Albert B. Cummins

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Albert Baird Cummins
Albert B. Cummins Iowa.png
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
From: May 19, 1919 – March 6, 1925
Predecessor Willard Saulsbury, Jr.
Successor George H. Moses
Former U.S. Senator from Iowa
From: November 24, 1908 – July 30, 1926
Predecessor William B. Allison
Successor David W. Stewart
Former Governor of Iowa
From: January 16, 1902 – November 24, 1908
Lieutenant John Herriott
Warren Garst
Predecessor Leslie M. Shaw
Successor Warren Garst
Former State Representative from Iowa's 22nd District
From: January 9, 1888 – January 12, 1890
Predecessor Wesley Redhead
Successor Bradford B. Lane
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Ida L. Gallery

Albert Baird Cummins (February 15, 1850 – July 30, 1926) was a lawyer from Iowa who served as the state's governor and U.S. senator during the Gilded Age and afterwards, previously being a member of the state legislature. A member of the Republican Party, he was initially conservative, later swinging towards progressives against the "Old Guard" and eventually returning to the political right.


Cummins was born in Carmichaels, Pennsylvania (located in Green County) to Thomas L. Cummins and the former Sarah Baird Flenniken. He was reared under a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian tradition and learned the importance of education in addition to individual independence, graduating from Waynesburg College at only the age of nineteen.[1]

Political career

Staunchly active in the GOP, Cummins served as a delegate to every party convention on the statewide and national from 1880 to 1924.[1] Although earlier a conservative Stalwart, Cummins in the 1890s turned towards the left, leading an insurgent faction opposing conservatives led by Sen. William B. Allison, who supported railroad and business interests.[1]

In 1894 and 1900, Cummins unsuccessfully waged campaigns for the United States Senate.[1]

Governor of Iowa

Cummins ran in the 1901 gubernatorial election, being part of a slate of five party nominees in the general election. He defeated Democrat opponent T. J. Phillips by a landslide, polling nearly sixty percent of the vote.[2] Cummins would later be re-elected in 1903[3] and 1906.[4]

During his tenure, Cummins embodied ideals shaped during the Progressive Era,[5] signing legislation into law that enacted regulations on insurance companies and railroads.[6] Laws pertaining to child labor were improvised, and railroad pass distributions were eliminated. In addition, Cummins oversaw a change in statewide election laws, with direct primaries being made mandatory.[6]

Like most progressives during the time, Cummins pushed for Prohibition.[1]

The state GOP faction led by Cummins rivaled the "Standpatters," conservatives opposed to progressive reforms and expansion of government powers.[5] By the end of Cummin's gubernatorial tenure, progressives effectively controlled the party.

U.S. Senate

Cummins ran for United States Senate in 1908, though was defeated in the state legislature.[1] However, in the wake of Sen. Allison's death in office, he garnered the party nomination in the subsequent special election and was selected by the legislature to fill the post.[7]

Albert Baird Cummins portrait.jpg

In the Senate, Cummins initially continued his progressive advocacy, becoming a leading backer of reducing protective tariffs.[1] He also emerged in supporting the direct election of United States senators as well as the establishment of a federal income tax. In 1911, Cummins helped form the National Progressive Republican League to deny President William Howard Taft renomination in the 1912 presidential election.[1] Cummins led a small group which favored Theodore Roosevelt while others favored Robert La Follette, resulting in a tension that eroded unity among the faction.

During the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, Cummins held a distaste for Wilson's partisan nature, though nonetheless continued to push through progressive legislation.[1] He authored the Clayton Antitrust Act's "Magna Carta" provision, which asserted that "the labor of human beings is not a commodity or article of commerce."

Cummins swings back to the right

Cummins broke with Wilson over U.S. involvement in World War I, favoring neutrality and being referred to by the president as party of a "little group of willful men."[1] In spite of having voted for President Wilson's declaration of war, he joined "loyal opposition" which fiercely demanded strict oversight. Cummins later opposed the internationalist League of Nations, twice contributing to its defeat.[1]

During the presidency of Warren G. Harding, who he was a friend and golf companion to,[1] Cummins gradually shifted towards the conservative side. In 1920, he helped draft the Transportation Act which returned railroads to the hands of private ownership, ceasing wartime federal government control and greatly disappointing liberals as well as labor interests.[1]

In the 1924 presidential election, La Follette revived the organized progressive cause via the Progressive Party. Cummins at this point denounced his former political ally as a "radical" and became a campaigner for pro-business conservative Republican Calvin Coolidge.[1]

Cummins' rightward turn disenchanted progressives in Iowa who previously supported him.[1] In 1926, he was denied party renomination by Smith W. Brookhart, a progressive and acolyte of La Follette.[1]

Death in office

Several months proceeding his primary defeat, Cummins died in office at the age of seventy-six.[1] He is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Buenker, John D. Cummins, Albert Baird. The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  2. IA Governor Race - Nov 05, 1901. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  3. IA Governor Race - Nov 03, 1903 Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  4. IA Governor Race - Nov 06, 1906. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Harrington, Jerry. Governors of influence: Cummins and Hughes — Progressive governors from different eras, parties. Iowa History Journal. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gov. Albert Baird Cummins. National Governors Association. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  7. IA US Senate - Appointment Race - Nov 23, 1908. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 23, 2021.

Further reading

External links