Planning a visit this winter? Click here for holiday hours and information.

User login

History Happens HereDiscovery ToursYouTube
Standing on a Volcano: The Life and Times of David Rowland Francis
Cover of Standing on a Volcano: The Life and Times of David Rowland Francis
Standing on a Volcano: The Life and Times of David Rowland Francis


David R. Francis was a brash, plain-spoken politician and businessman who was a major figure in American life a century ago. After he made his fortune in the risky commodities markets of post Civil War St. Louis, Francis became the youngest governor in the nation and for a time seemed destined for the White House. When he ran the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, he was said to be the most photographed man in America. After a long and rich public life that included a landmark term as Grover Cleveland's forest-preservation secretary of the interior, Francis was Woodrow Wilson's ambassador to Russia in 1917, when the tsar was overthrown. The 66-year-old Missourian embraced the Provisional Government of democratic socialist Kerensky, but he fought bitterly against the subsequent takeover by the Bolsheviks. In the midst of the tumultuous struggle, the headstrong Francis refused to break off a dangerous relationship with a much younger woman suspected of being a German spy, and some of his closest associates called for him to be sent home. But he refused to leave Russia until he was so ill he had to be carried onto a ship. By his side was his insatiably curious African American valet Phillip Jordan, who wrote home extraordinary letters describing the 1917 revolution, letters that are published in book form for the first time. Standing on a Volcano: The Life and Times of David Rowland Francis is a powerfully written biography of a fascinating man, and a long-needed reassessment of a controversial and important figure in U.S.-Soviet relations.

2001
494 pages, 75 ills., index
ISBN 1-883982-13-8, $34.95, hardcover
ISBN 1-883982-17-0, $22.95, paper
Bookmark and Share