Simon Cameron

SIMON CAMERON was born in Maytown, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on 8 March 1799; was orphaned at nine and later apprenticed to a printer before entering the field of journalism; was editor of the Bucks County Messenger, 1821; moved to Washington in 1822 and studied political movements while working for the printing firm of Gales and Seaton; married Margaret Brua; returned to Harrisburg to purchase and run the Republican, 1824; served as state printer of Pennsylvania, circa 1825–1827; was state adjutant general, 1826; constructed several rail lines and merged them into the Northern Central Railroad; founded the Bank of Middletown, 1832, and engaged in other business enterprises; was appointed a commissioner to settle claims of the Winnebago Indians, 1838; served in the U.S. Senate, 1845–1849; was again elected to the Senate, 1857–1861; was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for president, 1860; served as Secretary of War, 5 March 1861–14 January 1862; centralized recruiting in the War Department; was widely criticized for favoritism in awarding departmental positions and contracts, and was censured by the House of Representatives for contract manipulations; was again elected to the Senate and served from 1867 to 1877; saw his son, James Donald Cameron, appointed Secretary of War, 1876; resigned his Senate seat upon assurances from the subservient Pennsylvania legislature that his son would be elected his successor, 1877; retired to his farm at Donegal Springs, Pennsylvania; died there on 26 June 1889.

The Artist

Freeman Thorp (1844–1922) was born in Geneva, Ohio. He studied portrait painting and at twenty-seven began to paint statesmen in a studio built for his use on the roof of the U.S. Capitol. It was there that Ulysses Grant sat for his portrait. Thorp painted four other presidents—Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Cleveland—among a number of eminent Americans, including Chief Justice Salmon Chase, Horace Greeley, and Robert E. Lee. He was thirty years old when he painted Secretary Cameron, who, although a dozen years beyond his War Department stewardship, was still sitting in the Senate.


Portrait, Simon Cameron

Lincoln Administration
By Freeman Thorp
Oil on canvas, 29¼" x 24¼", 1874

page created 2 March 2001

Return to Front Matter