Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Franklin MacVeagh (1909–1913): Secretary of the Treasury

Franklin MacVeagh was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1837. He would receive private tutoring before going to school at Freeland Seminary and graduating from Yale in 1862. He earned his law degree from Columbia University in 1864, gaining admittance to the New York bar that same year. He then moved to Chicago, Illinois, exchanging his interest in law for that of running a wholesale grocery firm, Whitaker & Harmon.

MacVeagh became a of the founder of the Civil Service Reform League of Chicago and would vacillate between supporting the Democratic and Republican parties, returning eventually to the Republican Party, where he remained his entire life. MacVeagh would go on to serve as director of the Commercial National Bank of Chicago for twenty-nine years.

Nominated as the forty-fifth secretary of the treasury on March 8, 1909, MacVeagh didn't confront the urgent matter of currency reform, instead leaving the task to the National Monetary Commission. He nevertheless instilled a businesslike management style in the Treasury. MacVeagh was also responsible for streamlining the Treasury department, rehabilitating the Customs Service, and allowing certified checks to substitute for currency in the payment of customs and internal revenue duties.

Following his departure from the cabinet in 1913, MacVeagh returned to Chicago to become president of Franklin MacVeagh & Co., a wholesale grocery company. His company folded in 1932, a victim of the Depression. Franklin MacVeagh died on July 6, 1934, at age 96.