Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor

TELLER, HENRY (1830-1914)

Henry Moore Teller represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate from 1876, when Colorado joined the Union, to 1909, with a three-year interlude as interior secretary. Colorado's first nationally prominent political figure, Teller was influential in state and national affairs. The senator was widely respected and known as the "defender of the West" and, affectionately, as "Colorado's Grand Old Man."

Born on May 23, 1830, as one of eight children in a strict Methodist farm family in upper New York, Teller educated himself in the law. He practiced briefly in Morrison, Illinois, then moved to the booming mining territory west of Denver in 1861. There he practiced mining law and participated in mining and railroad businesses. Teller was active in Colorado's Republican politics as leader of the Golden area faction in the protracted intraparty rivalry between the "Denver ring" and the "Golden gang." Throughout his political career he was a spokesperson for the commoner, including miners and homesteaders. He spoke forcefully for western territories and interests and was tenacious in his battles for silver coinage and against the eastern establishment, its banks, and the gold standard. In the U.S. Senate he sponsored the "Teller amendment" pledging U.S. support for Cuban independence.

Senator Teller was a staunch Republican most of his political life, but his relentless crusade for silver interests, along with his populist sentiments, devotion to states' rights, and opposition to imperialism, eventually and inevitably led him to bolt the party. Upon leaving the Republicans in 1896, he organized the Silver Republican Party, worked cooperatively with Populists and Democrats, and received support for the presidential nomination of all three parties. Teller declined and instead supported Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan. Henry Moore Teller died in Denver on February 23, 1914.

John A. Straayer Colorado State University

Ellis, Elmer. Henry Moore Teller: Defender of the West. Caldwell ID: Caxton Printers Ltd., 1941.

Teller, Henry. Papers. Colorado Historical Society, Denver.

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