Governor's Office: The Seat of Iowa's Political Leadership
The leading government official in every state is a governor, elected by the people.
Many significant Iowans presided in the governor's office. The first was Ansel Briggs, who served
as Iowa's governor from 1846-1850. His experience as a stagecoach driver and mail carrier prompted
him to work to improve transportation for pioneers.
Stephan B. Hempstead followed Briggs as governor from 1850-1854. During Hempstead's four years
in office, he added 52 counties to the state of Iowa. James W. Grimes was the last governor to
occupy this office, from 1854-1858, and helped move the government to Des Moines in 1857. He
worked to establish schools of higher education in Iowa, including the University of Iowa.
When the building was given to the University in 1858, officials divided this space into
four separate rooms: the office of the Department of Political Economics and three classrooms.
As the University added more buildings, administrators moved into this office. The Board of
Regents frequently met here to make important decisions on academic programs, guidelines,
The governor's office served many purposes and hosted a variety of lawmakers,
administrators, and special guests. Even its furnishings were multifunctional. The
large desk has drawers that open from both sides, allowing two people to work at the
same time. The drop-leaf table and four walnut side chairs served for both business
transactions and social visits. The ingrain (flat, woven, reversible) wool carpet could
be turned over when one side became dirty, or removed for easy cleaning.