Alexander Ramsey

ALEXANDER RAMSEY was born near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 8 September 1815; was orphaned at ten; was employed in a granduncle’s store; was a clerk in the office of the register of deeds; studied privately and attended local schools; attended Lafayette College briefly; studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1839; began the practice of law in Harrisburg; was secretary of the state electoral college, 1840; served as chief clerk in the state assembly, 1841; was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served from 1843 to 1847; married Anna Jenks, 1845; was chairman of the Whig central committee of Pennsylvania, 1848; was commissioned governor of Minnesota Territory, 1849; ordered a general election and negotiated land treaties with the Sioux; was charged with fraud in the Indian negotiations but was exonerated by the U.S. Senate; retired to private life in St. Paul and became mayor, 1853; was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Minnesota, 1857; was elected governor in 1859 and reelected in 1861; was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from 1863 to 1875; served as chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads; served as Secretary of War, 10 December 1879–5 March 1881; recommended that Congress authorize the position of Assistant Secretary of War; was chairman of the Utah commission appointed to deal with the problem of polygamy, 1881–1886; retired to private life; was president of the Minnesota Historical Society, 1849–1863 and 1891–1903; was president of the Germania Bank of St. Paul, 1889; died in St. Paul on 22 April 1903.

The Artist

Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) turned to Charles Loring Elliott for his first instruction in art when Elliott, only twenty-one at the time, visited Hamilton College to paint its president while Huntington was a student there. Carried away by the challenge of art, Huntington was soon painting the janitor, his brother, and an imaginary scene from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," little realizing that in the future, as a successful artist, he would paint a portrait of the Legend’s creator, Washington Irving. Art captured Huntington to such a degree that he left college after a year to devote himself to painting. Huntington painted Secretary Ramsey from life.


Portrait, Alexander Ramsey

Hayes Administration
By Daniel Huntington
Oil on canvas, 29˝" x 24˝", 1881


page created 2 March 2001

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