Levi P. Morton

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Levi P. Morton
Levi Morton - Brady-Handy portrait - standard crop.jpg
22nd Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1889 – March 4, 1893
PresidentBenjamin Harrison
Preceded byThomas A. Hendricks
Succeeded byAdlai Stevenson
31st Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1895 – December 31, 1896
LieutenantCharles T. Saxton
Preceded byRoswell P. Flower
Succeeded byFrank S. Black
United States Minister to France
In office
August 5, 1881 – May 14, 1885
Appointed byJames A. Garfield
Preceded byEdward Follansbee Noyes
Succeeded byRobert Milligan McLane
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1879 – March 21, 1881
Preceded byBenjamin A. Willis
Succeeded byRoswell P. Flower
Personal details
Levi Parsons Morton

(1824-05-16)May 16, 1824
Shoreham, Vermont, U.S.
DiedMay 16, 1920(1920-05-16) (aged 96)
Rhinebeck, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Lucy Young Kimball
(m. 1856; her death 1871)

Anna Livingston Reade Street
(m. 1873; her death 1918)
RelationsDaniel O. Morton (brother)
William Morton Grinnell (nephew)
ParentsDaniel Oliver Morton
Lucretia Parsons Morton
SignatureCursive signature in ink

Levi Parsons Morton (May 16, 1824 – May 16, 1920) was the 22nd vice president of the United States from 1889 to 1893. He also served as United States ambassador to France, as a US representative from New York, and as the 31st governor of New York.

The son of a Congregational minister, Morton was born and educated in Vermont and Massachusetts, and trained for a business career by clerking in stores and working in mercantile establishments in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. After relocating to New York City, Morton became a successful merchant, cotton broker, and investment banker.

Active in politics as a Republican, Morton was an ally of Roscoe Conkling. He was twice elected to the United States House of Representatives, and he served one full term, and one partial one (March 4, 1879 – March 21, 1881). In 1880, Republican presidential nominee James A. Garfield offered Morton the vice presidential nomination in an effort to win over Conkling loyalists who were disappointed that their choice for president, Ulysses S. Grant, had lost to Garfield. Conkling advised Morton to decline, which he did. Garfield then offered the nomination to another Conkling ally, Chester A. Arthur, who accepted.

After Garfield and Arthur were elected, Garfield nominated Morton to be Minister Plenipotentiary to France, and Morton served in Paris until 1885. In 1888, Morton was nominated for vice president on the Republican ticket with presidential nominee Benjamin Harrison; they were elected, and Morton served as vice president from 1889 to 1893. In 1894, Morton was the successful Republican nominee for governor of New York, and he served one term, 1895 to 1896.

In retirement, Morton resided in New York City and Rhinebeck, New York. He died in 1920, and was buried at Rhinebeck Cemetery.

Early life[edit]

Morton was born in Shoreham, Vermont. He was one of six children born to the Reverend Daniel Oliver Morton (1788–1852), a Congregational minister and Lucretia Parsons (1789–1862).[1] Morton was named for his mother's brother Reverend Levi Parsons (1792-1822), a clergyman who was also the first U.S. missionary to work in Palestine.[2] His older brother, Daniel Oliver Morton (1815–59), served as the Mayor of Toledo, Ohio from 1849 to 1850.[3] His younger sister, Mary Morton, was married to William F. Grinnell, and was the mother of William Morton Grinnell (who later served as the Third Assistant Secretary of State while Morton was Vice President).[4]

Morton's family moved to Springfield, Vermont in 1832, when his father became the minister of the Congregational church there. Rev. Morton headed the congregation during the construction of the brick colonial revival-style church on Main Street that is still in use today. Levi P. Morton was considered by his Springfield peers to be a "leader in all affairs in which schoolboys usually engage."[5] The Morton family later moved to Winchendon, Massachusetts, where Rev. Morton continued to serve as a church pastor.[2]

Morton attended the public schools of Vermont and Massachusetts and the academy in Shoreham, Vermont.[6]


He decided on a business career, and worked as a general store clerk in Enfield, Massachusetts.[2] Morton also taught school in Boscawen, New Hampshire, engaged in mercantile pursuits in Hanover, New Hampshire, and moved to Boston to work in the Beebe & Co. importing business.[2] He eventually settled in New York City, where he entered the dry goods business in partnership with George Blake Grinnell, became a successful cotton broker, and established himself as one of the country's top investment bankers in a firm he founded, Morton, Bliss & Co.[2] He was an unsuccessful candidate for election in 1876 to the 45th Congress, and was appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to be an honorary commissioner to the Paris Exhibition of 1878.[6]

Member of Congress[edit]

Identified with the Stalwart faction of Republicans led by Roscoe Conkling, Morton was elected to represent Manhattan in the 46th and 47th Congresses, and he served from March 4, 1879 until his resignation, effective March 21, 1881.[2] The 1880 Republican National Convention was dominated by Half-Breed supporters of James G. Blaine and Stalwart supporters of Ulysses S. Grant for the presidential nomination.[7] James A. Garfield, who was not affiliated with either faction, but was a friend of Blaine's, won the nomination[7] and attempted to win over Stalwarts by asking Morton to be his vice presidential running mate.[8] Conkling, who had managed Grant's campaign, advised Morton to decline, which Morton did.[8] Garfield's supporters then turned to Chester A. Arthur, a fellow Stalwart and close Conkling friend.[7] Conkling also advised Arthur to decline, but Arthur accepted; Garfield and he were narrowly elected over their Democratic opponents.[7]

Minister to France[edit]

After Garfield's election, Garfield offered Morton appointment as Secretary of the Navy, which he declined.[2] Morton then asked to be appointed United States ambassador to either the United Kingdom or France, and Garfield appointed him to the position in Paris.[2] He was U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to France from 1881 to 1885.[2]

Morton was very popular in France.[2] He helped commercial relations between the two countries run smoothly during his term, and in Paris on October 24, 1881, he placed the first rivet in the construction of the Statue of Liberty.[2] (It was driven into the big toe of Lady Liberty's left foot.) After completion of the statue, he accepted Liberty on behalf of the United States in a ceremony on July 4, 1884, by signing the Union Franco Americaine contract.

US Senate candidate[edit]

After returning to the United States, Morton was a candidate for U.S. Senator in 1885.[2] He lost the Republican nomination to William M. Evarts, who went on to win election by the full New York State Legislature.[2] He was again a candidate in 1887.[2] Republicans controlled the legislature, meaning their nominee would win the election.[2] Incumbent Warner Miller was recognized as a member of the Half-Breed faction, while state Republican boss Thomas C. Platt, who had succeeded Conkling as leader of the Stalwarts, and had been succeeded in the Senate by Miller in 1881. Platt was determined to see Miller defeated, and backed Morton, a fellow Stalwart. A third candidate, Frank Hiscock, was not affiliated with either faction and had little initial support. After 17 ballots failed to produce a nominee, Morton withdrew and asked his supporters to back Hiscock to ensure that Miller would not be reelected.[2] Hiscock was chosen on the 18th ballot, and won the election by defeating Democrat Smith Mead Weed.

Vice President[edit]

From 1889 until 1895, Morton lived at this residence in Washington, DC.

Morton was elected Vice President of the United States, on the Republican ticket with President Benjamin Harrison, and he served from March 4, 1889 to March 4, 1893.[2] During his term, