Charles Curtis 

The moment a people gained representation.

Charles Curtis was born on January 25, 1860 to Ellen Papin and Orren Curtis. Charles Curtis’ mother was of Kansa, Osage and Potawatomi descent while his father was European. This made him the first Vice President with significant Native-American ancestry.

Charles Curtis Portrait

When Curtis was 3-years-old his mother died and shortly after, his father joined the Civil War and left Curtis and his sister on the reservation to be raised by their maternal grandparents. Curtis spent time growing up with both his maternal grandparents on the reservation and with his paternal grandparents in Topeka. In 1873, the Indian reservation was forced to relocate to Oklahoma. Curtis wished to travel with the tribe to Oklahoma but his grandmother convinced him to live in Topeka, with his paternal grandparents and get his education.

During his time in Topeka, Curtis attended Topeka High School for several years. Although he didn’t graduate, he continued to study law while holding several different jobs. He became known as one of the best horse jockeys in the area and after winning several races he became well known as “the Indian Boy”. Curtis also worked as a clerk in the law office of A.H. Case and after passing the bar exam in 1881, he became a partner at the law firm. Three years later in 1884, Curtis married Anna Baird with whom he would have three children.

Charles Curtis with Native Americans

Also in 1884, Curtis began his first campaign for public office and became Shawnee County attorney. In 1889, Curtis failed to win the nomination for a vacancy in the House of Representatives by one vote, but just three years later Curtis went on to win the election for a seat in the House of Representatives and was re-elected for the next six terms. This was where Curtis became truly knowledgeable in the way of politics and this knowledge would eventually help him make it to the Senate and Vice-Presidency.

Curtis was elected Senator in 1907, a position he would hold unit 1929. During his time in the Senate he became even more influential. He eventually worked his way up to Senate majority leader in 1925 where he was known for his ability to accomplish results for both progressives and conservatives. Although Curtis had presidential aspirations, he was added to the election ballot as Vice President while Herbert Hoover got the nod for President. They went on to win the election and in 1929, he became the 31st Vice President of the United States.

Charles Curtis with Herbert Hoover

More to know:

  • The Story of the Kaw and Pappan's Ferry: Early history of the partnership between the Kaw Nation and Topeka's first European settlers that brought about a crucial crossing point for travelers traversing the plains. 
  • Strides to Statues: Topeka's downtown area is home to a historic statue tour that touches on famous Kansans like Charles Curtis as well artistic designs featuring local artists. 
  • Charles Curtis: From Kansas: History on Charles and his time in Topeka before and after becoming the first Native American Vice President.
  • The first person of Color to serve as Vice President was Topekan Charles Curtis. He served as the first Native American to hold the office. He is joined by Kamala Harris, historically our first female Vice President, and the first person of African and South Asian descent.

The Charles Curtis story begins with Topeka and culminates with his role as the United States' first Read More

Charles Curtis House Museum:*Currently Closed

UPDATE: The home is in estate transition and currently closed, please check back for updated information and re-opening.

When Charles Curtis was selected by President Herbert Hoover to serve as his Vice President, Curtis became the first Native American to hold the office, the first Vice President to come from west of the Mississippi, and the first Vice President from the state of Kansas. You can currently drive by the home, but tours are unavailable at this time.

Charles Curtis House Charles Curtis House Interior