Russell Alexander Alger

RUSSELL ALEXANDER ALGER was born in Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio, on 27 February 1836; was orphaned at twelve and worked on a farm; attended Richfield Academy in Ohio and taught school for two winters; studied law, was admitted to the bar, and began practice in Cleveland, 1859; moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1860; married Annette Henry, 1861; entered the lumber business; enlisted as a private soldier in the Civil War, 1861; was commissioned and served as a captain and major in the 2d Michigan Regiment, as lieutenant colonel in the 6th Michigan, and as colonel of the 5th Michigan; participated in Sheridan’s Valley Campaign in Virginia; was brevetted brigadier general and major general of volunteers; settled in Detroit as head of Alger, Smith & Company and the Manistique Lumbering Company; was governor of Michigan, 1885–1886; was elected by his comrades as commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, 1889; served as Secretary of War, 5 March 1897–1 August 1899; recommended that military attachés serving at embassies be given the rank and pay of colonel, and at legations the rank and pay of lieutenant colonel; recommended legislation to authorize a Second Assistant Secretary of War; recommended a constabulary force for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines; was criticized for the inadequate preparation and inefficient operation of the department during the Spanish-American War; resigned at President McKinley’s request, 1899; published The Spanish-American War, 1901; was appointed to serve out the unexpired term of the deceased James McMillan in the U.S. Senate, September 1902; was elected in his own right and served in the Senate, 1903–1907; died in Washington, D.C., on 24 January 1907.

The Artist

Percy Ives (1864–1928) was born in Detroit, Michigan. He studied art for four years at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and for six years in Paris, France. Among his more important works is his portrait of President Grover Cleveland. He was a member of the Society of Western Artists, and an official of the Detroit Museum of Art and the Archaeological Institute of America. Ives painted Secretary Alger from life soon after Alger’s departure from the War Department.


Portrait, Russell Alexander Alger

McKinley Administration
By Percy Ives
Oil on canvas, 29½" x 24½", 1900



page created 2 March 2001

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