A staunch defender of the gold standard during the election of 1896, Lyman J. Gage (1836 - 1927) was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President William McKinley in 1897. After McKinley's assassination, he continued to serve under President Theodore Roosevelt. During the 1870's Gage had been one of the organizers of the "Honest Money League of the North West," which inaugurated a vicious campaign against the irredeemable greenbacks. His writings were widely circulated and he acquired a reputation as a sound conservative businessman. Later, as Vice-President of the First National Bank in Chicago (1891 - 1896), he made public his views that "the government must be taken out of the note-issuing business."
Sec. Lyman J. Gage
Charles Harold L. MacDonald
Oil on canvas
73 1/2 x 64 1/4 x 5 1/2"
As Secretary of the Treasury, Gage was influential in securing passage of the Gold Standard Act of March 14, 1900, which reestablished a currency backed solely by gold. Since this limited the amount of currency in circulation, it initiated a period continuing until 1912, in which the Secretary of the Treasury was obliged to respond to the money market by introducing the Treasury surplus into circulation. The inability of the Treasury to respond to the needs of the market and the need for an "elastic" currency which would expand and contract with the needs of the Nation, led to the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913 to regulate the money market. Gage resigned in 1902 to become a banker in New York.
About the Artist
During the last decade of the nineteenth century, Charles Harold L. MacDonald (1861 - 1923) was one of the most successful artists in Washington, D.C. Fulfilling government commissions as well as those of private citizens he is represented in the Treasury Collection by portraits of Secretaries Dexter, Windom, Gresham, and Cortelyou in addition to Lyman J. Gage. His paintings hang also in collections at the Supreme Court and the U.S. Naval Academy. MacDonald's portrait of Gage was painted from life in 1900, during Gage's tenure as Secretary of the Treasury.