Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Ethan A. Hitchcock (1899–1901): Secretary of the Interior

A grandson of the Revolutionary War hero, Ethan Allen Hitchcock was born in Mobile, Alabama, on September 19, 1835. Having graduated from a Connecticut private military academy in 1855, Hitchcock traveled to Asia to head the Hong Kong office of the St. Louis firm Olyphant & Company.

He would retire from the company in 1872 with a remarkable fortune. Becoming a president of several railway, mining, and manufacturing concerns, Hitchcock was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Russia in 1897 in an effort to further American commerce with the Tsarist empire. His diplomatic status was upgraded to ambassador the following year when the U.S. mission in Russia became an embassy.

Hitchcock was then appointed secretary of the interior by President McKinley on December 21, 1898, though he would not arrive back in Washington until two months after the Senate confirmed his nomination. Hitchcock was perhaps the department's most successful secretary in its first half century, prosecuting land frauds and aiding American Indian tribes. Nevertheless, Hitchcock's accusations of fraud on the part of Republican congressmen did not endear him to the party faithful. Not part of TR's "tennis cabinet" of close advisors to begin with, Hitchcock resigned his post on March 4, 1907. He died on April 9, 1909.