Isaac Stephenson

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Isaac Stephenson
Isaac Stephenson.jpg
United States Senator
from Wisconsin
In office
May 17, 1907 – March 3, 1915
Preceded by John C. Spooner
Succeeded by Paul O. Husting
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1889
Preceded by District Created
Succeeded by Myron H. McCord
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born (1829-06-18)June 18, 1829
near Fredericton, New Brunswick, British Canada
Died March 15, 1918(1918-03-15) (aged 88)
Marinette, Wisconsin
Political party Republican

Isaac Stephenson (June 18, 1829 – March 15, 1918) was an American politician of the Republican Party who represented Wisconsin as both a United States Representative and a United States Senator.

He was born in the community of Yorkton, near Fredericton in York County, New Brunswick (now Canada, but a British colony at the time). His parents were Isaac Stephenson (1791–1874), a lumberman and farmer born in Ireland of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and Elizabeth (Watson) Stephenson (?–1838), who was born in London.[1]


He worked in lumbering activities in the eastern U.S. for several years, principally in Maine, and in 1845 moved to Wisconsin, where for a time he managed absentee timber properties, but soon entered the lumber business for himself. In 1858 he settled permanently in Marinette, where his lumbering operations expanded steadily, especially during the Civil War. Although Stephenson suffered heavy losses in the Peshtigo Fire of 1871, he recouped, and soon was one of the wealthiest lumbermen in the Great Lakes area, with real-estate holdings in Marinette, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Chicago, and throughout the Great Lakes, as well as vast acreages of pine lands in northern Wisconsin and Michigan.

Political career[edit]

A Republican, Stephenson's wealth made him an important figure in local and state politics. He held several offices, including town supervisor, county board chairman, and justice of the peace.[2] He was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly (1866, 1868). In 1882, he was elected to the Forty-Eighth Congress, and then reelected to the Forty-Ninth and Fiftieth Congresses (March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1889). He represented Wisconsin's newly created 9th congressional district. He was not a candidate for re-election in 1888, and in 1899 was unsuccessful in his bid for United States Senator.

Early Progressive leader[edit]

In 1900 he threw his support and substantial financial backing behind Robert M. La Follette, Sr., in his campaign for the Wisconsin governorship,[3] and for a number of years was a prominent adviser to the Progressive faction of the Republican party, and a liberal contributor to its campaign funds. In the 1904 progressive-stalwart split, Stephenson was chosen by the "gymnasium convention" as one of the progressive delegates to the Republican national convention along with La Follette and William D. Connor. Although the national convention refused to accept the credentials of the Progressive delegation, the La Follette forces were recognized as the legal Republican ticket by the Wisconsin Supreme Court (1904).

In 1901 Stephenson established the Milwaukee Free Press, providing Progressive-Republicans with a metropolitan newspaper, and competition for the Stalwart-controlled Milwaukee Sentinel. In 1907 Stephenson sought the U.S. Senate seat made vacant by the resignation of John C. Spooner and, after a brief deadlock, was elected by the Progressive-controlled state legislature. In 1908 he ran for renomination in the Republican primary, was opposed by La Follette, but despite this opposition won the nomination through the aid of the state chairman of the Republican party William D. Connor and lavish use of his personal wealth, and was re-elected by the legislature in 1909. Although his election was twice blocked by fraud investigations in both the state legislature and the U.S. Senate, Stephenson was eventually vindicated and resumed his seat in the Senate, serving from May 1907, to March 1915.[4]

Presidential Cow[edit]

In 1909 Stephenson purchased a prized Holstein cow as a gift for the 27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft. The cow was named Pauline Wayne and she became the last presidential pet cow. Pauline Wayne lived and grazed on the White House lawn.[5]


After returning from Washington in 1915, Stephenson retired to his home in Marinette, where he remained until his death on March 15, 1918.[6] Noted for his local philanthropies in Marinette, a park, street, and memorial library are named in his honor.[7][8]

His younger brother, Samuel Merritt Stephenson, served as a U.S. Representative from Michigan.


  1. ^ Stephenson, Isaac. 1915. Recollections of a Long Life, 1829-1915. Chicago: R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company
  2. ^ City of Marinette, Wisconsin - Community Profile at
  3. ^ "La Follette at Work". The Inter Ocean. February 2, 1900. p. 4. Retrieved December 12, 2014 – via  open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography
  5. ^ Pauline Wayne-Presidential Cow
  6. ^ "Isaac Stephenson Died Today in His Home in Wisconsin". Dixon Evening Telegraph. March 15, 1918. p. 1. Retrieved December 12, 2014 – via  open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography
  8. ^ Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
District Created
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Wisconsin's 9th congressional district

March 4, 1883 - March 3, 1889
Succeeded by
Myron H. McCord
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Coit Spooner
Class 3 U.S. Senator from Wisconsin
Succeeded by
Paul O. Husting