Archives West Finding Aid
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George H. Curtis papers, 1908-1963
- Curtis, George H.
- George H. Curtis papers
- 1908-1963 (inclusive)19081963
- 1.5 cubic feet
- Collection Number
- MG 420
- George H. Curtis was Secretary of State of Idaho (1/2/1939 to 1/1/1945) and an active figure in the Idaho Democratic Party. The papers comprise a scrapbook and an unpublished manuscript entitled "History of Idaho Territory."
University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives
Special Collections and Archives
University of Idaho Library
875 Perimeter Drive
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open to the public. Researchers must use the collection in accordance with the policies of the University of Idaho Special Collections and Archives.
- This collection is in English.
Biographical NoteReturn to Top
George H. Curtis, a prominent political figure in Idaho during the 1930s-1940s, was born April 24, 1884 in Ontario, Canada—the eldest son of British immigrants. In 1887, when Curtis was two-years-old the family moved to Idaho. He attended Boise High School and later went on to the University of Idaho where he became one of Idaho’s first Rhodes Scholars in 1908.
After returning from Oxford, Curtis taught at Boise High School. His first political success soon followed in 1916 when he was elected to the Idaho State Senate as a Democrat from the overwhelmingly Republican Ada County.
Curtis joined the Army in 1918 and was in officer training school when WWI ended. After the war, he returned to education to teach at a teachers college in Albion, Idaho. Afterward, he served as both principal and superintendent of schools in several Idaho towns between 1920 and 1930.
In 1922, Curtis married Donna Marie Goodman at Rupert, Idaho. The couple had two children, Ruth Marie Curtis and Henry Goodman Curtis. Marie died in 1950 and Curtis married Mabel Brose Hill in December 1951.
In 1930, Curtis returned to the family farm when his father became ill. His return to the Boise farm also marked his return to politics. Curtis was a strong supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and was consistently seen as an “eloquent spokesmen for liberalism” in the traditionally conservative state of Idaho. During his career, he often found himself a “notorious and highly publicized” figure.
In 1932, he was elected to the Idaho Legislature during the Roosevelt sweep that carried many Democrats into office. A major spokesperson for the Idaho legislature’s liberal members, he was re-elected to the legislature in 1934 and 1936. In 1938, Curtis became Idaho’s Secretary of State and was re-elected to that office in 1940 and 1942. In 1944, Curtis ran for governor, but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Charles C. Gossett.
According to his son, Henry, controversy arose during his Curtis’s political career over the legality of residing on a small farm outside Boise city limits instead of “at” the capitol as interpreted in Idaho State Constitution. A controversy questioning his U.S. citizenship also arose since Curtis was born in Canada and became a citizen after his father was naturalized as a U.S. citizen.
Curtis supported the New Deal, and according to his obituary, was one of the few political leaders in Idaho who fought for the Albeni Falls Dam on the Pend Oreille River. He also proposed the development of the Idaho State Department of Labor and the Department of Commerce and Development. Curtis made many critical and controversial decisions during his time serving on the Idaho Board of Pardons, which he was founder.
Upon retirement, Curtis returned to Ada County to teach in rural schools and continued to campaign for the Democratic Party in Ada County. He died in Boise, Idaho, at the age of 78 on December 11, 1963.
Biographical information in this section was obtained from Curtis’s obituary.
Content DescriptionReturn to Top
The papers of George H. Curtis include a scrapbook spanning the years 1908 to 1963, containing newspaper articles and other correspondence from Curtis’ political and public career. They also include an unpublished and undated manuscript which he compiled about the history of Idaho as a territory.
Included in the scrapbook are such articles as announcements of his political races, opinion pieces authored by himself or others, correspondence, the announcement of his Rhodes scholarship, and articles about the untimely death of his father, mother and mother-in-law. The unpublished manuscript is divided into chapters that reflect the notes Curtis gathered.
Use of the CollectionReturn to Top
Consult Head of Special Collections and Archives on permission for use.
George H. Curtis papers, MG 420, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho Library, Moscow, Idaho.
Administrative InformationReturn to Top
The material in this record group is contained in folders and in a scrapbook.
The unpublished manuscript (box 1) was received in a three ring binder, transferred to acid free folders and arranged in sections and titles already imposed in the binder. Curtis’s obituary and a script of a radio campaign were inserted in a folder as well. The unpublished manuscript is titled History of Idaho Territory. Chapter names include: Introduction, Legislative Assembly, Organic Act, Constitution Convention, Agriculture, Judiciary, Education, Elections, People of the Territory, Churches, Indians, Annexation, Counties and Newspaper.
The articles in the scrapbook (box 2) were kept as received. They are arranged in chronological order. George Curtis’s son, Henry, inserted explanatory notes throughout the scrapbook that provide additional information on important events in his father’s career.
The papers of George H. Curtis were donated to the University of Idaho Library by his son Henry G. Curtis on April 12, 2002.
Jenny Johnson processed the papers in March 2007.
Names and SubjectsReturn to Top
- Idaho -- History.
- Curtis, George H.--Archives