- George B. Cortelyou
Infobox US Cabinet official
name=George Bruce Cortelyou
United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor
February 18, 1903
June 30, 1904
Victor H. Metcalf
United States Postmaster General
March 6, 1905
January 14, 1907
predecessor2=Robert J. Wynne
successor2=George von L. Meyer
United States Secretary of the Treasury
March 4, 1907
March 7, 1909
predecessor3=Leslie M. Shaw
birth_place=New York City, New York, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1940|10|23|1862|7|26
Long Island City, New York, U.S.
spouse=Lilly Morris Hinds Cortelyou
George Bruce Cortelyou (
July 26, 1862– October 23, 1940) was an American Presidential Cabinetsecretary of the early 20th century.
Born to Rose Seery and Peter Crolius Cortelyou, and part of an old
New Netherlandsfamily whose immigrant ancestor arrived in 1652, he was educated at public schools in Brooklyn, the Nazareth Military Academyin Pennsylvania, and the Hempstead Instituteon Long Island. At the age of 20, he received a BA degree from Massachusetts State Normal School, a teacher's college in Westfield, Massachusetts. He then studied at and graduated from law schools of Georgetown Universityand Columbian University(the latter now being George Washington University). Courtelyou then began teaching, later taking a stenographycourse and mastering shorthand.
In 1891, he obtained a position as secretary to the chief
postal inspectorof New York. The following year a promotion led to a job as the secretary to the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General in Washington, D.C.In 1895 President Grover Clevelandhired Cortelyou as his chief clerk on the recommendation of Postmaster General Wilson S. Bissell. President Cleveland recommended him as secretary to his successor, William McKinley. Cortelyou was working on improvements in office efficiency in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinated.
George Cortelyou was serving as President William McKinley's secretary in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901. McKinley was greeting visitors in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition. The president was shot twice by assassin, Leon Czolgosz. President McKinley was caught and supported by his aides, he whispered, " My wife -- be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her -- oh, be careful."
New president Theodore Roosevelt charged Cortelyou with transforming the White House into a more professional organization. Cortelyou developed procedures and rules that guided White House protocol and established processess where there had been only personal prerogative. Cortelyou is also credited with establishing a line of communication between the President's office and the press: he provided reporters with their own workspace, briefed journalists on notable news, handed out press releases and selected news items to bring to the President's attention. These "current clippings" were the first attempt by a President to gauge
public opinionthrough the media. Cortelyou selected items objectively, a practice that would not be consistently followed by his successors.
ecretary of Commerce & Labor
During this time, Cortelyou served as the first
United States Secretary of Commerce and Laborfrom February 18, 1903to June 30, 1904; as United States Postmaster Generalfrom 1905 to 1907; and as United States Secretary of the Treasuryfrom March 4, 1907to March 7, 1909; all under President Theodore Roosevelt.
Cortelyou also served as chairman of
Republican National Committeefrom 1904 through 1907, working for the successful re-election of Roosevelt.
ecretary of the Treasury
Cortelyou was Secretary of the Treasury during the devastating
Panic of 1907. Like his predecessor, Treasury Secretary Leslie M. Shaw, Cortelyou believed it was Treasury's duty to protect the banking system, but he realized that the Treasury was not equipped to maintain economic stability.
He eased the crisis by depositing large amounts of government funds in national banks and buying government bonds. To prevent further crises, Cortelyou advocated a more elastic currency and recommended the creation of a central banking system. In 1908, the
Aldrich-Vreeland Actwas passed, providing special currency to be issued in times of panic, and creating a commission, which led to the creation of the Federal Reservein 1913.
He returned to private enterprise as the president of the Consolidated Gas Company, later
New York Gas Company.
He died in
Long Island City, New York, in 1940. He is buried in the Memorial Cemetery of St. John's Church in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Brooklyn's Cortelyou Road, in the Flatbush section, was named for him.
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=6850514 Find-A-Grave profile for George B. Cortelyou]
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