George Laird Shoup was born in Kittaning, Pennsylvania, on June 15, 1836. The financial panic of 1857 left the family with virtually nothing. Two years later, Shoup went to the Colorado Territory to engage in mining and merchandising near Pike's Peak. During the Civil War he enlisted with the independent scouts working in New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. He was commissioned colonel when the Third Colorado Cavalry was formed and took part in the battles of Apache Cañon and Sand Creek.
After the war Shoup moved to Virginia City, Montana, and then settled in Salmon, Idaho, a city that he helped found. Shoup was appointed commissioner to organize Lemhi County, and in 1874 he was elected to the territorial legislature. With few interruptions, he served on the Republican National Committee for Idaho from 1880 to 1904. On April 1, 1889, President Harrison appointed him governor of Idaho Territory; he was elected governor after the ratification of Idaho's statehood.
As a U.S. Senator from 1890 to 1901, his many interests included pensions, education, and military affairs. He was chairman of the Committee on Territories and he advocated liberal and just treatment of the Indians. Three years after his defeat in 1901, Shoup died in Boise, Idaho, on December 21, 1904.