From Ohio History Central
Portrait of Governor Asa S. Bushnell who served two, two year terms as Governor from 1896-1900. Bushnell supported the Spanish-American War and saw that Ohio troops mobilized quickly when a call for volunteers was issued in April 1898.
Asa Smith Bushnell was the fortieth governor of Ohio. He was born in Rome, New York, in 1834. His family moved from New York to Ohio when Bushnell was eleven years old. He briefly attended public school in Cincinnati but had little formal education beyond that. Bushnell's family was involved in the Underground Railroad, and one cousin was arrested for participating in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Case. Bushnell began to live independently at a young age and did not participate in his family's efforts to help runaway slaves.
When Bushnell was seventeen years old, he moved to Springfield, Ohio, where he became a clerk in a dry goods store. Within a few years, he obtained a position as a bookkeeper at a local business. In 1857, Bushnell married Ellen Ludlow and joined his father-in-law's drug store as a partner. Throughout much of the American Civil War, Bushnell continued his business pursuits. In the summer of 1864, he became a captain of a "hundred-day" infantry company, which was assigned to picket duty in the Shenandoah Valley.
After the war ended, Bushnell became a partner in a company that manufactured agricultural implements. He was a prominent member of the community, serving as president of the First National Bank of Springfield and the Springfield Gas Company at various times. He also invested in street railways and telephone companies in Springfield.
In addition to his business interests, Bushnell began to work for the state Republican Party. He helped Joseph Foraker win the election for governor in 1885. His efforts were rewarded in the following decade, when Foraker and George B. Cox helped him to obtain the Republican nomination for governor. Bushnell successfully ran against James E. Campbell in 1896. He won by more than ninety thousand votes and became Ohio's fortieth governor. He was reelected to a second term beginning in 1898, but his margin of victory was smaller.
Bushnell's two terms as governor were busy years for the state and the nation. Some Progressive legislation was passed that required better working conditions for women and limited child labor in the state. The legislature also enacted some corporate taxes during this era that provided revenue for the state. In addition, Bushnell's attorney general pursued the monopolistic practices of the Standard Oil Company in the courts, and the General Assembly addressed the issue of trusts in the Valentine Act. The governor helped Joseph Foraker in his successful campaign to be elected to the United States Senate. Governor Bushnell also nominated Republican political boss Marcus Hanna to be a senator in 1897. Bushnell was governor when the United States entered the Spanish-American War in 1898. He was proud to claim that Ohio sent the first volunteer units to participate in the war.
Bushnell retired from politics when he left the governorship in January 1900. He returned to his home in Springfield, where he resumed his business interests. Bushnell eventually sold his agricultural machinery company to the International Harvester Company. He continued to play an important role in the development of Springfield and was a strong advocate of a plan to build an interurban railway that would connect the city to other communities in the area. Bushnell died in January 1904.
- James E. Campbell
- American Civil War
- Cincinnati, Ohio
- Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Case
- Springfield, Ohio
- Standard Oil Company
- Runaway Slaves
- Republican Party
- Joseph B. Foraker
- George Cox
- Progressive Movement
- Valentine Anti-Trust Act
- Marcus A. Hanna
- Spanish-American War
- Interurban Railroads
- Child Labor
- [Asa S. Bushnell: 1896-1900]
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