Name: Cole, Nathan
Category: Politics and Government, St. Louis and the West (Number 20)
Term as Mayor: 1869-1871
Born/Started: Jul. 26, 1825
Died/Ended: Mar. 04, 1904
Description: Nathan Cole was the 20th mayor of St. Louis, serving from 1869 to 1871. Known for his fiscal conservancy, he helped reduce public debt during his time in office. While he was mayor, the City Charter was also revamped, and Carondelet was annexed into the City of St. Louis. Mayor Cole went on to serve a term in the U.S. Congress, where he became a leading advocate for improved business relations between the United States and Mexico.
Born in St. Louis in 1825, Mayor Cole began his career as a merchant at an early age. His father had brought the family to St. Louis from New York, but had suffered financial problems causing him to relocate to Chester, IL in 1837. The elder Cole died there in 1840. Nathan Cole was 15 years of age at that time. He spent two years at Shurtleff College in Alton, IL before leaving school to work as a clerk in a mercantile establishment. In 1851 he married Miss Rebecca Fagin and he became a junior partner in the W. L. Ewing Wholesale Grocery Company in 1851. In 1864 he withdrew from the company to form Cole Brothers, Commission Merchants, with his brother, H. C. Cole..
In 1869 he ran for mayor on the Republican ticket with a campaign to clean up City government. Interest on the bonded indebtedness of the City had been mounting year by year, but it was significantly reduced under Mayor Cole’s administration. A new and improved City Charter was obtained from the Missouri General Assembly in 1870. It extended the city limits to include Carondelet, which had been a separate town up to this time. Mr. Cole refused to run again for reelection in 1871 and returned to the business of Cole Brothers.
In 1876 he was elected to Congress. In Washington he represented the economic interests of the Midwest and was an ardent advocate of closer business relations with Mexico and South America. He delivered a speech on commercial relations with Mexico that was highly praised in the United States and Mexico. It was also in 1876 that he became president of the St. Louis Merchants Exchange. With A. W. Fagin, his father-in-law, he assisted in establishing the elevator system for handling grain. The St. Louis Grain Elevator was built at the foot of Biddle Street. From this beginning St. Louis became the grain exchange of the territory west of the Mississippi River.
Mr. Cole was a director of the Bank of Commerce for 43 years, most of which time he was vice-president. He was also a director in a number of other corporations. He died in St. Louis on March 4, 1904. Burial was in Bellefontaine Cemetery.
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