Jim Dahlman went from being a Texas cowboy to Nebraska politician, most notably, the Mayor of Omaha. For many years, was a friend and supporter (and campaigner) of William Jennings Bryan, until they had a falling out. Bryan did not support Dahlman when he ran for Governor of Nebraska. Dahlman was also a friend of the notorious “Doc” Middleton.
As you will see, some of these newspaper clips are from those opposed to “Dahlmanism.”
First, “Dalhmanism” from Wikipedia:
Called the “perpetual Mayor” in Omaha, Dahlman was seen by many as a cover man for the city’s vice elements. Earning the reputation as the “wettest mayor in America”, Dahlman saw the number of saloons in Omaha double during his first 10 years as mayor. The term “Dahlmanism” was coined to describe his politics.
Click on Dahlman’s name below for a biography.
It is no secret that the prominence of Jim Dahlman, the cowboy mayor of Omaha, at the Denver convention is causing grief among the faithful around Lincoln. Every time the bronco buster appears in print as the “personal mouthpiece of Mr. Bryan,” several ten penny nails are bitten squarely in two in this vicinity.
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Jun 30, 1908
From The History of Nebraska, some background on the “county option” and how it figured into the elections in 1910:
In the campaign of 1910 all normal calculations were upset by the injection of the prohibition question and the invasion of the democratic ticket by large numbers of republicans, through the opportunity offered by the open primary law which had been passed at the late session of the legislature. While Governor Shallenberger had incurred the bitter hostility of the extreme liquor interests by signing the eight o’clock closing law and, naturally, in the circumstances, had not recouped from the strong partisans of prohibition or county option, yet his administration had been so virile and his personality in general so taking, that his renomination and reëlection were generally conceded by politicians. But the aggressive pro-saloon republicans, to the number of about 15,000, voted for James C. Dahlman, the democratic mayor of Omaha, and he was nominated over Shallenberger by the narrow margin of 27,591 to 27,287. If the governor had stood firmly on his well-known opposition to county option, he would have been renominated. His announcement to the democratic convention that he would sign a county option bill, if one should be passed, was bad politics as well as bad statesmanship.
Bryan’s second attempt to make the Nebraska Democracy take the water cure has failed. Cowboy Jim Dahlman has defeated Shallenbarger, Bryan’s candidate for Governor, in the primaries, and will head the Bourbon ticket in November.
Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Aug 27, 1910
LANCASTER TOWNS HEAR MAYOR “JIM”
Tells People That County Option Means Prohibition and That He is Plain “Feller.” (Excerpt from article)
Read Out of Party.
The chief point made in his address full of declarations for personal liberty and the right of towns to rule themselves on the liquor business, was to read out of the party all county option democrats. He declared they were not democrats, not standing for things democratic, no such thing existed as a prohibition democrat, and that they must go to the republican party where they belong. He declared further that they would be put there to stay on November 8.
Here are some of the statements made in his speech:
“The chief issue in this campaign is county option. County option is prohibition eventually and prohibition is a failure.”
“County option is being forced upon you people by a bunch of howling fanatics. Are you going to let them run you and your town?”
“They are telling a lot of nasty things about me in the press of the state. I am going to plead guilty to about half of what they charge and deny the other half. What do you think of that? That’s fair, isn’t it? You never heard a candidate for governor before who was so frank, did you?”
“I am a plain feller. I am one of the plain fellers, one of you people. Don’t you think it is about time that a plain, ordinary feller like me should hold down that governor job?
“Now, I want to challenge any of you fellers to dispute any statement I shall make here today. I want you to say it to Jimmie Dahlman’s face. Don’t wait until he is gone and then say it on the street corners. I defy you to dispute anything I say. And I want to say that if you try it Jimmie Dahlman is going to come back at you good and strong. You will think you have hit a buzz-saw before he gets through with you. What do you think of that?”
“County option is enlarging the unit of control from the city to the county. Are you people of Hallam going to let Lincoln with perhaps fifty times as many votes as you have tell you how you shall run your city, which you have built up and where you pay your taxes?”
Says Policies Have Failed.
“County option and prohibition are failures. I was never in a dry town in my life where I could not get all I wanted. I only had to look around a bit and it was easy to find. In those places they have blind tigers in the alleys and holes in the wall where you can get all the rot-gut whisky you can drink. And I want to tell you that these so-called prohibition republicans and prohibition democrats are a bunch of hypocrites. They are all right at home for they are afraid to drink. But when they come to Omaha they can kill more whisky in a day than any of you fellers can get rid of in a week. I know ‘em for I am mayor of the great metropolitan city of Omaha, and I have to pardon ‘em out and send ‘em home to their families so there won’t be a family row. I have a chief of police who has been in Omaha for fifteen years and he knows ‘em too.”
