George Bruce Cortelyou (July 26, 1862 – October 23, 1940) was an American Cabinet secretary of the early twentieth century. He held various positions in the presidential administrations of Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt.
Born in New York City, Cortelyou worked for the United States Postal Service, earning the attention of Postmaster General Wilson S. Bissell. On Bissell's recommendation, President Cleveland hired Cortelyou as his chief clerk. On Cleveland's recommendation, McKinley hired Cortelyou as his personal secretary. After McKinley's assassination, Roosevelt asked Cortelyou to lead an effort to reorganize the White House.
Impressed by Cortelyou's performance, Roosevelt appointed Cortelyou to the position of United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor in 1903. He left that position in 1904 to become the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and starting in 1905 he also served as the Postmaster General. He left both of those positions to become the United States Secretary of the Treasury in 1907. In that position, he worked to keep the economy stable during the Panic of 1907. After Roosevelt left office in 1909, Cortelyou became president of the Consolidated Gas Company. He died in 1940.
|44th United States Secretary of the Treasury|
March 4, 1907 – March 7, 1909
|Preceded by||Leslie Shaw|
|Succeeded by||Franklin MacVeagh|
|42nd United States Postmaster General|
March 6, 1905 – January 14, 1907
|Preceded by||Robert J. Wynne|
|Succeeded by||George Meyer|
|Chair of the Republican National Committee|
|Preceded by||Henry Payne|
|Succeeded by||Harry New|
|1st United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor|
February 18, 1903 – June 30, 1904
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Victor H. Metcalf|
George Bruce Cortelyou
July 26, 1862
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 23, 1940 (aged 78)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Lilly Morris Hinds|
|Education||Framingham State University (BA)|
Georgetown University (LLB)
George Washington University (LLM)
Cortelyou was born in New York City to Rose (née Seary) and Peter Crolius Cortelyou, Jr. He was part of an old New Netherland family whose immigrant ancestor, Jacques Cortelyou, arrived in 1652. He was educated at public schools in Brooklyn, the Nazareth Hall Military Academy in Pennsylvania, and the Hempstead Institute on Long Island.
At 20, Cortelyou received a BA degree from Westfield Normal School, now Westfield State University, a teacher's college in Westfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from the law schools of George Washington University and Georgetown University. He was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity while at George Washington University. Courtelyou then began teaching, later taking a stenography course and mastering shorthand. Cortelyou married the former Lily Morris Hinds on September 15, 1888, with whom he had five children.
In 1891, he obtained a position as secretary to the chief postal inspector of New York. The following year a promotion led to a job as the secretary to the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General in Washington, D.C. In 1895 President Grover Cleveland hired Cortelyou as his chief clerk on the recommendation of Postmaster General Wilson S. Bissell. Cleveland recommended him as a personal secretary to his successor, William McKinley. Cortelyou was working on improvements in office efficiency in 1901, when President McKinley was assassinated.
McKinley was greeting visitors in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition on September 6, 1901, in Buffalo, New York, when he was shot twice at close range by lone assassin Leon Czolgosz. As McKinley collapsed, he was caught and supported by his aides, among them Cortelyou. As he was held in their arms, he whispered, "My wife... be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her. Oh, be careful."
After succeeding as President, Theodore Roosevelt tasked Cortelyou with transforming the White House into a more professional organization. Cortelyou developed procedures and rules that guided White House protocol and established processes for which there had been only personal prerogative. Cortelyou is also credited with establishing an improved line of communication between the President's office and the press; he provided reporters with their own workspace, briefed journalists on notable news and handed out press releases. Cortelyou is credited with instituting the first systematic gathering of press commentary for a sitting president's perusal. The "current clippings" were the first attempt by a president to gauge public opinion by the media. Cortelyou selected items objectively, a practice that would not be consistently followed by his successors.
Cortelyou served as the first Secretary of Commerce and Labor, from February 18, 1903 to June 30, 1904. He also served as Postmaster General from March 6, 1905 to January 14, 1907 and was the Secretary of the Treasury, all under Theodore Roosevelt. From 1904 through 1907, Cortelyou also served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, working for the successful re-election of Theodore Roosevelt.
Cortelyou served as the Secretary of the Treasury, from March 4, 1907 to March 7, 1909. This was during the devastating Panic of 1907. Like his predecessor, Leslie M. Shaw, Cortelyou believed it was Treasury's duty to protect the banking system, but he realized that the Treasury was not equipped to maintain economic stability. He eased the crisis by depositing large amounts of government funds in national banks and buying government bonds. To prevent further crises, Cortelyou advocated a more elastic currency and recommended the creation of a central banking system.
He returned to private enterprise as the president of the Consolidated Gas Company, later known as the Consolidated Edison. He was also one of the chairmen of the Con Edison Energy Museum, which is now closed. He lived at his home "Harbor Lights" in Halesite Long Island, New York, until his death in October 1940. Edith Roosevelt attended the wake at his home, as she was a best friend of his wife. He is buried at the Memorial Cemetery of St. John's Church in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Cortelyou, an unincorporated community in Washington County, Alabama, changed its name from Richardson to Cortelyou while George Cortelyou was United States Postmaster General.
| U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt
February 18, 1903 – June 30, 1904
Victor H. Metcalf
Robert J. Wynne
| U.S. Postmaster General
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt
March 6, 1905 – January 14, 1907
George von L. Meyer
Leslie M. Shaw
| U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt
March 4, 1907 – March 4, 1909
|Party political offices|
Henry C. Payne
| Chairman of the Republican National Committee
Harry S. New
The 1908 Republican National Convention was held in Chicago Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois on June 16 to June 19, 1908. It convened to nominate a successor to the popular GOP President, Theodore Roosevelt and his Vice President, Charles W. Fairbanks.
U.S. Secretary of War William H. Taft of Ohio won Roosevelt's endorsement and received the nomination. The convention nominated New York Representative James S. Sherman to be his running mate.Assassination of William McKinley
On September 6, 1901, William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, was shot on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York. He was shaking hands with the public when Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, shot him twice in the abdomen. McKinley died eight days later on September 14 of gangrene caused by the gunshot wounds. He was the third American president to have been assassinated, following Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and James A. Garfield in 1881.
McKinley had been elected for a second term in 1900. He enjoyed meeting the public, and was reluctant to accept the security available to his office. Secretary to the President George B. Cortelyou feared that an assassination attempt would take place during a visit to the Temple of Music and took it off the schedule twice. McKinley restored it each time.
Czolgosz had lost his job during the economic Panic of 1893 and turned to anarchism, a political philosophy adhered to by recent killers of foreign leaders. Regarding McKinley as a symbol of oppression, Czolgosz was convinced that it was his duty as an anarchist to kill him. Unable to get near the President during the presidential visit earlier, Czolgosz shot McKinley twice as the President reached to shake his hand in the reception line at the temple. One bullet grazed McKinley; the other entered his abdomen and was never found.
McKinley initially appeared to be recovering, but took a turn for the worse on September 13 as his wounds became gangrenous, and died early the next morning; Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him. After McKinley's assassination, for which Czolgosz was sentenced to death in the electric chair, Congress passed legislation to officially charge the Secret Service with the responsibility for protecting the President.Cortelyou
Cortelyou is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:
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George B. Cortelyou (1862–1940), first US Secretary of Commerce and Labor and later Secretary of the TreasuryCortelyou, Alabama
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