Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saner Cook Bell (1875-1945)

Saner Cook Bell, a portrait featured in the 1934 Waterloo Daily Courier.

  This oddly named Iowan is one Saner Cook Bell, a distinguished businessman and civic leader based in the county of Black Hawk. Bell's inclusion here on the site rests on his unsuccessful candidacy for the Iowa State House of Representatives in 1934, as well as for his service as a delegate to the Iowa Convention that ratified the 21st Amendment in 1933.  
   Born in the town of Bowers, Pennsylvania on May 7, 1875, Saner Cook Bell was one of five children born to John Wilson and Elizabeth Cook Bell. His odd first name "Saner" can be considered a UFO even in terms of political strange names, and his middle name "Cook" stems from his mother's maiden name. Saner C. Bell received his education in the public schools of Pennsylvania and at age sixteen began attending the De Pauw Preparatory School in Greencastle, Indiana. He later continued his education in Pennsylvania, enrolling at Bucknell University in the borough of Lewisburg. 
  After completing his education, Bell removed to Plymouth, Connecticut, and in May 1903 married in this city to Ella Mae White (1876-1951). The couple is recorded as having one daughter, Dorothy A. Bell (1911-1985), listed as being born in Syracuse, New York.
   The Bell family resided in both Pennsylvania and New York between 1903 and 1914, and while living in the Empire State Bell became a member of the Madison County Trust and Deposit Company, beginning in 1913. In the following year, the family removed to Iowa, settling in Black Hawk County where they would reside for the rest of their lives. Soon after their resettlement, Bell became the secretary and manager of the Waterloo Canning Company, based in the town of Waterloo, Iowa.
   Bell spent fourteen years with the Waterloo Canning Company before organizing the Bell Canning Company, of which he was President and General Manager. The Bell Company is recorded by the Waterloo Daily Courier as turning out "500,000 cans of corn yearly, enjoying a distribution thru (sic) the Central, Western and Southwestern States-bringing in over $250,000-of this amount $160,000 goes to some 300 farmer planters and $90,000 to the employees of the five factories." The Courier also notes that Bell operated a chain of ten farms throughout Iowa and "feeds a herd of 225 dairy cows."

                        This sketch of Saner Bell appeared in the Waterloo Daily Courier in May 1928.

  While making large sums of money through his canning and farming interests, Bell also became active in Iowa political circles during the early 1930s. In 1933 he served as one of a number of delegates to the Iowa State Convention to ratify the 21st amendment, which overturned the 18th amendment that had outlawed the sale and manufacture of alcohol. Although he was a delegate to the Iowa convention that repealed prohibition, Bell himself stated in the Waterloo Daily Courier that "I am not in favor of liquor running wild. We thought that when the eighteenth amendment was passed that the young people would never know anything about liquor. But instead, they know more about it today than older persons who were adults before the amendment was first passed." 
   In 1934 Bell mounted an unsuccessful candidacy for the Iowa State House of Representatives from Black Hawk County, running in that years June 4th primary. An article on his candidacy appeared in the Courier that year and is shown below. 

   Although his campaign didn't succeed, Bell was undeterred, and in 1936 made a bid for Mayor of Waterloo. In this race he too was unsuccessful, but Bell continued to experience success in non-political areas, serving as the head of Waterloo's chapter of the National Recovery Administration in 1934-35 and as Exalted Ruler of the Waterloo Elks Lodge #290 from 1929-1935. Bell was also involved with the Waterloo Industrial council and a federal farm loan insurance agency, this according to his 1945 Courier obituary. Besides his involvement in the local Elks lodge, Bell was a parishioner at the First Presbyterian Church of Waterloo and was a member of the Waterloo Rotary Club.
   In 1940 Saner Bell became the general manager of the Unique Cleaners Inc. of Waterloo, serving in this position until his death in 1945. He died on November 4th of that year at the local hospital of "virus pneumonia" that had lasted two weeks. He was 70 years old at the time of his death and was survived by his wife and daughter. Bell was later interred at the Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery, also the resting place of Ella Bell and daughter Dorothy.

                     Bell's obituary from the Waterloo Daily Courier, published on November 5, 1945.

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