“I’ll tell you what I stand for. I am for the Slocumb law which has been on the statute books for thirty years without a change. And I want to tell you something else — listen now to what I am saying you prohibition democrats if there are any of you here — I want to say that in all that thirty years not a brewer, not a saloon-keeper, not a saloon man has dared to try to change a single line of that law. Why? Because they knew that this law is what the people of the state want.”
Lincoln Evening News (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 15, 1910
Now this one is pretty funny:
Are you inclined to be quarrelsome when you are drunk? Do you sometimes beat your wife? Are you occasionally picked up as a vagrant? Sorry, but in that case nothing can keep you from voting for “Jim.” Mr. Aldrich will hardly be able to offer inducements to compare with these from “Jim’s” Wilber address:
“How about this pardon business? Ill tell you. We all get over the ropes sometimes. I get over myself, and I know. Well, that’s the kind of cases I pardon. Suppose a man and a woman have a family row and she gets him put in jail. The judge gives him twenty days. Then she grows penitent and wants him. She has to come to little old Jimmie Dahlman to get it. And she comes bawling around, and I pardon him. I hear bawling enough at home, Lord knows. Then there’s another class I pardon. Maybe an old Saline county farmer with a section of land comes to Omaha. He goes down to John Mauer’s restaurant — that’s a swell place — and takes a little too much. He gets into jail and the police judge gives him ten days. Well, Jim Dahlman goes right down and lets him out, you bet.”
The solid jailbird vote goes to “Jim.” That may as well be admitted.
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 18, 1910
When Dahlman Is Inaugurated as Governor These Things Will Take Place
From a “long hand” report of Dahlman’s speech at Lincoln…
“I’m going to invite you people to come to my inauguration and we will have a big barbecue right out on the state house grounds. We will have twenty-five beeves and fifty mutton carcasses a roasting, and we will build a big dance pavilion out there on the grounds. The first dance will be an old fashioned Virginia reel and I will lead it. The second will be an old fashioned quadrille and I am going to call it about like this: Balance all; swing on the corner; allemand left; right hand to your partners and grand right and left; all promenade over to the barbecue. I’m going to invite some of them prohibitionists to come, too. Of course we won’t have anything but coffee and water up there at the capitol but if any of the prohibitionists want anything stronger they can telephone me and I will see that they get plenty of Blue Ribbon and such stuff.”
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Oct 30, 1910
The song, “We Are Coming, Jimmie Dahlman,” recently printed in these columns, has been recast and sung by E.F. Miller of Nemaha with much good to the cause. As he sings it, the song reads as follows:
We are coming, Jimmie Dahlman,
To the closing of the day,
When votes must all be counted
In the right and honest way.
We men, who heard you telling
Of how you’d run the state,
Will surely vote for Aldrich
At a fast and furious rate.
We are coming, Jimmie Dahlman,
With our ballot in our hand,
To meet your issue squarely
And tell you where we stand;
For we know that in Nebraska
Our rights have been denied,
For which our great forefathers
Have bravely fought and died.
We are coming, Jimmie Dahlman,
For we’ve heard you day by day
Tell all that county option
Takes our liberty away;
Our farms are taxed and burdened,
Rum crime expense to pay,
And then we’re told we cannot vote
This wrong to put away.
We are coming, Jimmie Dahlman,
And our vim will not relax;
For the city gets the license
And the county gets the tax.
If the city gets the money,
And the county holds the sack,
We’d all be fools and goslins
If we don’t give you a whack.
Let me tell you, Jimmie Dahlman –
Let me tell you on the square –
Next Tuesday you’ll be beaten
With ten thousand votes to spare;
For we’re coming, Jimmie Dahlman,
We’re coming on with prayer,
To see that no rum ruler
Shall taint the governor’s chair.
The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) Nov 7, 1910
William J. Bryan is not the only million dollar beauty in Nebraska. Mayor James C. Dahlman is a close second. Recently citizens of Memphis, Tenn., offered Mr. Bryan $2,000,000 to remove thither and make his home. Mr. Bryan smiled his broadest, which is exceedingly broad, and told the Memphis committee that Lincoln, Neb., being just about the center of the United States, suited him as a place of residence. He said he could get to the remotest part of the nation from Lincoln in about two days and he preferred to live at the center. Now the Omaha Commercial club through its publicity manager, Will A. Campbell, has offered Memphis a substitute in the person of “Cowboy Jim” Dahlman, mayor of Omaha, and defeated candidate for governor. Mr. Campbell assures the Memphis people that if they really want a Nebraska beauty they can get Mr. Dahlman for about $1,500,000, thereby saving half a million on the proposition. Mr. Dahlman and Mr. Bryan used to be close friends, but they had a political split last year, which has estranged them. Omaha, it is said, is likely to adopt the commission form of government soon, and the cowboy mayor will be out of a job and ready to accept any reasonable offer from Memphis.
