Early life and education
Tripp was the son of William Tripp (1794–1875), a farmer and Methodist minister who had served in the War of 1812; his mother was Naamah Bartlett (1798–1874), William Tripp's second wife. The family moved from Harmony to the nearby town of Ripley in 1844. Bartlett Tripp entered Colby College in 1857, but left without graduating in 1861 to travel to California. On the way he visited his older half-brother William in Iowa and also visited the south-eastern part of the Dakota Territory. In California he did some surveying, then moved to Salt Lake City, Utah (where his brother Enoch Bartlett Tripp (1823–1909), a prominent Mormon merchant, lived) and taught school (1864-5). He eventually returned to Maine to regain his health. He then attended Albany Law School, graduating in 1867. While in law school Tripp met future president William McKinley, who became a lifelong friend.
Following law school, Tripp practiced law, first in Maine and then in Yankton with his half-brother William, who had been appointed as a Surveyor General for Dakota Territory. He was active in Democratic Party politics, serving as Dakota Territory party chairman, delegate to the national convention in 1872 and 1892, and in 1878 the Democratic candidate for the Territory's delegate in Congress. Bartlett was part of a commission that codified the laws of the territory, and served as president of an 1883 constitutional convention. From 1885 to 1889 he served as Chief Justice of the territorial Supreme Court. From 1893 to 1897 he served as Ambassador to Austria under president Grover Cleveland. In December 1897 he was elected as the first president of the recently established South Dakota Bar Association. In 1899, at the request of McKinley, he headed an American/British/German commission which visited Samoa and helped negotiate the Tripartite Convention of 1899 which settled disputes between those countries over the area. Tripp later published a book on his experiences there (My Trip to Samoa, 1911). After the establishment of the University of South Dakota College of Law in 1901, he lectured on constitutional law and taxation there.
Tripp was married twice, in 1863 to Ellen Jennings (died 1884) and then in 1887 to Maria Janet (Davis) Washburn (1846–1934), sister of Senator Cushman K. Davis. Tripp had one daughter, Maude B., by his first wife. Maude (1866–1894) married South Dakota lawyer Charles Hall Dillon, later a politician and judge of the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Tripp's second wife Janet (as she was usually called) had been married to a bookkeeper named Franklin Washburn, and had two children by her first marriage. Her first husband was killed in 1902 in a notable train wreck in the Park Avenue railroad tunnel in New York City.
Tripp County and the town of Tripp in South Dakota are named after Bartlett Tripp. Tripp Park in Yankton was sold to the city for $1 by Tripp's estate; Tripp had intended to give the land to the city, but hadn't completed the transaction in his lifetime.
- New York Times obituary, December 1911
- blog about Ripley history October 15, 2009. Retrieved February 8, 2011.
- life of Enoch Tripp Archived March 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. (PDF). Retrieved March 21, 2011.
- The Delta Upsilon Decennial, 1903, entry Bertlett Tripp
- History of the Dakota Territory, George Kingsbury, 1915 Retrieved February 8, 2011.
- MaineMemory.net entry for William Tripp
- World Almanac & Book of Facts, 1871, p. 42
- Who's Who in America, 1903-1905, Volume 3, 1903, entry "Bartlett Tripp", p. 1501
- ABA Journal, October 1958, Bar Activities column, p. 992
- Bulletin of the University of South Dakota, Announcement of the College of Law, 1907-1908
- Vice Presidency Still Unsettled, New York Times, June 16, 1900
- "Sentiment of the State Delegations". The New York Times. June 19, 1900. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
- "Park Avenue Tunnel Collision". Retrieved March 21, 2011.
- "Info on Tripp County on Sen. Johnson's website". Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved February 7, 2011.
- Federal Writers' Project (1940). South Dakota place-names, v.1-3. University of South Dakota. p. 63.
- "City of Yankton - Tripp Park". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved February 7, 2011.