Friday, May 23, 2014

A Black Barber and Bleeding Kansas

The above short article (and attempt at humor) ran in the January 25, 1859 edition of the Louisville Daily Courier. I found it intriguing not only because it involved an enslaved barber, but it also demonstrates how closely people followed national events in the mid-nineteenth century. Because, if you do not know the story behind the last claim made, you will not get the humor.

Here is an attempt at explanation: The territorial governor of Kansas at the time, Samuel Medary, goes into a Lecompton, Kansas, barbershop and states that he would like to be shaved on monthly credit. The black barber states that he is not sure that is wise on his part. The governor asks why not, and the barber states that due to the fact that so many territorial governors have come and gone since the state received territory status the governor may leave office before the end of the month when payment would be due.

Kansas did in fact run through territorial governors at a rapid pace. And, no wonder why - violence roiled the area for its early years as settlers fought over whether the state would enter the Union with slavery or not. 

Here's a list of the territorial governors that took office starting when the region became a territory in 1854:
Andrew H. Reeder - July 1854 to August 1855
Wilson Shannon - September 1855 to August 1856
John W. Geary - September 1856 to March 1857
Robert J. Walker - May 1857 to December 1857
James Denver - December 1857 to November 1858
Samuel Medary - December 1858 to December 1860
George Bebee - December 1860 to February 1861

In between these men's terms were several acting territorial governors (some of which served multiple short terms), which only added to the dizzying changes in leadership in the Sunflower State's early history. Kansas finally received statehood in February 1861 with Charles Robinson as governor. 

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