Richard F. Pettigrew, U.S. Senator

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Richard Franklin Pettigrew

Birthdate: (78)
Birthplace: Ludlow, VT, USA
Death: October 5, 1926 (78)
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
Place of Burial: Woodlawn Cemetery Sioux Falls Minnehaha County South Dakota
Immediate Family:

Son of Andrew Pettigrew, Jr. and Hannah Pettigrew
Brother of Henrietta Dunning; Justin Andrew Pettigrew; Hannah Maria Dunning; Frederick Pettigrew and Elizabeth Medora Beebe

Managed by: Private User
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About Richard F. Pettigrew, U.S. Senator

Richard Franklin Pettigrew (July 23, 1848 – October 5, 1926) was an American lawyer, surveyor, and land developer. He represented the Dakota Territory in the U.S. Congress and, after the Dakotas were admitted as States, he was the first U.S. Senator from South Dakota.


Pettigrew was born in Ludlow, Windsor County, Vermont, and moved with his parents to Wisconsin in 1854. The family settled in Rock County, near Union, Wisconsin. He studied law in Iowa, and entered the law department of the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1867. He moved to Dakota in 1869 to work with a United States deputy surveyor.

Pettigrew settled in Sioux Falls, where he practiced law and engaged in surveying and real estate. He was a member of the territorial House of Representatives and served on the Territorial council. He was elected as a Republican to the U.S. House, serving from March 4, 1881 - March 4, 1883. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1882, but returned to the territorial council from 1885 to 1889.

When South Dakota was admitted as a state, Pettigrew was elected as South Dakota's first Senator to the United States Senate. He served from November 2, 1889 to March 4, 1901. He introduced a bill to fund the structure, recommending that native Sioux quartzite be used for construction of the state's first Federal building. He was re-elected in 1894, but left the Republican party on June 17, 1896 to join the Silver Republicans, a faction of the Republican Party which opposed the party's position in support of the monetary gold standard. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1900.

In the Presidential Election of 1900, while still in the Senate, he was a delegate and a major figure in the national political convention of the Populist Party held in Sioux Falls that convened on May 9, 1900 and lasted three days. The party endorsed William Jennings Bryan as its candidate.

After his time in the Senate, Pettigrew first practiced law in New York City, but soon returned to Sioux Falls and was active in politics and business until his death in that city. He was interred in Woodlawn Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

Pettigrew left his home to the city of Sioux Falls in his will. Pettigrew's home is maintained by the city of Sioux Falls to this day. The Pettigrew museum is designed to emulate how a person of Pettigrew's stature would have lived at the turn of the century. The house is filled with antiques from the early 1900s and Pettigrew's personal collection of artifacts. The latter because Pettigrew was an amateur archaeologist.

Pettigrew was also instrumental in the founding of many local communities around Sioux Falls, by donating land. Pettigrew and his wife, Bessie, donated land in 1886 to the founding and development of Granite, Iowa in Lyon County. In 1888, he and S.L. Tate both donated more land and were responsible for the founding of South Sioux Falls. He wanted to build a suburb of Sioux Falls to the south and west.

Announced January 12, 2009, Richard F. Pettigrew Elementary School will open fall of 2009 in southwest Sioux Falls.

Pettigrew indictment

In 1917, while being interviewed by a journalist from the Argus Leader, Pettigrew offered his opinion that the First World War was a capitalist scheme intended to further enrich the wealthy, and he urged young men to evade the draft. The local United States Attorney secured a felony indictment of Pettigrew for suspicion of violating the Espionage Act of 1917, the same charge for which Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs was then presently serving a ten-year Federal prison sentence.

Pettigrew assembled a high-powered legal defense team headed up by his close personal friend, prominent attorney Clarence Darrow. The trial was repeatedly delayed, and eventually the charge against him was dropped.

Pettigrew had the formal document of indictment framed, and prominently displayed in his home next to a framed copy of the United States Declaration of Independence, where it remains to this day as part of the exhibits of the Pettigrew House & Museum.


The Course of Empire. New York: Boni & Liveright, 1920. (Anti-imperialist speeches)
Imperial Washington: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920. 1922. Reprint. New York: Arno Press, 1970. Originally published as Triumphant Plutocracy: The Story of American Public Life from 1870 to 1920.


All quotes are from Pettigrew's book Triumphant Plutocracy

"Capital is stolen labor and its only function is to steal more labor"
"The early years of the century marked the progress of the race toward individual freedom and permanent victory over the tyranny of hereditary aristocracy, but the closing decades of the century have witnessed the surrender of all that was gained to the more heartless tyranny of accumulated wealth"
"Under the ethics of his profession the lawyer is the only man who can take a bribe and call it a fee"
"The sum and substance of the conquest of the Philippines is to find a field where cheap labor can be secured, labor that does not strike, that does not belong to a union, that does not need an army to keep it in leading strings, that will make goods for the trusts of this country"
"It had come into being as a protest against slavery and as the special champion of the Declaration of Independence, it would go out of being and out of power as the champion of slavery and the repudiator of the Declaration of Independence." --–On the Republican Party.
"The Russian Revolution is the greatest event of our times. It marks the beginning of the epoch when the working people will assume the task of directing and controlling industry. It blazes a path into this unknown country, where the workers of the world are destined to take from their exploiters the right to control and direct the economic affairs of the community."
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Richard F. Pettigrew, U.S. Senator's Timeline

July 23, 1848
Ludlow, VT, USA
October 5, 1926
Age 78
Sioux Falls, SD, USA
Woodlawn Cemetery Sioux Falls Minnehaha County South Dakota