Theodore Arlington Bell

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Theodore Bell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1903 – March 4, 1905
Preceded bySamuel D. Woods
Succeeded byDuncan E. McKinlay
Personal details
Theodore Arlington Bell

(1872-07-25)July 25, 1872
Vallejo, California, U.S.
DiedSeptember 4, 1922(1922-09-04) (aged 50)
San Rafael, California, U.S.
Resting placeOdd Fellows Cemetery in St. Helena
Political partyDemocratic (before 1921)
Republican (1921–1922)
Other political
Independent (1918)

Theodore Arlington Bell (July 25, 1872 – September 4, 1922) was an American lawyer and politician who served one term as a Democratic Congressman from California from 1903 to 1905.[1]


Born in Vallejo, California on July 25, 1872[1] to Charles E. Bell and Catherine J. Bell (née Mills), he and his family moved to St. Helena, California in 1876 where he attended primary school at the Crystal Spring school.

At 18, he received a certificate to teach, doing so for a year and a half in northern Napa County, during which time he continued to study law.

Early political career[edit]

After his admission to the bar on July 25, 1893 (his 25th birthday), he began his political career as District Attorney of Napa County, California from 1895 to 1903. During this time, he was married to his wife, Anna Marie Muller, with whom he had one daughter, Maurine.[2]


With the backing of former San Francisco mayor and future U.S. Senator James D. Phelan, Bell was elected to the 58th Congress (1903-1905) representing California's 2nd district.[3]

While serving, he was a member of the House Irrigation of Arid Lands Committee. In the 1904 election, he was defeated by Republican Duncan E. McKinlay.

Later career[edit]

He went on to run for Governor of California in 1906, 1910 and 1918, losing twice as a Democrat with around 38% and 40% of the vote and once as an Independent with 36%. In his closest election in 1906 he was only 2.6% behind Republican James Gillett. He was a delegate to the 1908 Democratic National Convention, where he gave William Jennings Bryan's nomination speech, and 1912 Democratic National Convention before later switching parties to become a Republican in 1921.[1]

Though Bell himself, representing California wine country, was not a prohibitionist, his mentor Phelan was a strong teetotaler. To accommodate both sides, he lobbied for a tax increase on wines with sugar, which came from out of state. In doing so, he made a move to regulate the consumption of alcohol, which would not harm local vintners but would increase tax revenue and decrease the likelihood of prohibition.[2]

Death and burial[edit]

On September 4, 1922, he was killed in a car crash in Marin County, California.[1] He is interred at Odd Fellows Cemetery in St. Helena.[4]

Electoral history[edit]

1902 United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2nd district[5]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Theodore A. Bell 21,536 49.2
Republican Frank Coombs (incumbent) 21,181 48.3
Socialist G. H. Rogers 731 1.7
Prohibition W. P. Fassett 367 0.8
Total votes 43,815 100.0
Democratic gain from Republican
1904 United States House of Representatives elections in California, 2nd district[6]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Duncan E. McKinlay (incumbent) 22,873 49.2
Democratic Theodore A. Bell 21,640 46.6
Socialist J. H. White 1,524 3.3
Prohibition Eli P. LaCell 431 0.9
Total votes 46,468 100.0
Republican gain from Democratic


  1. ^ a b c d "Theodore A. Bell Killed in Auto Smash. Twice Candidate for Governor of California" (PDF). New York Times. September 5, 1922. Retrieved 2016-04-23.
  2. ^ a b Weber, Lin (17 September 2013). Prohibition in the Napa Valley: Castles Under Siege. The History Press. ISBN 9781625845429.
  3. ^ "S. Doc. 58-1 - Fifty-eighth Congress. (Extraordinary session -- beginning November 9, 1903.) Official Congressional Directory for the use of the United States Congress. Compiled under the direction of the Joint Committee on Printing by A.J. Halford. Special edition. Corrections made to November 5, 1903". U.S. Government Printing Office. 9 November 1903. p. 7. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  4. ^ Spencer, Thomas (2001). Where They're Buried. Clearfield. ISBN 0806348232.
  5. ^ 1902 election results
  6. ^ 1904 election results

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of California
1906, 1910
Succeeded by
J. B. Curtin
Preceded by Keynote Speaker at the Democratic National Convention
Succeeded by
Preceded by
James Rolph
Democratic nominee for Governor of California
Succeeded by