Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Zachariah Chandler (1875–1877): Secretary of the Interior

Zachariah Chandler was born in 1813 in Bedford, New Hampshire. He relocated to Michigan, where he became involved in business, banking, and land, becoming one of the richest men in the state. He then turned his attention to politics and served as mayor of Detroit from 1851 to 1852, and made a failed bid to become the state’s governor in 1852.

A dissatisfied Whig, Chandler led Michigan’s antislavery Whigs out of the party and into a new organization which ultimately became the Republican party. In 1857, Chandler headed to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy and served until he was defeated for a fourth term in 1874. He returned home but was back in Washington, D.C., soon thereafter, having accepted President Ulysses S. Grant’s offer to become secretary of the interior in 1875.

Chandler is credited with trying to clean up corruption and abuses within the Interior Department during the two years he served as its secretary. At the end of the Grant administration in 1877, Chandler returned to Michigan but was back in Washington, D.C., the following year, having been elected to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. Zachariah Chandler served in that position until his death in 1879.