Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Jeremiah M. Rusk (1889–1893): Secretary of Agriculture

Jeremiah McLain Rusk was born in 1830 in Deerfield Township, Ohio. After working on the family farm in Ohio, he moved to Wisconsin, where he bought a farm of his own and entered local politics.

After serving in the Wisconsin state legislature in 1862, Rusk joined the Twenty-Fifth Wisconsin Volunteers, saw action in the Civil War, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the war, he returned home, where he farmed and served as Wisconsin’s bank controller from 1865 to 1869. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican in 1870, remaining there from 1871 to 1877.

Rusk also served three terms as governor of Wisconsin (1882-1888) before becoming the nation’s first secretary of agriculture in 1889. Appointed by Benjamin Harrison, Rusk served for the entirety of the Harrison administration. He was integral in encouraging the American fiber industry and bringing an end to a European boycott of American pork.

Following his tenure in the Harrison cabinet, Jeremiah McLain Rusk returned to Wisconsin, where he died in 1893.