August 6, 1926
Dr. Joseph A. Serena,
Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Dear Doctor Serena;
I acknowledge the receipt of your requests for a short discussion of some problem of statewide interest which occurred during my administration.
There were many such problems. The demand for hard surfaced roads presented a problem of great and far reaching importance. It was solved by the creation and appointment of a State Highway Commission, composed of men of character and ability who launched and have successfully carried forward a building program, which, for speed, efficiency, and economy, is a model for other states in the Union.
The needs of the public schools afforded another problem which challenged the best thought of the State. It was answered by the assessment of real estate at its true value, thereby writing a taxable foundation under the public schools upon which good schools could be built. The erection of over $20,000,000 in new school buildings, and the increased average annual attendance of over 60,000 pupils, prove that the people gladly accepted the opportunity to build upon the foundation afforded them.
The purchase of state parks, the erection of many new buildings for the State University and the State Colleges, the placing state charitable institutions under non partisan control were other matters of statewide importance.
To my mind however the matter of greatest public import was the “cleanup” of the Republican party. A political party justifies its existence only when it offers itself to the people as an instrument or a tool which the people may use to bring about necessary reform, or to accomplish political results. All political problems are reflected in party action. All matters of governmental action are political matters. A carpenter cannot use a dull or an “unset” saw to do fine work. The people cannot use a corrupt or a selfish party to achieve needed political changes. That the realignment within the Republican party was used by the people to accomplish great results is proved by the recitals of the early part of this letter. That realignment is forcing changes within the opposing party. What a happy day for Missouri when the people have two effective instruments with which to work; when party campaigns are contests as to which party has best served the State, and which offers the most constructive program for the future!
A carefully written letter is a form of art, and unfortunately the art of fine letter‑writing is not practiced as much today as it once was. Contained in the Rare Book Room at Southeast Missouri State University’s Kent Library is an entertaining letter written by Arthur Hyde, governor of Missouri from 1921 to 1925, describing some of his accomplishments during his administration. This letter was written in 1926 to Dr. Joseph Serena, Southeast Missouri State University’s president from 1921 to 1933. It is a response to Dr. Serena’s request for a short discussion of his administration. The purpose of Dr. Serena’s request may have been to locate potential speakers for commencement ceremonies.
The letter makes reference to building roads and public schools, two noteworthy endeavors that Hyde undertook. The “Centennial Road Law,” Hyde’s major accomplishment, provided $60 million to build 7,640 miles of roads (Williams 2: 489). In addition to creating the State Highway Commission, he also reorganized the entire state government, and for the first time the departments answered directly to the governor. Also, $20 million worth of public schools were constructed. Hyde took special interest in rural schools, consolidating many smaller districts.
The letter’s final paragraph, the most entertaining, is what he had to say about politics, wherein he makes the comparison of running a government to performing fine carpentry work. It is also nice to hear a politician say something good about both political parties. According to Hyde, his greatest accomplishment was the cleanup of the Republican Party in Missouri. Missourians must have agreed, as evidenced in the fact that a Republican governor followed Hyde’s term, the first time in Missouri history that the terms of two governors of the same political party followed each other (The Encyclopedia of Missouri 1:155.
The letter does not make reference to the fact that Hyde’s election to governor resulted in the greatest political upset in Missouri history (Friedman 51). At the time that this letter was written, Hyde had no idea that he would be later appointed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture by Herbert Hoover in 1929 (The Encyclopedia of Missouri 1:155).
The letter is three and one‑half pages in length, handwritten on white 8½” x 11″ personalized stationery. The stationery has his name, his occupation (lawyer), and his city and state (Trenton, MO) printed on the top center of each page. It is handwritten with no visible corrections. His penmanship was admirable. The letter is housed with letters of more famous individuals, such as Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and Lewis Carroll in Southeast’s Rare Book Room, but this letter is one of the more entertaining letters in the collection.
The Encyclopedia of Missouri. 2 vols. St. Clair, MI: Somerset Publishers, 1997.
Friedman, Robert P. “The Candidate Speaks: Arthur M Hyde.” Missouri Historical Review 61.1 (1996): 51–61.
Williams, Walter, and Floyd Clavin Shoemaker. Missouri, Mother of the West. 5 vols. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1930.
© Carl Pracht