Charles Francis Adams III

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Charles Francis Adams III
Adams in 1931
44th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
March 5, 1929 – March 4, 1933
PresidentHerbert Hoover
Preceded byCurtis D. Wilbur
Succeeded byClaude A. Swanson
4th Mayor of Quincy
In office
Preceded byWilliam Hodges
Succeeded byRussell Adams Sears
Personal details
Born(1866-08-02)August 2, 1866
Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJune 10, 1954(1954-06-10) (aged 87)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Frances Lovering
(m. 1899)
RelationsAdams family
Children2, including Charles IV
EducationHarvard University (BA, LLB)

Charles Francis Adams III (August 2, 1866 – June 10, 1954) was an American lawyer and politician, who served as the 44th United States Secretary of the Navy under President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933. He was skipper of the Resolute which won the 1920 America's Cup.[1]

Adams graduated from Harvard College in 1888 and then Harvard Law School in 1892. After going from being a lawyer and then a businessman, he was elected mayor of Quincy in 1896 and unelected a year later. Adams married Frances Lovering in 1899 and they had 2 children. He proposed to the Congress in 1903 that the USS Constitution be restored. He was granted this wish in 1907 when they raised funds to make her open to the public again. Adams was an officer in 43 corporations at one point, including the Harvard Corporation. He then was appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1929. He promoted public understanding of the Navy's indispensable role in international affairs, and worked strenuously to maintain naval strength and efficiency during the Great Depression. In 1930, he successfully maintained the principle of United States' naval parity with Britain while serving at the London Naval Treaty. He retired from his position in 1933. It was noted by President Hoover he would have named Adams Secretary of State if he had known him at the start of his presidency.

Early life[edit]

Charles Francis Adams III was born on August 2, 1866, in Quincy, Massachusetts, to Frances "Fanny" Cadwalader Crowninshield and John Quincy Adams II.[2]

Adams graduated cum laude from Harvard College in 1888, where he was a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Alpha chapter). He later graduated from Harvard Law School in 1892.[3]


After graduating from Harvard Law and being admitted to the bar in 1893, he was first a lawyer, then went into business.[1] From 1896 to 1897, Adams served as mayor of Quincy, Massachusetts.

In 1903, while serving as president of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Adams proposed to Congress that the famed frigate USS Constitution be restored and returned to active service. This led to Congress authorizing funds for the restoration of Constitution and opening her to the public in 1907.

In 1916, the Massachusetts legislature and electorate approved a calling of a constitutional convention.[4] Adams was elected as a delegate at large to serve as a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1917.[5]

At one time, he was an officer in 43 corporations, including several banks and many of the country's largest corporations such as the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, the Union Pacific Railroad,[6] and the Harvard Corporation.[1]

Secretary of the Navy[edit]

Adams taking oath

Adams was appointed Secretary of the Navy on March 5, 1929, by President Herbert Hoover. He vigorously promoted public understanding of the Navy's indispensable role in international affairs, and worked strenuously to maintain naval strength and efficiency during the Great Depression. He served at the London Naval Treaty in 1930 where he successfully maintained the principle of United States naval parity with Britain.[1] In his memoirs, Hoover noted that, had he known Adams at the start of his presidency as well as he did at its end, he would have named Adams his Secretary of State.[7] Adams retired from his position on March 4, 1933.

Adams was a supporter of limited presidential terms, well before the 22nd Amendment passed, and advocated that the Presidents should be required to renounce political parties and that after they left the presidency, should be made ex-officio members of the United States Senate.[1]

Former New York Governor Al Smith (right) asking for help of Navy engineers in the construction of the Empire State Building

Activities and interests[edit]

In 1920, Adams skippered the America's Cup defender Resolute and soon became known as the "Dean of American Helmsmen". He was posthumously inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1939, he won the King's Cup, Astor Cup, and Puritan Cup, the three most coveted domestic yachting trophies in a single season.[1]

In 1929, he became a member of the District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. His national membership number was 48,952.[8] He was also an honorary companion of the Naval Order of the United States. In 1932, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[9]

Personal life[edit]


A scion of the Adams family that produced two presidents, Charles Francis Adams III, a son of John Quincy Adams II, the oldest son of the Charles Francis Adams Sr., was a great-grandson of the sixth U. S. President John Quincy Adams, and a great-great-grandson of the second U.S. President John Adams.[3] His mother Fanny Crowninshield was the granddaughter of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Williams Crowninshield.[10] Adams was also the third cousin twice removed of Otis Norcross, the 19th Mayor of Boston. Both descending from their fourth great-grandfather, Joseph Adams; Otis from his first wife Mary [Chapin], and Charles from his second wife Hannah [Bass].[11]

Charles Francis Adams Jr. was the uncle, not the father of Charles Francis Adams III, an assumption regularly made by virtue of sequential name succession. Charles F. Adams Jr. had five children, the first three being daughters, which may explain why his brother John Q. Adams II took the prerogative to name his firstborn son after his brother. Charles, Jr.'s only sons (twins) were born in 1875.

