Joseph Little Bristow,
U.S. Senator

Joseph Little Bristow was a journalist and United States Senator from Kansas. He was born in Wolfe county, Ky., July 22, 1861, a son of William and Savannah (Little) Bristow. He came to Kansas with his father in 1873 and married Margaret Hendrix in 1879; and in 1886 graduated at Baker University, Baldwin, Kan.


From the time he attained to his majority Mr. Bristow took an active interest in political affairs, and the year he graduated was elected clerk of Douglas County, which office he held for four years. Upon retiring from the clerk's office in 1890 he bought the Salina Daily Republican and edited the paper for five years. In 1894 and again in 1898 he was elected secretary of the Republican state committee.

His work in the campaign of 1894 commended him to Gov. Morrill, who, when inaugurated in Jan., 1895, appointed Mr. Bristow his private secretary. The same year he sold the Salina Republican and bought the Ottawa Herald, which paper he owned for ten years, during which time he directed its policy and wrote many of the editorials himself. In March, 1897, he was appointed fourth assistant postmaster-general by President McKinley, and in 1900, under direction of Mr. McKinley, investigated the Cuban postal frauds.

Three years later, under President Roosevelt, he conducted a searching investigation of the postoffice department. In 1903 he purchased the Salina Daily Republican-Journal, which he still owns, and in 1905 he was appointed by President Roosevelt a special commissioner of the Panama railroad. In Aug., 1908, he was nominated by the Republicans of Kansas at the primary election for United States senator, and the following January he was elected by the legislature for the term ending on March 3, 1915.

Above biography from Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, by Frank W. Blackmar (1912). After this account:

Bristow was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1908 and served from 1909 to 1915. Bristow is perhaps best known for provoking a sarcastic comment from Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. One day while Bristow was delivering a speech in the Senate on "what this country needs", Marshall whispered loudly enough for most of the chamber to hear, "What this country really needs is a good five-cent cigar."

Bristow was defeated in his 1914 re-election bid. He spent the rest of his days farming his Virginia estate, "Ossian Hall". When he died in 1944, his body was returned to Kansas for burial next to his wife Margaret in Salina's Gypsum Hill Cemetery.

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