) SPAHN AND ROSE LUMBER COMPANY was incorporated on January 23, 1904, by James Currie COLLIER, Charles Joseph SPAHN, Sr., George DeForest "Bud" ROSE, Adams, and James Carr. This was after successful efforts Spahn, Rose and Adams had in California saving lumbering interests, by creating a large new market for their lumber in the Midwest, owned by wealthy California bankers including the Crockers. Adams had worked with the West Side Lumber and Flume Company of Tuolumne, California, a business owned by William H. Crocker. (5)

Adams served on the board of FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF DUBUQUE, president of the board of education board of trustees of the UNIVERSITY OF DUBUQUE, chaired the Dubuque Chapter of the American Red Cross, and was president of the FINLEY HOSPITAL (THE) board. (5) In Volume II of "175 Years" the Telegraph Herald reported that the late John LAW said that during the early days of the GREAT DEPRESSION, people threatened a "run" on the deposits of First National Bank. Adams calmed the crowd by pledging his personal finances to keep the bank solvent. The bank survived the crisis.

Although he never sought or held elective office, Adams was one of the most powerful Republicans in the nation. His ancestry included John and John Quincy Adams, the fifth and sixth presidents of the United States. His father was Shaubel Pratt ADAMS. (6) His power lay in his abilities to organize and plan campaigns and helping candidates stay away from damaging issues. In 1917 Adams was seen as a representative of the "western idea" of how to manage the Republican Party. Those to subscribed to this idea believed the failure to elect Charles Evans Hughes to the presidency was due to lack of attention given to western states. His election as vice-chairman of the national committee, however, irritated the progressive wing of the party. (7) Adams served as the Iowa member of the Republican National Committee and chairman from 1921 to 1924. (8)

Adams was opposed in 1912 by Theodore Roosevelt but was retained as vice chairman. He did not secure the chairmanship until June 7, 1921, when he won in spite of the opposition of President Warren Harding. Adams opposed Harding's plan to make the United States adhere to decisions of the World Court. Adams worked much more closely with President Calvin Coolidge and, with his wife, was a frequent guest at the White House.

John T. Adams in 1924.

In 1924 Adams retired from the Republican National Committee but kept a low-key interest in political affairs. He initially opposed the nomination of Herbert Hoover in 1928, but publicly supported him in 1932. Hoover appointed Adams to the Inland Waterways Corporation in 1931. He had hoped to be named ambassador to Germany. (9) Ironically, it was Adams' interest in foreign affairs that initially cost him the national chairmanship of the Republican Party. Prior to WORLD WAR I, Adams had traveled through Germany and wrote a letter to a Dubuque newspaper outlining Germany's war aims. This letter was used against him four years later when, attempting to obtain the party leadership post, Adams was portrayed as "pro-German." (10)

While not a strict isolationist, Adams wrote the" America First" statement which proved important in keeping the United States out of the World Court. He also opposed the 19th Amendment of 1920 that gave women the right to vote. This latter issue was also used for several years to deny Adams the chairmanship.

Fearful of the effects of international events upon their patient, Adams' doctors prevented him from reading newspapers or listening to the radio for approximately two months prior to his death. Family members avoided any discussion of current events. When he died on October 28, 1939, Adams was unaware of the outbreak of WORLD WAR II in Europe or of efforts to revise the United States Neutrality Act, created in 1916, when he successfully added a neutrality plank to the Republican platform.

Linwood Cemetery



1. "John Taylor Adams, Noted Republican Party Leader, Dies at Home in Dubuque," The Telegraph-Herald, October 29, 1939, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. "Directed Campaigns of Harding, Coolidge for Presidency," The Telegraph-Herald, October 29, 1939, p. 1

5. "John Taylor Adams..."

6. "Directed Campaigns..."

7. "Dubuquer Bone of Contention," Telegraph-Herald, January 16, 1917, p. 1

8. Ibid.

9. "John T. Adams on River Advisory Board," Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal, July 3 1931, p. 1

10. "Directed Campaigns..."

"175 Years" Vol. II Telegraph Herald, p. 79

"John Taylor Adams," Linwood Legacies. Online: http://www.linwoodlegacies.org/john-t-adams.html