Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles J. Folger (1881–1884): Secretary of the Treasury

Charles Folger was born on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, in 1818 and moved with his family to Geneva, New York when he was twelve. He graduated Geneva (now Hobart) College in 1836 and was admitted into the New York State bar in 1839. After working as a lawyer and judge, Folger began a political career in 1861 when he was elected as a Republican to the New York State Senate.

Following the Civil War, Folger became a figure in the conservative and often corrupt machine-driven Stalwart wing of the Republican Party. Although Folger could not secure a nomination in the short-lived Garfield administration, fellow Stalwart and new President Chester Arthur nominated Folger the top slot at the Treasury Department.

In that position, Folger upheld the practice of "tapping" government employees for voluntary party contributions. He did institute some civil service reform, however, including the introduction of classification rules in Treasury Department hiring. He also reduced government expenditures to lessen the tax burden on corporations.

In 1882, Folger received the Republican nomination for governor of New York but did not campaign and did not resign his office. He subsequently lost the election to Grover Cleveland. Folger's health failed after his defeat, and he died in September 1884.