Jump to content

David R. Francis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from David Rowland Francis)

David Francis
United States Ambassador to Russia
In office
May 5, 1916 – November 7, 1917
PresidentWoodrow Wilson
Preceded byGeorge Marye
Succeeded byWilliam Christian Bullitt Jr.
(as Ambassador to Soviet Union)
President of the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games
In office
October 28, 1900 – September 3, 1904
PresidentPierre de Coubertin
Preceded byPierre de Coubertin
Succeeded byEdward Battell
20th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
September 3, 1896 – March 5, 1897
PresidentGrover Cleveland
William McKinley
Preceded byHoke Smith
Succeeded byCornelius Bliss
27th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 14, 1889 – January 9, 1893
LieutenantStephen Claycomb
Preceded byAlbert P. Morehouse
Succeeded byWilliam J. Stone
26th Mayor of St. Louis
In office
April 14, 1885 – January 2, 1889
Preceded byWilliam L. Ewing
Succeeded byEdward A. Noonan
Personal details
David Rowland Francis

(1850-10-01)October 1, 1850
Richmond, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedJanuary 15, 1927(1927-01-15) (aged 76)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Resting placeBellefontaine Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Jane Perry
(m. 1876; died 1924)
EducationWashington University in St. Louis (BA)

David Rowland Francis (October 1, 1850 – January 15, 1927) was an American politician and diplomat. He served in various positions including Mayor of St. Louis, the 27th Governor of Missouri, and United States Secretary of the Interior. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Russia between 1916 and 1917, during the Russian Revolution of 1917. He was a Wilsonian Democrat.[1]

Early life[edit]

Francis was born on October 1, 1850, in Richmond, Kentucky, the son of Eliza Caldwell (née Rowland) (1830–1898) and John Broaddus Francis (1818–1894).[1] He graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1870 where he was number one on the rolls of the Alpha Iota chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.[1]


After graduating from University, he became a successful businessman in St. Louis and served as the president of a grain merchant's exchange.[1] The St. Louis Mining and Stock Exchange was formed in St. Louis in the fall of 1880 with Francis as a founding member.[2]

In 1885, he was elected mayor of St. Louis as a Democrat. In 1888, he was elected governor of Missouri becoming the only mayor of St. Louis elected governor of the state.

In 1896, Francis was appointed United States Secretary of the Interior by President Grover Cleveland and served until 1897.

World's Fair 1904[edit]

Francis was one of the main promoters of the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, serving as president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Historians generally emphasize the prominence of themes of race and empire, and the Fair's long-lasting impact on intellectuals in the fields of history, art history, architecture and anthropology. From the point of view of the memory of the average person who attended the fair, it primarily promoted entertainment, consumer goods and popular culture.[3]

The 1904 Summer Olympics were held in combination with that Exposition, and by overseeing the opening ceremony, Francis became the only American to have opened an Olympic Games without ever serving as president or vice president of the United States.

Later career[edit]

In 1905, after being elected president of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company, he was sent to Europe by the World's Fair directors to thank kings, emperors, and other rulers for their part in making the exposition a success. He was decorated by the emperors of Germany and Austria[4] and Wilhelmina, the Queen of the Netherlands.[1]

In 1910, Francis was arrested for non-payment of taxes, but released on bail.[5]

Diplomatic career[edit]

Ambassador Francis and with Nikolai Tchaikovsky, c. 1918

President Woodrow Wilson appointed Francis as the last U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Empire between 1916 and 1917.[6] He escaped a communist-organized assassination attempt late in 1916.[7] During Francis's time as ambassador, he was almost appointed as U.S. Senator from Missouri.[8] He served in that post during both the social-democratic February Revolution and communist October Revolution of 1917,[9][10] and through him the U.S. recognized the brief Russian Republic (and not the subsequent Bolshevik regime that seized power in the October Revolution).[11]

Francis was the final owner of the St. Louis Republic, a morning newspaper which he sold after years of losses to the rival St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1919. His biographer, Harper Barnes, summarized his personality:

David R. Francis was a brash, opinionated, stubborn, smart, sometimes foolish, straight-talking, quick-acting, independent-minded, proud, self-made man who represented the United States in Russia for two and a half years, during the most tumultuous era in that country's history. Much of his activity has been shrouded in myth – some of that heroic, more of that comic and tragic.[12]

Personal life[edit]

On January 20, 1876, he married the former Jane Perry (1854–1924), the daughter of John Dietz Perry (1815–1895) and a granddaughter of James Earickson, the former Missouri State Treasurer.[13] They had six children: John David Perry (1876–1950), David Rowland Jr. (1879–1938), Charles Broaddus (1881–1957), Talton Turner (1882–1955), Thomas (1884–1964), and Sidney Rowland Francis (1888–1960).

His wife died in San Antonio, Texas, on March 21, 1924. Francis died in St. Louis, Missouri, on January 15, 1927. He was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.[1]


Francis Quadrangle Marker at the University of Missouri
Monument marking Francis's grave in Bellefontaine Cemetery.

In 1895, the University of Missouri dedicated David R. Francis Quadrangle in honor of the former governor who is credited with keeping the university in Columbia after the fire of Academic Hall in 1892. Francis insisted that the state's land-grant university remain in a central location, rather than moving to Sedalia, as many state legislators desired. Instead, Sedalia was awarded the Missouri State Fair as compensation. A bronze bust of Francis' face sits at the south end of Francis Quad near the steps of Jesse Hall. A popular MU student tradition is to rub Governor Francis' nose before taking a test in order to get an A.

The track/soccer/football stadium at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as the adjacent gymnasium, are named in Francis' honor. Francis Field was the site of the 1904 Summer Olympics; Francis attended the opening ceremony and officially opened the games as the representative for the host nation.

In 1916, he gave 60 acres (240,000 m2) of land to the city of St. Louis, Missouri, as a Christmas gift. It was turned into a park that bears his name.[14]

In recognition of his donation of the land, a memorial statue of Francis was installed in Francis Park in the city of St. Louis, Missouri in August 2018. Francis Park is located within the neighborhood of St. Louis Hills. The bronze sculpture of David R. Francis is the work of American artist and sculptor, Harry Weber. The memorial is supported by the group, Friends of Francis Park.



  1. ^ a b c d e f "D. R. FRANCIS DEAD; EX-AMBASSADOR; Was in Russia When Kerensky Deposed Czar, Also When "Reds" Seized Power. EX-SECRETARY OF INTERIOR Served Missouri as Governor and St. Louis as Mayor -- Headed the 1904 World's Fair". The New York Times. January 16, 1927. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  2. ^ Thomas Scharf, John (1883), History of Saint Louis City and County: From the Earliest Periods ..., Volume 2, retrieved September 24, 2017
  3. ^ James Gilbert, Whose Fair? Experience, and Memory, and the History of the Great St. Louis Exposition (2009)
  4. ^ "Austrian Honor for David R. Francis". The New York Times. June 24, 1905. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  5. ^ Gov. Francis Gives $200 Bail, at the Tacoma Times (via Chronicling America); published March 12, 1910; retrieved April 14, 2014
  6. ^ Times, Special To The New York (February 23, 1916). "FRANCIS GOING TO RUSSIA.; Missouri Ex-Governor Accepts Appointment as Ambassador". The New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  7. ^ Times, Special Cable To The New York (July 20, 1917). "FRANCIS ESCAPES PLOT TO KILL HIM; Attempt Made in Finland to Blow Up Train on Which Ambassador Was Traveling". The New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  8. ^ "BARS NAMING FRANCIS.; Lansing's Objection Prevents Appointment of Ambassador as Senator". The New York Times. April 24, 1918. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  9. ^ "Francis Warns Russians of Danger in Separate Peace". The New York Times. January 14, 1918. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  10. ^ "Ex-Ambassador Francis Describes the Russian Revolution". The New York Times. August 21, 1921. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  11. ^ "Milestones: Jan. 24, 1927". Time. January 24, 1927. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  12. ^ Harper Barnes (2001). Standing on a Volcano: The Life and Times of David Rowland Francis. Missouri History Museum. p. 11. ISBN 9781883982171.
  13. ^ "Missouri State Past Treasurers - James Earickson". www.treasurer.mo.gov.
  14. ^ http://stlouis.missouri.org/citygov/parks/parks_div/Francis.html


  • "Installed". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 14, 1885. p. 2.
  • "The City Hall Change". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 2, 1889. p. 10.
  • Francis, David Rowland. The universal exposition of 1904. (Louisiana purchase exposition Company, 1913). online
  • Francis, David Rowland. Russia from the American Embassy, April, 1916-November, 1918 (C. Scribner's Sons, 1921).
  • Francis, David Rowland, and Jamie H. Cockfield. (1981). Dollars and diplomacy: Ambassador David Rowland Francis and the fall of tsarism, 1916-17 (Durham: Duke University Press).
  • Francis, David Rowland, Robert Chadwell Williams, and Robert Lester. (1986). Russia in transition: the diplomatic papers of David R. Francis, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, 1916-1918 (Frederick, Md: University Publications of America).

Further reading[edit]

  • Barnes, Harper. (2001). Standing on a volcano: the life and times of David Rowland Francis (St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press in association with the Francis Press. ISBN 1-883982-13-8).

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of St. Louis
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to Russia
Succeeded byas United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union