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George B. Cortelyou: Wikis


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George Bruce Cortelyou

In office
February 18, 1903 – June 30, 1904
Preceded by (none)
Succeeded by Victor H. Metcalf

In office
March 6, 1905 – January 14, 1907
Preceded by Robert J. Wynne
Succeeded by George von L. Meyer

In office
March 4, 1907 – March 7, 1909
Preceded by Leslie M. Shaw
Succeeded by Franklin MacVeagh

Born July 26, 1862(1862-07-26)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died October 23, 1940 (aged 78)
Long Island City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Lilly Morris Hinds Cortelyou
Alma mater Massachusetts State Normal School
Georgetown University
Columbian University
Profession Politician

George Bruce Cortelyou (July 26, 1862 – October 23, 1940) was an American Presidential Cabinet secretary of the early 20th century.




Early life

Born to Rose Seery and Peter Crolius Cortelyou, and part of an old New Netherlands family whose immigrant ancestor arrived in 1652, he was educated at public schools in Brooklyn, the Nazareth Military Academy in Pennsylvania, and the Hempstead Institute on Long Island. At the age of 20, he received a BA degree from Massachusetts State Normal School, a teacher's college in Westfield, Massachusetts. He then studied at and graduated from law schools of Georgetown University and Columbian University (the latter now being George Washington University). Courtelyou then began teaching, later taking a stenography course and mastering shorthand.

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. President 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.

George Cortelyou was serving as President William McKinley's secretary in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901. McKinley was greeting visitors in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition. The president was shot twice by assassin, Leon Czolgosz. President McKinley was caught and supported by his aides, he whispered, " My wife -- be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her -- oh, be careful."

New president Theodore Roosevelt charged Cortelyou with transforming the White House into a more professional organization. Cortelyou developed procedures and rules that guided White House protocol and established processes where there had been only personal prerogative. Cortelyou is also credited with establishing a line of communication between the President's office and the press: he provided reporters with their own workspace, briefed journalists on notable news, handed out press releases and selected news items to bring to the President's attention. These "current clippings" were the first attempt by a President to gauge public opinion through the media. Cortelyou selected items objectively, a practice that would not be consistently followed by his successors.

Secretary of Commerce & Labor

During this time, Cortelyou served as the first United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor from February 18, 1903 to June 30, 1904; as United States Postmaster General from 1905 to 1907; and as United States Secretary of the Treasury from March 4, 1907 to March 7, 1909; all under President Theodore Roosevelt.

Cortelyou also served as chairman of Republican National Committee from 1904 through 1907, working for the successful re-election of Roosevelt.

Secretary of the Treasury

Cortelyou was Secretary of the Treasury during the devastating Panic of 1907. Like his predecessor, Treasury Secretary 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. In 1908, the Aldrich-Vreeland Act was passed, providing special currency to be issued in times of panic, and creating a commission, which led to the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

He returned to private enterprise as the president of the Consolidated Gas Company, later New York Gas Company.


He died in Long Island City, New York, in 1940. He is buried in the Memorial Cemetery of St. John's Church in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Brooklyn's Cortelyou Road, in the Flatbush section, was named for him.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
New office
United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

February 18, 1903 – June 30, 1904
Succeeded by
Victor H. Metcalf
Preceded by
Robert J. Wynne
United States Postmaster General
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

March 6, 1905 – January 14, 1907
Succeeded by
George von L. Meyer
Preceded by
Leslie M. Shaw
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

March 4, 1907 – March 4, 1909
Succeeded by
Franklin MacVeagh
Party political offices
Preceded by
Henry Clay Payne
Chairman of the Republican National Committee
1904 – 1907
Succeeded by
Harry S. New


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