Stephen Benton Elkins

STEPHEN BENTON ELKINS was born near New Lexington, Perry County, Ohio, on 26 September 1841; moved with his family to Westport, Missouri, in the mid-1840’s; graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia in 1860; taught school in Cass County, Missouri; entered the Union Army as a captain of militia in the 77th Missouri Infantry; with the help of a former student, the future outlaw Cole Younger, escaped from Quantrill’s guerrillas; studied law and was admitted to the bar, 1864; crossed the plains to New Mexico, 1864; entered the practice of law at Mesilla; was elected to the territorial legislature, 1864 and 1865; was appointed territorial district attorney, 1866–1867; married Sarah Jacobs, his first wife, 1866; was attorney general of the territory, 1867, and U.S. district attorney, 1867–1870; was elected territorial delegate to the U.S. Congress, 1872, and reelected in 1874, serving to 1877; married his second wife, Hallie Davis, 1875; continued to practice law and founded and was president of the Santa Fe National Bank; pursued broad business interests in land, rail, mining, and finance; moved to Elkins, West Virginia, a town he had founded earlier, to pursue coal and rail interests, circa 1890; served as Secretary of War, 17 December 1891–5 March 1893; recommended that the rank of lieutenant general be revived; recommended increased pay, at least for noncommissioned officers, to improve the quality of the service; broadened the intelligence functions of the Division of Military Information; was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1895, 1901, and 1907, serving until his death in Washington, D.C., on 4 January 1911.

The Artist

Charles Ayer Whipple (1859–1928) was born in Southboro, Massachusetts, and received his major art instruction in Paris under Adolphe Bouguereau, Joseph Fleury, and Gabriel Ferrier. Among his major works are portraits of Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt and Generals Nelson A. Miles and Grenville M. Dodge. One of his important commissions, executed in 1919, was to restore the Brumidi-Costaggini mural decorations in the United States Capitol. Whipple painted Secretary Elkins from life in a portrait that differed from the general format of the series.


Portrait, Stephen Benton Elkins

B. Harrison Administration
By Charles Ayer Whipple
Oil on canvas, 42½" x 33½", 1896


page created 2 March 2001

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