Charles Jonas (Wisconsin politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the congressman from North Carolina, see Charles Jonas (disambiguation).
Charles Jonas

Charles Jonas (born Karel Jonáš - October 30, 1840 – January 15, 1896) was a Czech journalist, linguist and political activist, who became a Wisconsin journalist and politician.[1]

The Karel Jonas House in Racine, Wisconsin was added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 1, 1982. It is located at 1337 North Erie Street.


Karel Jonáš was born in Malešov, Bohemia. He studied at what was then the Bohemian School of Science and Polytechnic Institute in Prague, as well as attending lectures at Charles University in Prague. A strong Czech nationalist and friend of Vojtěch Náprstek, he fled Bohemia in 1860 after clashes with the authorities, moving via Bremen to London, where he continued to work as a journalist. In March 1863 he emigrated to Racine, Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee (where Náprstek had been the first Czech to publish a periodical in the United States); there he edited and published the Czech language newspaper Slavie.

Elective office and consular service[edit]

Jonas was skeptical of Abraham Lincoln and the policies of the Republican Party (which he saw as too centralist), and he gradually came to be affiliated with the Democrats. He was appointed to the Board of Managers of the Wisconsin Industrial School for Boys (a reform school) for 1874-1877, serving only through 1875.[2]

He was elected an alderman for the City of Racine, serving from 1876 to 1883, and would serve as president of the Common Council of Racine for 1878-79.

He was elected as a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1877 to represent the 1st Racine County district (the City of Racine) (incumbent Republican Norton J. Field was not a candidate for re-election), with 1229 votes to 760 for Republican Edward Gillen; he was assigned to the standing committees on the judiciary and on education.[3] He was not a candidate for re-election in 1878, choosing instead to run on the Greenback Party ticket for the Wisconsin Senate's Third District (Racine County), losing to Republican William Everett Chipman by 3206 to 2177 (there was no Democratic candidate in the race, and some candidates that year ran as Democrats and Greenbackers simultaneously). He was succeeded in the Assembly by Field.[4]

He ran again for the Senate in 1882 as a Democrat (to succeed Republican Albert L. Phillips, who was not a candidate for re-election), winning this time with 3213 votes to 2494 for Republican William T. Lewis; and was assigned to the committees on education and on enrolled bills.[5] He did not run for re-election in 1886, and was succeeded by Republican Henry Allen Cooper.

On November 17, 1886, Jonas was appointed U. S. Consul at Prague by President Grover Cleveland, which position he held until July 16, 1889.

In 1890 he was elected 16th Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin with a plurality of 34,974 in a four-way race, well ahead of his running mate, Milwaukee mayor George Wilbur Peck.[6] He would serve in that office from 1891 until 1894, when he resigned to become the U.S consul in St. Petersburg, Russia; in 1896, he was transferred to Crefeld, Germany, where he died that same year.

Although in 1919 the Department of State informed author Thomas Čapek that Jonas died of heart failure, recent scholarship has determined that Jonas shot himself. After his death, Jonas was buried in Prague's Olšany Cemetery.[7]



  1. ^ Cannon, A. Peter, ed. Members of the Wisconsin Legislature: 1848 – 1999. State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau Informational Bulletin 99-1, September 1999; pp. 9, 68 Archived December 9, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ O'Neill, Edward, et al. Document 13: "Fifteenth Annual Report of the Managers of the Wisconsin Industrial School for Boys for the Fiscal Year Ending Sept. 30, 1874", p. 2; in Governor's Message and Accompanying Documents Delivered to the Legislature in Joint Convention, Thursday, January 14, 1875 (Volume 2) Madison: E. B. Bolens, 1875 (Covers 1873/1874)
  3. ^ Bashford, R. M., ed. The Legislative Manual of the State of Wisconsin: Comprising the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Wisconsin, Jefferson's Manual, Forms and Laws for the Regulation of Business; also, lists and tables for reference, etc. Seventeenth Annual Edition. Madison: David Atwood, Printer and Stereotyper, 1878; pp. 479, 495
  4. ^ Warner, Hans B., ed. The Blue Book of the State of Wisconsin, for 1879. Containing the Constitutions of the United States and of the State; Jefferson's Manual; Rules and Orders of the Senate and Assembly, and Annals of the Legislature; also, statistical tables and history of state institutions Eighteenth Annual Edition. Madison: David Atwood, State Printer, 1879; pp. 478, 502
  5. ^ Heg, J. E., ed. The Blue Book of the State of Wisconsin 1883 Madison, 1883; pp. 474, 515
  6. ^ Cunningham, Thomas J., ed. The Blue Book of the State of Wisconsin 1891 Madison, 1891; pp. 256-257, 575
  7. ^ Chrislock, Carl W. Charles Jonas (1840-1896): Czech National Liberal, Wisconsin Bourbon Democrat. Balch Institute Press, 1993.
Political offices
Preceded by
George Washington Ryland
Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Emil Baensch