After the resignation of Secretary of the Treasury Philip F. Thomas in 1860 and the secession of South Carolina the same year, the moneyed interests in the East demanded that John A. Dix (1798 - 1879) be made Secretary. A former postmaster and Senator from New York, Dix was reputed to be "a cultivated writer, a fluent vigorous speaker, a man of great courage, prompt decision and proved executive ability."
Sec. John A. Dix
Caroline L. Ormes Ransom
Oil on canvas
63 1/8 x 52 1/4 x 5"
Entering office during a financial panic, he quickly obtained the much needed loans from banks and the American people that his predecessor had failed to secure. He won further confidence in the North by dispatching a message to a Treasury Customs official in New Orleans to take possession of a Treasury Department revenue cutter there. "If anyone attempts to haul down the American flag," he ordered, "shoot him on the spot." Dix was in office less than three months, resigning at the end of Buchanan's presidency. Buchanan's successor, President Lincoln, rewarded his performance as Secretary with the commission of Major General in charge of Alexandria and Arlington, Virginia during the Civil War.
About the Artist
Caroline L. Ormes Ransom (1838 - 1910), born in Newark, Ohio and educated in New York and Germany under Daniel Huntington and others, became well known as a Washington, D.C. artist through her successful government portrait commissions. Several of her portraits hang in the United States Capitol and that of Representative Joshua Giddings of Ohio, acquired in 1867, was said to be the first work of art by a woman purchased by the Federal Government. Ransom was an active participant in Washington society as the founder of the Classical Club of Washington and as a founding member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. In addition to her 1883 portrait of John A. Dix which she copied from Daniel Huntington's original, Ransom is represented in the Treasury Collection by her portrait of Alexander Hamilton, also a copy.