Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Charles S. Fairchild (1887–1889): Secretary of the Treasury

A native of Madison County, New York, Charles Fairchild was the descendent of a colonial New England family. He graduated Harvard Law School in 1865 and joined his father's law practice in Albany. Soon thereafter, Fairchild followed in his father's footsteps and entered Democratic politics. He garnered the position of assistant attorney general of New York in 1874, earning praise for prosecuting police and "canal ring" corruption cases.

Impressed with Fairchild's efforts, governor Samuel Tilden secured his nomination for attorney general in 1875. Winning the election, Fairchild served in that position until 1877. When New Yorker Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1884, Fairchild's close friend Daniel Manning was working as Cleveland’s first secretary of the treasury; Manning was ill, however, and Fairchild, as assistant secretary, helped reorganize the wasteful Treasury Department. When Manning's poor health forced his resignation on October 1, 1887, Cleveland chose Fairchild as his replacement.

During his time in office, Fairchild worked toward tariff reform. After Cleveland's defeat in 1888, Fairchild served as president of the New York Security and Trust Company in Manhattan until 1905. He also remained active in politics as a "Gold Democrat" and suffrage supporter through the turn of the century.