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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Boies, Horace
(December 7, 1827–April 4, 1923)

–Iowa Democratic Party leader and governor—was born in Erie County, New York, the son of Eber Boies, a farm operator and veteran of the War of 1812, and Esther (Henshaw) Boies. Educated in the district schools, he went west at age 16 and worked for a time as a farmhand in Wisconsin Territory before returning to New York. At age 21, he married Adella King, began the study of law, and, after passing the state bar exam in 1849, set up a law practice in Hamburg, a settlement near Buffalo. After his first wife died in 1855, he married Versalia M. Barber in 1858. Meanwhile, he served a single term in the New York legislature, having been elected in 1857 on the Republican ticket. Then in 1867 the lure of the West attracted him to Waterloo, Iowa, where he continued the practice of law in partnership with H. B. Allen, while accumulating large farm holdings in Black Hawk and Grundy counties.

    In 1880 his Iowa political career took off when he left the Republican Party because of differences with Republicans on a Republican-backed strict prohibition law. Outspoken on the prohibition question, Boies sharply criticized "as merciless in their severity many of the penalties inflicted by the prohibitory statutes of the state."Favoring a liquor licensing system, Boies won support from Iowa Democrats, which led to his selection as the Democratic Party's nominee for governor. His election in 1889 and subsequent reelection two years later marked the first triumph of a Democratic candidate for governor since the political revolution launched by Republicans in the years preceding the Civil War.

    As governor, Boies backed the adoption of a local option liquor policy, the consolidation of Iowa's welfare institutions under a statewide Board of Control, and election reforms. He also gave voice to the fledgling Iowa labor union movement by appointing a prominent union leader to head the Iowa Bureau of Labor and by proclaiming the first statewide Labor Day holiday. Much of his legislative program was stifled by a Republican-controlled legislature, but the Republicans finally modified their stand on prohibition, a move that narrowly thwarted the Democratic governor's bid for a third term.

    Nonetheless, Boies attracted a nationwide following. In 1892 he garnered substantial support at the Democratic National Convention for the presidential and vice presidential nominations, and was offered, and declined, a cabinet post in the Cleveland administration in 1893. In the run-up to the 1896 Democratic presidential nomination, Boies was second in the balloting before Bryan's "cross of gold" speech stampeded the Democratic delegates. Then in 1902, at age 75, Boies ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic nominee for a congressional seat from Iowa, his last bid for elective office.

    Thereafter, Boies retired from public life, withdrew gradually from his private law practice, and, in his last years, spent more time in Long Beach, California, along with many other Iowans attracted to the Golden State. He regularly attended the annual Long Beach Iowa Reunion, serving a term as president of the Iowa Association, and appeared at the reunion on his last public appearance before his death in California at age 96.
Sources Boies's official message and proclamations are in Benjamin F. Shambaugh, ed., Messages and Proclamations of the Iowa Governors (1903–1905). See also Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 1 (1958). An obituary is in the Des Moines Register, 4/6/1923.
Contributor: Robert Dietrich

Cite as: Dietrich, Robert. "Boies, Horace" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 27 August 2014