The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber


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Kendall, Nathan Edward
(March 17, 1868–November 4, 1936)

–23rd governor of Iowa—was the youngest of six children of Elijah J. and Lucinda (Stevens) Kendall. His parents came from Indiana in 1852 and settled on a farm near Greenville, Lucas County, Iowa, where Kendall was born. He went to a local country school and then moved to Albia, Monroe County, where he learned shorthand. After working as a stenographer in a law office, he was admitted to the bar in May 1889. He was Albia's city attorney (1890-1892) and then Monroe County Attorney (1893-1897). In 1896 he married Belle Wooden, a Centerville, Iowa, schoolteacher.

    Kendall was elected to the state House of Representatives as a Republican for five terms (1899-1909). During his final term, he was an outstanding Speaker of the House. He then went on to become the U.S. congressman from Iowa's Sixth District (1909-1913). A heart attack caused him to withdraw his nomination in the latter year and return to private law practice in Albia. At the Republican National Convention in 1916, he nominated Iowa's U.S. Senator Albert Baird Cummins for president.

    As governor of Iowa (1921-1925), Kendall sought to reorganize the overlapping state boards, bureaus, and commissions. This resulted in 1923 in the creation of the Department of Agriculture, embracing eight different boards. Five other boards were abolished and their functions transferred to the Department of Agriculture. Kendall strongly advo cated legislation to permit farmer to form credit associations of their own, and the legislature passed two bills permitting cooperative marketing by farmer

    Kendall was especially proud of the so-called Warehouse Act. If farmer stored grain on their farms under seal, they could get a certificate against which they could borrow money. In 1924 that scheme resulted in 300,000 bushels of corn thus sealed under 250 certificates.

    Agriculture was the governor's main con-cern–but he had others. He was alarmed by "the vast sums" fraudulently collected from Iowa citizens due to the state's failure to regulate the sale of stock; as a result, he said, "our state has become a rendezvous for every crooked exploiter in the Mississippi Valley."The result was a securities law limiting promotion costs to 15 percent of the value of securities and requiring a license to sell securities.

    Kendall keenly promoted the aims of a 1920 act of Congress to rehabilitate people disabled on the job, and the 39th General Assembly gave effect to that goal. Patriotism was another key matter. Of the returned veterans from World War I, Kendall said: "The least we cando is compensate him by bonus or otherwise for the economic disadvantages he suffered by reason of his enlistment."The result of this exhortation was a bond issue of $22 million to be expended on military veterans. That bonus bill was ratified by popular referendum in November 1922.

    Governor Kendall enthusiastically supported maternal and infant health and welfare. Other social matters included his support for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the naming of a commission on the problems of the state's children with disabilities.

    During Kendall's term of office, steady work was done on roads and parks. He signed bills making Armistice Day a legal holiday and adopting a state banner. His concerns for insolvent banks gave a boost to legislation whereby the court could appoint the Superintendent of Banking as receiver for insolvent banks. Furthermore, a new Iowa Code was undertaken and completed in an extra session in 1924. Governor Kendall's proudest achievement was the appropriation of $2,225,000 to match the equal sum from the State Board of Education and the Rockefeller Foundation to complete and equip the hospital and plant of the College of Medicine at the State University of Iowa.

    Kendall's wife died in 1926, and in 1928 he married Mabel Mildred (Fry) Bonnell of Cleveland. Both marriages were a success, but alongside them was his love affair with Iowa. Kendall said: "It is difficult to understand why a Divine Providence should have located the Garden of Eden in the far-off Orient, when the incomparable Domain of Iowa was readily available for that exalted enterprise."
Sources include Governor Kendall's Second Biennial Message, Iowa House Journal (1925), 25–54; N. E. Kendall, Letters Written on a Cruise around the World to Friends in Iowa (1926); and Edgar Rubey Harlan, A Narrative History of the People of Iowa (1931).
Contributor: Richard Acton