Men of Mark in America/Volume 1/Ethan A. Hitchcock


HITCHCOCK, ETHAN ALLEN, secretary of the interior in President Roosevelt's cabinet as he was in that of President McKinley, was born at Mobile, Alabama, September 19, 1835, the son of Henry and Anne (Erwin) Hitchcock. He comes from a family of historical distinction, his grandmother, Lucy Allen Hitchcock, having been a daughter of the famous Green Mountain Patriot, Ethan Allen. His brother, Colonel Henry Hitchcock, was active on the Union side in the Civil war, and was in Sherman's army in his famous "march through Georgia." After spending his early boyhood in New Orleans and Nashville, he was sent to a military academy in New Haven, to continue his education, and in 1855 he joined his parents, then residing in St. Louis. He remained in that city until 1860, engaged in business pursuits.

The fact that he had relatives in China, in 1860 led the young man to that country as a promising field for business enterprise; and during the following twelve years he was connected with the commission house of Olyphant & Co., the last six years as a member of the firm. After his return home in 1874 he spent two years in European travel, and subsequently engaged in business enterprises at St. Louis, becoming actively interested in several mining, manufacturing and railroad concerns as promoter and president. His activity in this direction continued from 1874 to 1897.

Frequently drawn to Washington by his business interests, especially on matters connected with tariff changes, he began an acquaintance with President McKinley, which developed into a warm friendship, the president gaining such confidence in his business ability and his wide knowledge of affairs, that in August, 1897, he appointed Mr. Hitchcock to the responsible post of United States minister to Russia. On February 11, 1898, he was advanced to the dignity of American ambassador, the first to hold this high diplomatic title at the Russian capital. It was the president's desire to develop American commerce with Russia, and Mr. Hitchcock's
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business ability adapted him admirably to securing this end, the effect being a very notable increase in American exports to Russia, for which he was given the credit both at home and abroad. During the Spanish-American war he was active in keeping the Russian court and the representatives of other governments at St. Petersburg acquainted with the issues and facts involved, his service in this direction being very useful in preventing misunderstandings. In December, 1898, President McKinley offered him by cable message the position of secretary of the interior in his cabinet, to take the place of Cornelius N. Bliss, resigned. The position was accepted, and is still held under President Roosevelt, the intricate interests controlled by that department being capably administered. In 1902 the University of Missouri conferred upon him the honorary degree of LL.D. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Institution at Washington, and a member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati.