George von Lengerke Meyer

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For other people named George Meyer, see George Meyer (disambiguation).
George von Lengerke Meyer
Portrait of George von Lengerke Meyer.jpg
43rd United States Postmaster General
In office
January 15, 1907 – March 4, 1909
Preceded by George B. Cortelyou
Succeeded by Frank H. Hitchcock
40th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
March 6, 1909 – March 4, 1913
Preceded by Truman H. Newberry
Succeeded by Josephus Daniels
City of Boston Common Council
(Ward 10, 1874-1875; Ward 17, 1876)
In office
1889–1890
City of Boston, Board of Aldermen
In office
1891–1891
Massachusetts House of Representatives
In office
1892–1896
Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
In office
1894–1896
Personal details
Born (1858-06-24)June 24, 1858
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died March 9, 1918(1918-03-09) (aged 59)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Republican
Profession Politician
Diplomat
Businessperson
Signature

George von Lengerke Meyer (June 24, 1858 – March 9, 1918) was a Massachusetts businessman and politician who served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, as United States ambassador to Italy and Russia, as United States Postmaster General from 1907 to 1909 during the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt and United States Secretary of the Navy from 1909 to 1913 during the administration of President William Howard Taft.

Biography[edit]

Meyer was a native of Boston, reared in a patrician society.[1] His paternal grandfather, George Augustus Meyer (also the name of von Lengerke Meyer's father), had emigrated from Germany to New York City.[2] Meyer graduated from Harvard in 1879, and for twenty years was in business as a merchant and trustee.[3] In 1885, he married Marian Alice Appleton.[2] He was a director of various trust companies, banks, manufacturing companies, and public utilities concerns.[4] While managing his business affairs, he also held positions in state and local government, his public service beginning in 1889 with the Boston Common Council. Later he served on the Board of Aldermen. Then he joined the Massachusetts Legislature, where for some time he served as speaker of the house.[3][5] In 1898 he was appointed by Governor Wolcott as chairman of the Massachusetts Paris Exposition managers.[5]

He was a conservative Republican, and in 1899 was appointed a national committeeman.[2] Republican Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt appointed Meyer to ambassadorships in Italy (1900–1905) and Russia (1905–1907). His patrician roots facilitated his interactions with the nobility of Europe, then in control of the continent. Roosevelt often used him to deliver messages to Kaiser Wilhelm II in preference to the official ambassador, Charlemagne Tower.[1] As ambassador to Russia, he presented Roosevelt's proposals with regard to the Russo-Japanese War directly to the Czar.[2] Meyer also served as Roosevelt's Postmaster General, from 1907–1909, where he directed the introduction of the first stamp vending machines of the country and the first coil stamps.[6]

Upon taking office in March 1909, President Taft appointed Meyer to the position of Secretary of the Navy, a post which Meyer held throughout Taft's term. During this period, the Navy made its first experiments with aviation, although Meyer initially opposed the project.[citation needed] In separate tests in 1910 and 1911, civilian pilot Eugene Ely proved the feasibility of carrier-based aviation, by taking off from and landing on a Navy warship.

At naval review in New York Harbor with President Taft and Capt. A. W. Butt

An interesting footnote in the saga of the sinking of the RMS Titanic is that Meyer was awakened, against strict orders, by his personal valet, James Eli Kendall. For his actions, Kendall was fired, apologized to, and then rehired by Meyer.

After 1911, Meyer was an overseer of Harvard University.[4] He retired from national politics in 1913, after Taft left office and returned to Massachusetts. He joined the effort to reelect Theodore Roosevelt in 1916.[1] The foremost critic of Woodrow Wilson's naval policies,[1] on the outbreak of World War I he urged preparedness and criticised America's naval administration. He was actively associated with the National Security League and the Navy League. Among the organizations for which he was a director were the Amoskeag Manufacturing Co., Old Colony Trust Co., Puget Sound Light & Power Co., Walter Baker Co., and Ames Plow Co.[5]

In December 1916 Meyer, Roosevelt and other philanthropists including Scottish-born industrialist John C. Moffat, William A. Chanler, Joseph Choate, Clarence Mackay, John Grier Hibben, and Nicholas Murray Butler purchased the Château de Chavaniac, birthplace of the Marquis de Lafayette in Auvergne to serve as a headquarters for the French Heroes Lafayette Memorial Fund,[7] which was managed by Chanler's ex-wife Beatrice Ashley Chanler.[8][9]

He died in Boston on March 9, 1918.

Legacy[edit]

The Navy destroyer USS Meyer (DD-279), named in his honor, was commissioned December 17, 1919 and was in service until May 15, 1929.

George von Lengerke Meyer was a brother in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Alpha chapter).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Wayne A. Wiegand (1999). "Meyer, George von Lengerke". American National Biography. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  2. ^ a b c d Paul H. Buck (1933). "Meyer, George von Langerke". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 
  3. ^ a b  "Meyer, George von Lengerke". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921. 
  4. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Meyer, George von Lengerke". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  5. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Meyer, George von Lengerke". Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  6. ^ Lawrence, Ken (June 2008). "Celebrate the centennial of U.S. coil stamps". Scott Stamp Monthly 26 (6): 18–24. 
  7. ^ "Americans buy Layette's Home," The Sacred Heart Review, Volume 57, Number 4, 6 January 1917, p. 3.
  8. ^ Albert Bushnell Hart, Harper's Pictorial Library of the World War, Volume 7, Harper, 1920; p. 110.
  9. ^ "Americans Aid War Refugees in Paris Mrs. William Astor Chanler Tells of Work Done Through Lafayette Fund;" The Philadelphia Inquirer; 8-04-1918; Vol. 179, Issue: 35; p. 11, Philadelphia, PA.

References[edit]

  • M. A. DeWolfe Howe (1919). George von Lengerke Meyer: his life and public services. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co. 
  • Boston Transcript, March 11, 1918
  • Wayne A. Wiegand (1988). Patrician in the Progressive Era: A Biography of George von Lengerke Meyer. 
  • Who's who in State Politics, 1912 Practical Politics (1912) p. 9.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
George B. Cortelyou
United States Postmaster General
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

January 15, 1907 – March 4, 1909
Succeeded by
Frank H. Hitchcock
Government offices
Preceded by
Truman H. Newberry
United States Secretary of the Navy
March 6, 1909 – March 4, 1913
Succeeded by
Josephus Daniels