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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Paul, George Howard 1826 - 1890


newspaperman, politician, businessman, b. Danville, Caledonia County, Vt. He graduated from the Univ. of Vermont (B.A., 1847) and attended Harvard Law School for a short time. He did newspaper work and engaged in local politics in Vermont, but his business ventures were not successful and in 1851 he moved to Wisconsin to escape his creditors. Settling in Kenosha, he purchased the Kenosha Democrat, which he published from 1851 to 1854, and also held local political offices, including the postmastership under appointment from presidents Pierce and Buchanan. When the Republicans were victorious in the 1860 election, Paul moved to New York where he worked briefly for the N.Y. Daily News (1861). Returning to Wisconsin the same year, he joined the editorial staff of the Milwaukee Daily News. In 1862 with the financial backing of Alexander Mitchell (q.v.), Paul and J. M. Lyon purchased the paper, and after Lyon's death in 1870 Paul organized the Milwaukee News Publishing Co., serving as president from 1870 to 1874. As editor of this powerful newspaper (1861-1874), Paul rose rapidly to a position of power in state Democratic politics. He was a delegate to many national conventions, served on the national executive committee of the party (1864- 1868, 1872-1876), and was chairman of the state democratic executive committee (1872-1874). In the latter capacity he was the chief architect of the Democratic-Granger coalition (Reform party), which secured the election of William R. Taylor to the governorship in 1873. Although Paul was known as a "railroad" man, he and Governor Taylor were forced to uphold the Potter Law (regulating railroad rates) when the law was challenged by Alexander Mitchell. Paul was appointed to the railroad commission and, fearing the loss of railroad support, worked out a compromise with Mitchell. Despite these precautions the reform coalition was defeated in the 1875 election and the Potter Law was repealed. Nevertheless, Paul's reconciliation with Mitchell insured his political future. He was Democratic state senator from Milwaukee (1878-1881), and with Mitchell's backing established the Milwaukee Cement Co. in 1875. Paul was a regent of the Univ. of Wisconsin (1874-1877, 1879-1890) and served for several years as president of the regents. In this capacity he helped secure greater state support for the university and did important work in freeing the institution from political control. He was postmaster of Milwaukee (1885-1889). In 1889 he became involved in disputes with his former associates over the Milwaukee Cement Co., was defeated in a court case, and moved to Kansas City where he died a few months later. E. J. Paul, comp., Ancestry of K. C. Paul (Milwaukee, 1914); [F. A. Flower], Hist. of Milwaukee (Chicago, 1881); J. G. Gregory, Hist. of Milwaukee (4 vols., Chicago, 1931); G. H. Paul Papers.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the George H. Paul Papers for details.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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