Madison's Past


Public Programs

Historical Research



Order Form

Site Map


only search HMI

Robert M. La Follette, Sr.

Governor Robert M. La Follette, Sr. (1904)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-10905

Robert Marion La Follette, Sr.

Political leader, U.S. Senator, June 14, 1855-June 18, 1925

Robert M. La Follette was born in Primrose, Wisconsin, on June 14, 1855. Admitted (1880) to the Wisconsin bar, he practiced in Madison, Wis., and was district attorney (1880 - 84) of Dane county. As U.S. Representative (1885 - 91), he generally followed the traditionally conservative policies of the Republican party. After a political conflict that led to his break with the state Republican leaders, La Follette began to formulate a detailed reform program and, appealing directly to the people, to build a broad constituency. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1896 and 1898 and finally won it in 1900. As governor of Wisconsin (1901 - 6) he secured a direct primary law, tax reform legislation, railroad rate control, and other measures that became collectively known as the Wisconsin Idea. Robert La Follette died in Washington, D.C., on June 18, 1925.