George B. Cortelyou

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George B. Cortelyou

George Bruce Cortelyou (born July 26, 1862 in New York City; † October 23, 1940 on Long Island, New York) was a U.S. Republican politician, Secretary of Commerce and Labor, Postmaster General, and Secretary of the Treasury.

Studies and professional career

After his school education, he first studied teaching at Westfield State College, from which he graduated in 1882 with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). Afterwards he studied law at Georgetown University and George Washington University. After graduation, he first worked as a teacher.

In 1891, he entered the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, first serving a year as secretary to the chief postal inspector of New York. In 1892, he was appointed secretary to the 4th deputy postmaster general in Washington.

Political career

Secretary to Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt..

In 1895, at the suggestion of Postmaster General Wilson S. Bissell, he became office manager and stenographer to then U.S. President Grover Cleveland.

After Cleveland’s term ended in 1897, he in turn recommended him to his successor, William McKinley, as deputy secretary. In 1900 he then became personal secretary to the president. When McKinley was assassinated on September 6, 1901, and succumbed to his injuries eight days later, Cortelyou was immediately present and was even charged by the president with delivering the news of the assassination to First Lady Ida McKinley.

Under McKinley’s successor as president, former Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, he also became his personal secretary. However, he was much more than just a personal secretary, but rather one of the president’s closest and most important advisors. Thus, Roosevelt charged him with working out a more professional way of operating in the White House. In particular, he was responsible for regulating protocol and improving public relations by providing journalists with their own workspace, briefing the press, and compiling important press releases for the president.

Secretary of Commerce, Labor, and Post Office under President Roosevelt

G. B. Cortelyou in the study

On February 18, 1903, President Roosevelt appointed him to his cabinet as the first Secretary of Commerce and Labor. He held this office until he was replaced by Victor H. Metcalf on June 30, 1904.

Between 1904 and 1907 he was chairman of the Republican National Committee and thereby also contributed to the successful re-election of President Roosevelt in 1904.

On March 6, 1905, he became Postmaster General himself, succeeding Robert J. Wynne. He held this office until January 15, 1907. He was succeeded by George von Lengerke Meyer. During his tenure, he expanded the local postal network and drastically reduced the Postmaster General’s deficit.

Treasury Secretary under Roosevelt

Portrait of G. B. Cortelyou in the Ministry of Finance

He subsequently became Secretary of the Treasury on March 4, 1907, succeeding L. M. Shaw.

During his tenure, a serious financial crisis occurred in the course of 1907. Like his predecessor, he believed that the task of the Minister of Finance was to protect the banking system. On the other hand, he had to acknowledge that the Treasury was not equipped to maintain economic stability. However, he managed to mitigate the financial crisis by creating large deposits of government funds in state banks and buying government bonds. To better manage future crises, Cortelyou advocated a more elastic monetary policy and the creation of a central bank. His term in office also saw the passage of the Aldrich-Vreeland Act in 1907, which provided for the issuance of a special currency in times of crisis and the establishment of a National Monetary Commission to create the central bank.

After the end of President Roosevelt’s term on March 4, 1909, he went into private business and was last president of the Consolidated Gas Company and the New York Gas Company.

During World War II, the cargo ship USS Cetus (AK-77) was christened with his name on 21 November 1942.

Web links

Commons: George B. Cortelyou– Collection of images, videos and audio files