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Archives on the Air 289: From Orphan to Congressman – Frank W. Mondell papers

Frank W. Mondell was a self-made man. He was born in Saint Louis in 1860 and orphaned at age seven. The generous family of a pioneer minister took him in and he grew up in Excelsior, Iowa. Schooled at home and then in a one room schoolhouse, Mondell survived blizzards, prairie fires and a four-year long plague of grasshoppers.

Feeling the call of the West, Mondell eventually ended up near Leadville, Colorado as a clerk with a railroad construction crew. Mondell made his way to eastern Wyoming after he was dispatched to the Black Hills of South Dakota on an expedition to locate a vein of locomotive coal. His search was successful, and he soon became mayor of the new town of Newcastle.

Mondell was a reluctant politician, but he was eventually persuaded to serve in the first Wyoming state legislature and later on in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read his 905-page long autobiography in the Frank W. Mondell papers at UW’s American Heritage Center.