William Crowninshield Endicott

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William Crowninshield Endicott
William Endicott, bw photo portrait, 1886.jpg
36th United States Secretary of War
In office
March 5, 1885 – March 5, 1889
President Grover Cleveland
Preceded by Robert Todd Lincoln
Succeeded by Redfield Proctor
Personal details
Born (1826-11-19)November 19, 1826
Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died May 6, 1900(1900-05-06) (aged 73)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ellen Peabody
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession Lawyer

William Crowninshield Endicott (November 19, 1826 – May 6, 1900) was an American politician and Secretary of War in the first administration of President Grover Cleveland.


Ellen Peabody Endicott (Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott), John Singer Sargent, 1901

William Crowninshield Endicott, son of William Putnam Endicott and Mary (Crowninshield[1]) Endicott, was born in Salem, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1847 and attended Harvard Law School in 1849–1850, prior to his admission to the Massachusetts bar in 1850. He married Ellen Peabody, daughter of George and Clarissa Peabody of Salem on December 13, 1859, in Salem. Her grandfather was the distinguished Salem ship owner, Joseph Peabody, who made a fortune importing pepper from Sumatra and was one of the wealthiest men in the United States at the time of his death in 1900. They had two children.


He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1862.[2]

Following an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1879, Endicott served on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court until 1882. After an unsuccessful gubernatorial race in 1884, he was appointed Secretary of War. He served in that capacity in the administration of Grover Cleveland between 1885 and 1889. Endicott oversaw many important changes in the organization of the United States Army, including the establishment of a system of examinations to determine the promotion of officers.

Endicott convened and chaired the Board of Fortifications in 1885 (usually called the Endicott Board), which would provide detailed recommendations and designs for the generation of American coastal defense fortifications constructed in the era of the Spanish–American War. Most of these Endicott Period fortifications served through early World War II.

William Crowninshield Endicott died in Boston, Massachusetts. He is buried with his wife in the Endicott Lot (1554) at Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem.


His daughter, Mary Crowninshield Endicott, married first the British statesman, Joseph Chamberlain, in 1888 and upon her first husband's passing, married the Anglican clergyman, William Hartley Carnegie, in 1916.

Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott Jr., John Singer Sargent, 1903

His son, William Crowninshield Endicott Jr., married in 1889 Marie Louise Thoron (1864–1958), daughter of Joseph and Anna Barker Ward Thoron.[3]

He was a direct descendant of the Massachusetts governor, John Endecott, and a first cousin three times removed of another Massachusetts governor, Endicott Peabody.


  • Biography in Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army a publication of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  • Walter Muir Whitehill, Captain Joseph Peabody: East India Merchant of Salem (1757–1844) (Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum, 1962), 179.
Legal offices
New seat Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
Succeeded by
Waldo Colburn
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Todd Lincoln
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Grover Cleveland

Succeeded by
Redfield Proctor