Royal S. Copeland

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Royal S. Copeland
Copeland in 1923
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1923 – June 17, 1938
Preceded byWilliam M. Calder
Succeeded byJames M. Mead
Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan
In office
Preceded byGottlob Luick
Succeeded byArthur Brown
Personal details
Royal Samuel Copeland

(1868-11-07)November 7, 1868
Dexter, Michigan, U.S.
DiedJune 17, 1938(1938-06-17) (aged 69)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Resting placeMahwah Cemetery, Mahwah, New Jersey
Political partyRepublican (before 1922)
Democratic (1922–1938)
EducationEastern Michigan University
University of Michigan

Royal Samuel Copeland (November 7, 1868 – June 17, 1938), a United States Senator from New York from 1923 until 1938, was an academic, homeopathic physician, and politician. He held elected offices in both Michigan (as a Republican) and New York (as a Democrat).[1]

Early life and medical career[edit]

Born in Dexter, Michigan, to parents Roscoe P. Copeland and Frances J. Holmes, Royal Copeland graduated from Dexter High School and attended Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University).[2] In 1888, he taught school in Sylvan Township, Michigan.[3]

He graduated in 1889 from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with a degree in medicine.[2] After graduate studies in Europe, Copeland practiced medicine in Bay City, Michigan, from 1890 to 1895.[2] Copeland was admitted to the Homeopathy Society of Michigan on May 21, 1890, and was made secretary of the society in October 1893.[2] He was a professor of Ophthalmology and Otology in the University of Michigan Medical School's Homeopathic Department from 1895 until 1908.[2]

Political career in Michigan[edit]

During his time as a medical professor in Ann Arbor, Copeland was active in municipal politics.[2] A Republican, he served as mayor of Ann Arbor from 1901 to 1903.[2] He was president of the Ann Arbor Board of Education from 1907 to 1908.[2] He also served for several years as president of the Ann Arbor Board of Park Commissioners.[2]

New York[edit]

On July 15, 1908, Copeland married Frances Spalding. The same year, Copeland moved to New York City to take a position as dean at the New York Homeopathic Medical College and Flower Hospital.[4] Copeland left his position as dean in 1918 in order to serve as President of the New York City Board of Health. He was appointed to this position by Mayor John Hylan in May 1918.[5]

In September 28, Copeland acknowledged that the Spanish flu outbreak was seriously impacting the city, and possibly an epidemic.[5] However, he decided to permit motion picture theaters to remain open. He considered closing the theaters to have little effect in reducing the epidemic as long as the crowded transportation lines continued to operate.[5][6] Copeland also left the city's schools open, arguing it was better, "to have the children under the constant observation of qualified persons than to close the schools". New York City, Chicago and New Haven, Connecticut were the notable exceptions of most cities closing their own schools during the epidemic.[7]

In December 1918, he amended the city health code to require that landlords maintain heat in apartments they rented.[8]: 25  This had been a major issue in light of coal shortage earlier that year, numerous eviction cases around failure to provide heat, and the widespread 1918-1920 New York City rent strikes.[9][10]: 25 

During the epidemic, Copeland organized a system of emergency health districts to provide localized care. If individuals who lived in apartments or private residences contracted the virus, they were quarantined and care was provided to them in their house. However, if individuals who lived in tenements or boarding houses contracted the virus, they were moved to city hospitals.[5]

Copeland served a total of five terms of the New York City Board of Health, before taking office as a United States senator in 1923.[11][12]

United States Senate[edit]

In 1922, Copeland ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate, defeating first-term Republican Senator William M. Calder. Franklin D. Roosevelt served as his honorary campaign manager for this election.[13][14] Copeland was re-elected in 1928 over Republican challenger Alanson B. Houghton, the U.S. ambassador to Britain and a former U.S. Representative. Copeland was again re-elected in 1934, this time defeating future U.S. Congressman E. Harold Cluett.[15]

During his three terms in the Senate, Copeland served as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration from 1933 to 1936 and chairman of the Committee on Commerce from 1935 to 1938. In 1935-1936 Copeland served as chairman of the highly controversial Copeland Committee, which gave a scathing review of air traffic safety and the operation of the Bureau of Air Commerce. Copeland served as primary author and sponsor of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 which entrenched special protections for homeopaths. He was the primary sponsor of the Copeland "Anti-kickback" Act, which targeted kickbacks to federal contractors, subcontractors and officials from construction employees.[16]

Copeland was close to the regular Democratic organization in New York, the boss-led Tammany Hall. He was a conservative Democrat and not especially supportive of the New Deal policies of his fellow New Yorker, Franklin Roosevelt. He was also a friend of Harry S. Truman when they both served in the U.S. Senate. Copeland was known for his successful efforts to bring air conditioning to the Senate.