Marriage and children[edit]

Adams and Frances in 1929

On April 3, 1899,[12] Adams married Frances Lovering (d. 1956),[13] the daughter of U.S. Representative William C. Lovering (1835–1910),[14] at St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. Together, they had two children:[1]

Adams died on June 11, 1954,[1] and was interred in Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts,[14] on June 13, 1954.[18] His estate, valued at $192,000 in 1954,[19] was left to his widow.[20]

In 1899 Adams built his family home and estate on land in Concord, MA formerly owned by his uncle, Charles Francis Adams Jr.[21] The home, known as Mt. Vernon, stood for 120 years until it was destroyed by fire shortly after Christmas Day 2019.[22]


The Charles Francis Adams Memorial Trophy for yacht racing was established in his memory, and the Navy destroyer USS Charles F. Adams was dedicated in his honor.[23][24]

Family tree[edit]

Paternal side[edit]

Maternal side[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "C.F. ADAMS IS DEAD; HEADED U. S. NAVY | Hoover Cabinet Aide, 87, Was Banker, Philanthropist and Civic Leader in Boston | NOTED AS YACHTSMAN | While at Helm of Resolute, He Defeated Shamrock IV - Won 3 Cups in Year". The New York Times. 12 June 1954. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  2. ^ Lint, Gregg L., Taylor, C. James, et al. The Adams Papers: Papers of John Adams, October 1782 - May 1783. Harvard: The Belknap Press, Vol. 14, p. xlii, Boston: Harvard University Press, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Adams, Henry, Levenson, J. C., Massachusetts Historical Society, et al. The Letters of Henry Adams, Volumes 4 – 6, 1892–1918. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989, pp. xxxvi – xxxvii.
  4. ^ Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston, MA: Wright & Potter printing co., state printers, 1919, pp. 7–8
  5. ^ Bridgman, Arthur Milnor (1919), A Souvenir of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, Boston, 1917-1919, Stoughton, MA: A. M. (Arthur Milnor) Bridgman, p. 57
  6. ^ White, Richard (2011). Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-06126-0.
  7. ^ Hoover, Herbert (1952). The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Cabinet and the Presidency 1920-1933. Macmillan. pp. 219–20.
  8. ^ Sons of the American Revolution Applications.
  9. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  10. ^ Browning, Charles Henry. Americans of Royal Descent: A Collection of Genealogies of American Families Whose Lineage is traced to the Legitimate Issue of Kings. Philadelphia: Porter & Costes, 1891, ed. 2, pp. 68 – 69.
  11. ^ Cutter, William Richard and Adams, William Frederick. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing. Co, Vol. 1, 1910, p. 541 – 545.
  12. ^ "Adams -- Lovering". The New York Times. 4 April 1899. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  13. ^ "MRS. C. F. ADAMS, 87, WIDOW OF NAVY AIDE". The New York Times. 10 April 1956. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  14. ^ a b Marquis Who's Who, Inc. Who Was Who in American History, the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975. P. 2 ISBN 0837932017 OCLC 657162692
  15. ^ New York Times. "J. Pierpont's Second Son Engaged: Henry Sturgis, Harvard Junior, to Wed Miss Catherine Adams of Boston, After Graduation." June 24, 1922, p. 26.
  16. ^ "MISS ADAMS IS WED TO HENRY S. MORGAN | Boston Girl's Marriage to Banker's Son Is Performed by Bishop Lawrence | AT BRIDE'S CONCORD HOME". The New York Times. 27 June 1923. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Charles Francis Adams, 88, Former Chairman of Raytheon". The New York Times. 9 January 1999. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  18. ^ "RITES FOR C. F. ADAMS | Former Secretary of Navy Is Buried in Quincy, Mass". The New York Times. 13 June 1954. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  19. ^ "C. F. Adams Left $192,000". The New York Times. 17 July 1954. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Adams Estate Goes to Widow". The New York Times. 19 June 1954. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Adams, Charles Francis III House" (PDF). Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System. Retrieved March 26, 2022.
  22. ^ "Flames destroy 120-year-old Concord mansion as firefighters struggle with water supply". 27 December 2019.
  23. ^ "Mass Bay Sailing Association - Awards - Historical Awards". Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  24. ^ Lyons, Mike (23 November 2013). "Plans for USS ADAMS Naval warship museum moving forward". Gannett. First Coast News WTLV. Archived from the original on 26 November 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2014.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Navy
March 5, 1929 – March 4, 1933
Succeeded by