Rolla Wells

 

Rolla Wells

Term: 1901 - 1909
Party: Democratic
Born: June 1, 1856
St. Louis, Missouri
Died: November 30, 1944
St. Louis, Missouri
 
Rolla Wells (Mayor 1901-1909)-Background
Mayor (1901-1909). Rolla Wells was born in St. Louis, Missouri on June 1, 1856. He was the son of Erastus Wells, the pioneer St. Louis street-transit promoter and owner. He was educated at Washington University and Princeton University. In 1878 Wells married Miss Jennie Howard Parker and they were the parents of five children. At the time of his death, Mr. Wells was survived by his second wife, Mrs. Carlota C. Wells.

In 1878 Wells went into the street railroad business with his father. He became superintendent of the Olive and Markets Horse Car Lines. In the late 1800s he was active in the management of the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Fairs held at Fairground Park. He became the first president of the American Steel Foundry Company, organized in 1894.

In 1896 Wells bolted the Democratic Party's Bryan free-silver ticket. Nevertheless, he was nominated by the Democratic Party for office of Mayor in 1901.

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Rolla Wells (Mayor 1901-1909)-Administration
In 1901 Rolla Wells became the thirty-fourth Mayor of St. Louis.

Rolla Wells was elected and inaugurated in April, 1901. On taking office Wells sold his local public utility holding company and steel stock, so that there could be no 'conflict of interest' involved in his administration. 'New St. Louis' was the slogan of his administration. He headed the City's Government during the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, known as the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. In this capacity he welcomed visitors to the City from all over the world.

It was during Wells' administration that the City Water Department accomplished clarification of the water supply. Previously St. Louis had been known for its cloudy drinking water. Milk of lime was used with iron sulphate in the first attempts to clarify the water by means of chemical coagulation. This process, then in experimental stage, was introduced in the Spring of 1904. This progressive step was highly desirable at the time because the World's Fair was about to open and bring many visitors.

During Wells' administration the City bought Fairground Park for $700,000. City playgrounds and public bath houses were constructed. City planning activities were started. Many of the main streets were hard surfaced. In 1906 a $2,000,000 bond issues was voted by the people of the City to build the Municipal Courts, Jail and Children's buildings. These were completed during later administrations.

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Rolla Wells (Mayor 1901-1909)-Post-Administration
In 1912 Rolla Wells became treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. President Wilson appointed him as the first Governor of the Eighth Federal Reserve District here in 1914. His autobiography 'Episodes of my Life' was published in 1933.

Rolla Wells died in St. Louis, November 30, 1944. Burial was at Bellefontaine Cemetery.

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