In July 1937, Copeland proposed two rider amendments to the Interstate Commerce Act which would add an anti-lynching bill to the legislation. Both failed to pass due to the majority of Senate Democrats voting to table them.[17][18][19]

In 1937 he lost the Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York City to Judge Jeremiah T. Mahoney, and the Republican nomination to incumbent Republican Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.[20]


Copeland died at his apartment in Washington, DC on June 17, 1938.[1] According to news reports, he died of a circulatory collapse brought on by overwork during the longer than usual Senate session that ended on the day of his death.[1] His funeral was at his home in Suffern, New York.[21] He was buried at Mahwah Cemetery in Mahwah, New Jersey.[21]

Election results[edit]

Year Office Subject Party Votes Portion Opponent Party Votes Portion
1922 U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York Royal S. Copeland Democratic 1,276,667 49.5% William M. Calder Republican 995,421 38.6%
1928 U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York Royal S. Copeland Democratic 2,084,273 46.7% Alanson B. Houghton Republican 2,034,014 45.6%
1934 U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York Royal S. Copeland Democratic 2,046,377 52.0% E. Harold Cluett Republican 1,363,440 34.7%
1937 Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York City Royal S. Copeland Democratic c. 200,000 2/5 Jeremiah T. Mahoney Democratic c. 400,000 3/5
Republican nomination for Mayor of New York City Royal S. Copeland 1/3 Fiorello H. LaGuardia Republican 2/3

Honors and society memberships[edit]

Copeland was a member of several honor societies and fraternal organizations, including the Pi Gamma Mu international honor society in social sciences, which he served in various positions, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the New York Athletic Club, the National Democratic Club, the Elks, the Freemasons, the Knights Templar, the Shriners, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Sons of the American Revolution and the Eugenics Committee of the United States of America.Israel W. Charny; Rouben Paul Adalian; Steven L. Jacobs; Eric Markusen; Marc I. Sherman (1999). The Encyclopedia of Genocide. Oxford: ABC-CLIO. p. 220. ISBN 9780874369281.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

At various times Copeland served as president, vice president, and secretary of the Michigan Homeopathic Society; president, the American Ophthalmological, Otological, and Laryngological Society; president, American Institute of Homeopathy; vice president, the American Public Health Association; member, the National Board of Control of Epworth League; president, the Michigan Epworth League; member, the Tuberculosis Commission of Michigan; trustee, Michigan State Tuberculosis Sanitarium; and three-time elected member, the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Senator Copeland Dies In Washington. Overwork Factor. Suffered Circulatory Collapse After Leaving Floor Just Before Adjournment". New York Times. June 18, 1938.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Downs, Winfield Scott, ed. (1940). Encyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. 11. New York, NY: The American Historical Company. p. 80 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ New York Medical College Board of Trustees (January 1909). "Complimentary Dinner Tendered to Royal S. Copeland". The Chironian. Vol. XXV, no. 7. New York, NY: New York Medical College. pp. 243–244 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "New York Homeopathic Medical College and Flower Hospital". The Independent. Jul 6, 1914. Retrieved August 1, 2012.
  5. ^ a b c d Toole, Pauline (1 March 2018). "The Flu Epidemic of 1918". NYC Department of Records & Information Services. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  6. ^ "Letter, from: Royal S. Copeland, MD, to: National Association of the Motion Picture Industry, December 17, 1918", Influenza Encyclopedia, University of MichiganPublic Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ Waldrop, Theresa (19 August 2020). "Here's what happened when students went to school during the 1918 pandemic". CNN. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  8. ^ Copeland, Sara Katherine (2000). ""Down with the landlords" : tenant activism in New York City, 1917-1920". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. Of Urban Studies and Planning. hdl:1721.1/65254.
  9. ^ Fogelson, Robert Michael (2013). The great rent wars: New York, 1917-1929. New Haven (Conn.): Yale University press. doi:10.12987/yale/9780300191721.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-300-19172-1.
  10. ^ Copeland, Sara Katherine (2000). ""Down with the landlords" : tenant activism in New York City, 1917-1920". Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. Of Urban Studies and Planning. hdl:1721.1/65254.
  11. ^ Glass, Andrew (5 November 2016). "Senators vote to knock out walls, May 11, 1928". POLITICO. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  12. ^ Copeland, Royal S. (13 January 1926). "YOUR HEALTH". The Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved 22 August 2021.
  13. ^ Robins, Natalie (2005). Copeland's Cure: Homeopathy and the War Between Conventional and Alternative Medicine. New York: Knopf. pp. 154–166. ISBN 9780375410901. New York did come out better than any other city in the nation
  14. ^ Robert Dallek, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), p. 14.
  15. ^ Congressional Biography of E. Harold Cluett.
  16. ^ Whittaker, William G. (November 30, 2007). "The Davis-Bacon Act: Institutional Evolution and Public Policy" (PDF). CRS report no. 94-408. United States Congressional Research Service. pp. 14–15, 41. Retrieved October 26, 2012.
  18. ^ July 27, 1937. ANTI-LYNCHING BILL REJECTED AS RIDER; Senate by Vote of 41 to 34 Defeats It as Amendment to Freight Car Measure. The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2021.
  20. ^ "Perplexing Primary", TIME Magazine, Monday, September 27, 1937 (free access on May 28, 2008.)
  21. ^ a b "Funeral to Be Held in Flower Garden on Suffern Estate. Burial in Mahwah, N. J." New York Times. June 19, 1938.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from New York
(Class 1)

1922, 1928, 1934
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Ann Arbor, Michigan
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from New York
Served alongside: James W. Wadsworth, Jr., Robert F. Wagner
Succeeded by