Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase


Salmon P. Chase (1808‒73) was secretary of the treasury in the administration of President Abraham Lincoln. Born in New Hampshire, as a child he was sent to live with an uncle in Ohio after the death of his father. Chase was a deeply religious man who throughout his life sought to reconcile his personal and political ambitions with his faith and sense of obligation to society. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1826, he studied law in Washington, DC, but then returned to Ohio where he developed a successful law career. He became involved with the American Sunday School Union, defended the rights of former slaves in the courts, worked to establish the Free Soil Party, and in 1849 was elected to the U.S. Senate from Ohio by a combination of Free Soil and Democratic votes. In 1855 he was elected governor of Ohio on the ticket of the newly established Republican Party. The following year he played a prominent role in organizing the national Republican Party. As secretary of the treasury, Chase’s great achievement was to organize the financing of the Civil War, which he did through reforms that included the introduction of paper money and the establishment of a national banking system. He resigned his position in June 1864, but later that year Lincoln appointed him chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. In that capacity Chase presided over the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson and was involved in important decisions relating to Reconstruction. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: March 22, 2016