The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) Apr 17, 1911
*Click on image for larger version of news clipping.
PIONEER MAYOR OF OMAHA DIES
“JIM” DAHLMAN, WHO QUIT LIFE OF COWBOY TO ENTER POLITICS – SUCCUMBS ON EVE OF EIGHTH CAMPAIGN.
Excelsior Springs, Mo., Jan. 22 — (AP)–
“Jim” Dahlman, 73, perennial mayor of Omaha who left the life of a cowboy for that of a politician, today was embarked on “the long trail.” The old campaigner died in a stroke of apoplexy Monday.
Was Planning New Campaign
Dahlman, whose name appeared on the ballots as James C. Dahlman, but who was better known as “Jim” in the town whose government he has headed, with but one intermission, since 1906, was here to rest and prepare for a new campaign. He filed January 11 as a candidate for his eighth term. His wife, who accompanied him here from Omaha, Jan. 12, was at his bedside.
Born in Yorktown, Tex., Dec. 15, 1856, young Dahlman was playing about horses of his father’s ranch at an age when dolls would have been a more natural entertainment. Upon reaching manhood he went to western Nebraska as a cowboy, later becoming a ranch bookkeeper.
For 12 years he alternated as mayor of Chadron, Neb., and sheriff of Dawes county, Nebraska, and in 1896 went from Lincoln to Omaha to take a position on the Omaha livestock exchange.
Warm Friend of Bryan
Although a warm friend of William Jennings Bryan and an ardent supporter of the commoner, it was not until 1906 that Dahlman tossed his own hat in the political ring.
Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune (Wisconsin) Jan 22, 1930
Passing of “Texas Jim” Dahlman
Mayor James C. Dahlman of Omaha, has passed out of the picture. He had been chief executive of the aggressive and progressive Nebraska metropolis for 21 years. He recently had filed for reelection for his eight three-year term.
There was a time when he was “Texas Jim.” He was a cowboy and rough rider of the cattle ranges all the way from the Rio Grande river to the Montana highlands.
He was feared and loved as one of the best shots and hardest riders on the western plains. He was 73 when death called him. He was the political idol of the people of Omaha.
As his body lay in state at Omaha city hall, thousands paid homage to the man whose name was a household word in cow camps and western plains in the long ago.
“Texas Jim” was a democrat. Fifty three years ago, in a town in Lavaca county, “he got his man” and those who knew him best said that he had abundant provocation.
He journeyed from Texas to Arkansas, from Arkansas to Wyoming, from Wyoming to Nebraska, then a wilderness, and he found fortune as well as fame in the wild frontier commonwealth.
In 1906 he invaded the political arena. He was the personal and political friend of William Jennings Bryan. He fought the battles with Bryan with tongue and pen and would have used a gun in self defense if it had been necessary.
Omaha was the city of his adoption. He built an organization. It was an aggressive organization and it had a he-man as its dictator and spokesman. “Texas Jim” was elected mayor. He was re-elected mayor.
He aspired to the governorship in Nebraska. Did William Jennings Bryan lend aid and encouragement or financial assistance or words of eloquence in behalf of the candidacy of his most loyal supporter?
He did not. He ditched “Texas Jim” and “Texas Jim” lost the gubernatorial crown.
Then it was that the prince of peace orators and the daring rider of the western plains parted company.
“Texas Jim” had a flair for politics. He loved Omaha and he loved its people. He fought the battles of the plain people of Nebraska. He held the reins of municipal government 21 years. If he had lived he would have continued to direct the affairs of the upper Missouri river city.
He attended all the national conventions beginning in 1896, he was a democrat of the Jeffersonian type, he was a “regular” and always bowed to the mandate of his party. He was a humanitarian of the 20 karat type, he never kicked the under dog in the teeth, he was the product of a civilization that has passed away, and yet he was as modern in his convictions and his politics as the fastest travelers on the broad highway of this new era of mankind.
Some day the romance of his early life may be hammered into copy and then placed in cold type. He had the material but he buried it. His secrets were his own secrets and he lived his own life. He did not know the meaning of the word fear and he never had a doubt as to the future.
Yes, “Texas Jim” has passed out of the picture — just as the West and his youthful days, wild rides and deeds of daring, passed out of the picture when the Pacific ocean became the frontier line of the American republic.
Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas) Jan 28, 1930