Ignatius Donnelly was born on November 3, 1831. He was trained in a law office and became involved in the land boom of the 1850s and in 1857 he moved to Minnesota. He became an antislavery Republican as the Civil War approached and he became lieutenant governor in 1860. Three years later was elected to the US Congress and served there from 1863 to 1869. In 1873 he led the way in forming the Anti-Monopoly Party. With Ignatius Donnelly’s influence, Minnesota’s Anti-Monopoly Party merged with the greenback movement.
Ignatius Donnelly was elected to the state senate three times. Nominated for U.S. Congress in 1878 by both his own party and the Democrats, he lost narrowly to Minneapolis mill owner William D. Washburn. Ignatius Donnelly turned from politics to writing and lecturing and in 1882 he published Atlantis: The Antediluvian World. In 1883 he followed with Ragnarok. The two books earned Ignatius Donnelly the name “the Sage of Nininger.” Ignatius Donnelly argued that Francis Bacon wrote the plays of Shakespeare.
Ignatius Donnelly’s novel Caesar’s Column (1891) predicted radio, television, and poison gas. It portrays the United States in 1988 ruled by a ruthless financial oligarchy and peopled by an abject working class. It enhanced Donnelly’s reputation with the Populist Party, which represented the discontented farmers of the West and which he helped found in 1892. At the time of his death, he was vice presidential candidate of a splinter party, the Middle Road Populists. Ignatius Donnelly died on January 1, 1901.