Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Franklin K. Lane (1913–1920): Secretary of the Interior

Franklin Lane was born on July 15, 1864, on Prince Edward Island in Canada. His father, a Presbyterian minister, moved the family to California's Napa Valley in the 1870s. Lane studied first at the University of California before earning a law degree from Hastings College of Law in San Francisco; he was admitted to the California state bar in 1888. Lane then pursued journalism, working as a correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle and later as the editor of the Tacoma Daily News between 1891 and 1895. Returning to San Francisco, he became the city attorney and then county attorney from 1899 until 1904.

In the interim, he ran and lost races for the governorship of California in 1902 and the San Francisco mayoralty in 1903. After tragedy struck during the Great Earthquake of 1906, Lane helped to coordinate the city's relief squads. He soon traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak alongside President Theodore Roosevelt about the virtues of Yosemite National Park. Though a Democrat, Lane made such an impression on the President that TR hired him to serve on the Interstate Commerce Commission, becoming chairman of the commission on New Year's Day, 1913.

Lane's skill on the commission motivated newly elected President Wilson to appoint him secretary of the interior. Lane remained in that post from 1913 until 1920, advocating for the democratic, antimonopolistic, and efficient development of natural resources. His most striking accomplishment was the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.

Due to a political split with Wilson, alleged press leaks, and a meager salary as a public servant, Lane resigned on March 1, 1920, to become the vice president of the Pan-American Petroleum Company. He died during heart surgery in Minnesota on May 18, 1921, at the age of 56.