Lansing B. Mizner

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Lansing Bond Mizner (December 5, 1825 – December 9, 1893)[1] was an American lawyer, diplomat, and politician. Mizner served as President of the California Senate and was US Minister (ambassador) to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.[2]

Lansing B. Mizner
Born(1825-12-05)December 5, 1825
DiedDecember 9, 1893(1893-12-09) (aged 68)
OccupationAttorney, Politician, Land Developer, Diplomat
ChildrenAddison Mizner
Wilson Mizner

Early lifeEdit

Lansing B. Mizner was born on December 5, 1825, in Monroe County, Illinois,[3] son of Henry Caldwell Mizner, who died when Lansing was 4. His stepfather, James Semple, was fluent in Spanish and was appointed Chargé d'affaires to the Republic of New Granada (present-day Colombia and Panama, and pieces of neighboring countries). The family lived in Bogotá, Colombia for five years (1837—1842), during which Lansing also became fluent in Spanish.[4]:4 He studied at Shurtleff College.


At the age of 22 he entered the United States Army, and served in the Mexican War on the staff of General Shields. He arrived in California by way of New Orleans and Panama May 20, 1843 (not 1849), settled at Benicia, and became a partner in the general merchandise firm of Semple, Robinson & Co. He was admitted to the bar the same year.[1] He was a member of the Society of California Pioneers.[5]:24 His adult home was in Benicia, California,

He served as the first Collector of Customs for the Northern District of California (San Francisco to the Oregon border). When the state government was formed in 1849, he was elected the Associate Justice of the Solano County Court of Sessions. He was elected as a California State Senator in the 1865 and 1867 California Senates, and served as Chairman of the Commerce and Navigation and the Swamp Land Committees, and eventually President.[1][6] Afterwards, he worked for Benjamin Harrison's 1888 presidential campaign.

Minister to Central AmericaEdit

Under the administration of Harrison, Mizner was appointed in 1889 Minister to Central America, in essence the ambassador to Guatemala (where he was based), Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. (Panama at that time was part of Colombia.) He was fluent in Spanish. When he traveled to Guatemala to take up his duties he was accompanied by his sons, the future architect Addison Mizner and future playwright Wilson Mizner. He lasted in the position just over a year.[4]:7

Mizner's first rebuke, from an Acting Secretary of State, was for calling for a union of the five Central American republics for protection from the more powerful Mexico to the north and Colombia to the south. (Mexico and Colombia both protested.) There was a complicated incident in which American arms were being shipped to El Salvador (which had just had a coup d'état), and Guatemala, under martial law, objected. In July, 1890, exiled Guatemalan General Juan Martín Barrundia was on an American ship scheduled to stop at Guatemalan ports. Mizner, unable to communicate with Washington, agreed to the Guatemalan government's request he be seized. Resisting arrest, Barrundia was killed on this American ship by a bullet from one of the Guatemalan policemen who boarded the American ship. This was too much for Washington, and he was terminated in November, 1890, by Secretary of State James G. Blaine.[4]:8–9 President William Henry Harrison justified Mizner's firing in his 1890 Annual Message. State Department papers also detail the incident. Barrundia left a widow and several daughters, one of whom visited Mizner's office before his removal and shot at him. Barrundia's widow Transito Hurtarte appealed to the State Department for damages. The government declined.


He built a house and kept a small farm on what is now East L St. near First St. (where the Benicia Public Library is currently). He installed the first flush toilet in Benicia, which the children would show off to their friends.[7] His wife was Ella Watson Mizner. He had seven children, one daughter Minnie, married to Horace Blanchard Chase, who later would found Stag's Leap Winery, and six boys: William, Lansing, Edgar, the architect Addison, Harvey, and Wilson. He died aged 68, of heart disease, at the residence of his daughter, at Yountville, in Napa County.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d "Death's Harvest. Three Noted Californians [die] the Same Day. Ex-diplomat L. B. Mizner...", San Francisco Call, December 10, 1893, retrieved January 4, 2018
  2. ^ Lansing Bond Mizner - People - Department History - Office of the Historian
  3. ^ Shavit, David (1992). The United States in Latin America: a historical dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 236.
  4. ^ a b c Curl, Donald W. (1992), Mizner's Florida, The Architectural History Foundation and the MIT Press, ISBN 0262530686, First published 1984
  5. ^ Vickers, Raymond B. (1994). "Panic in Paradise. Florida's Banking Crash of 1926". University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0817307230.
  6. ^ Secretary, California Senate (2017). "Record of State Senators 1849–2017" (PDF). Retrieved January 8, 2018.
  7. ^ Benicia Historical Society. "The Mizners. A Very Interesting Family". Retrieved January 4, 2018.