Frederick H. Gillett

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Frederick H. Gillett
United States Senator
from Massachusetts
In office
March 4, 1925 – March 3, 1931
Preceded byDavid I. Walsh
Succeeded byMarcus A. Coolidge
37th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
May 19, 1919 – March 3, 1925
Preceded byChamp Clark
Succeeded byNicholas Longworth
Leader of the House Republican Conference
In office
May 19, 1919 – March 3, 1925
Preceded byJames Robert Mann
Succeeded byNicholas Longworth
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1925
Preceded byElijah A. Morse
Succeeded byGeorge B. Churchill
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
In office
Personal details
Frederick Huntington Gillett

(1851-10-16)October 16, 1851
Westfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedJuly 31, 1935(1935-07-31) (aged 83)
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting placePine Hill Cemetery, Westfield, Massachusetts
Political partyRepublican
SpouseChristine Rice Hoar
Alma materAmherst College
Harvard Law School

Frederick Huntington Gillett (/ɪˈlɛt/; October 16, 1851 – July 31, 1935) was an American politician who served in the Massachusetts state government and both houses of the U.S. Congress between 1879 and 1931, including six years as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Early life[edit]

Gillett in 1920

Frederick H. Gillett was born in Westfield, Massachusetts, to Edward Bates Gillett (1817–1899) and Lucy Fowler Gillett (1830–1916). He graduated from Amherst College, where he was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, in 1874 and Harvard Law School in 1877. He entered the practice of law in Springfield in 1877.


Time cover, November 17, 1924

Gillett was the Assistant Attorney General of Massachusetts from 1879 to 1882. For two one-year terms he was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He was elected to the Fifty-third United States Congress in 1892.[1]

A Republican, Gillett served in the United States House of Representatives from 1893 to 1925. On January 24, 1914, he introduced legislation to initiate the adoption of an Anti-Polygamy Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.[2]

Republicans gained a net total of 24 seats in the 1918 elections, increasing the size of their majority in the House. Gillett was nominated by the Republican caucus for Speaker of the House in the upcoming 66th United States Congress.[3] On May 19, 1919, Congress convened, and he was elected speaker, defeating the Democratic incumbent Champ Clark 228–172.[4] Gillett was expected to exercise less control than his predecessor, since he was characterized by one reporter as someone who did not drink coffee in the morning "for fear it would keep him awake all day".[5] He was reelected as speaker in 1921 and again in 1923.

In 1923, votes cast by the Progressive wing of the GOP resulted in multiple ballots as no Speaker candidate gained a majority. On the ninth ballot, after the Republican leadership agreed to Progressive procedural reforms, Gillet was eventually elected. This was the only time in the 20th century that the House failed to elect a Speaker during the first roll call,[6] and the 14th time in history that election of the Speaker required multiple ballots. The previous occurrence was in 1859 for the 36th Congress, which elected William Pennington after 44 ballots.[7] The next occurrence was in 2023 for the 118th Congress,[8] which elected Kevin McCarthy after 15 ballots.[9]

He decided to run for the United States Senate in 1924. He won the Republican primary easily over two other candidates[10] and then narrowly defeated incumbent Senator David I. Walsh in the Republican landslide of November 1924 led by President Calvin Coolidge, a former governor of Massachusetts.[11] Time magazine chose him for its November 17, 1924 cover.[12] He served one term in the Senate from 1925 to 1931, and decided not to seek re-election in the face of a difficult primary challenge.[13] In June 1930, he declined to state his position on prohibition or its repeal when queried by prohibition advocates.[14]

Personal life[edit]

On November 25, 1915, Gillett married Christine Rice Hoar, the widow of his former colleague in Congress, Rockwood Hoar.[15] In 1934, he published a biography of George Frisbie Hoar, an earlier congressman and senator from Massachusetts, and his wife's father-in-law from her previous marriage.[16]

During his time in Washington, Gillett spent his free time driving his 1926 Pontiac Coupe and playing golf in the morning. In retirement, he wintered in Pasadena, California. He died in a hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, on July 31, 1935. Gillett was buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Westfield.


As of 2022, Gillett is the most recent Speaker of the House to have also served in the U.S. Senate. At 31 years, 11 months, and 27 days, he was also the longest-tenured incumbent congressman to have ever been elected to the Senate until June 2013, when Representative Ed Markey (36 years, 8 months, and 13 days) was elected to the same Senate seat that Gillett previously held.[17]


  1. ^ "Gillett Dies at 83; A Former Senator" (PDF). The New York Times. July 31, 1935. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  2. ^ Iversen, Joan Smyth (1997). The Antipolygamy Controversy in U.S. Women's Movements: 1880 - 1925. New York: Routledge. p. 244. ISBN 9780815320791.
  3. ^ "Gillett Chosen for Speakership of Next House" (PDF). The New York Times. February 28, 1919. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  4. ^ Glass, Andrew (May 19, 2010). "GOP assumes control of Congress, May 19, 1919". Politico. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  5. ^ Margulies, Herbert F. (1996). Reconciliation and Revival: James R. Mann and the House Republicans in the Wilson Era. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 191–8. ISBN 9780313298172.
  6. ^ Heitshusen, Valerie; Beth, Richard S. (January 4, 2019). "Speakers of the House: Elections, 1913–2019" (PDF). CRS Report (RL30857). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  7. ^ "Speaker Elections Decided by Multiple Ballots". US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved January 3, 2023.
  8. ^ Andersen, Travis (January 3, 2023). "The last time a House speaker vote went to multiple ballots? It was 100 years ago, for Mass. Republican". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 3, 2023 – via MSN.
  9. ^ "Kevin McCarthy elected House Speaker, breaking historic deadlock". Washington Post. January 6, 2023. Retrieved January 7, 2023.
  10. ^ "Gillett is Victor in Senate Contest; Couzens is Trailing" (PDF). The New York Times. September 10, 1924. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  11. ^ "Republicans Make Gains in Congress" (PDF). The New York Times. November 5, 1924. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  12. ^ "Frederick Gillett". Time. November 17, 1924. Archived from the original on November 6, 2007. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  13. ^ "Observations from Times Watch-Towers" (PDF). The New York Times. September 8, 1929. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  14. ^ "Women Taking Poll Say Many Senators Didge the Dry Issue" (PDF). The New York Times. June 9, 1930. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  15. ^ "Gillett-Hoar Wedding" (PDF). The New York Times. November 26, 1915. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  16. ^ "Senator Hoar" (PDF). The New York Times. December 16, 1934. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  17. ^ Levenson, Michael (June 25, 2013). "Markey wins US Senate special election". Boston Globe. Retrieved June 26, 2013.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
(Class 2)

Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 2nd congressional district

March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1925
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
May 19, 1919 – March 4, 1921;
April 11, 1921 – March 3, 1923;
December 3, 1923 – March 3, 1925
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
March 4, 1925 – March 3, 1931
Served alongside: William M. Butler, David I. Walsh
Succeeded by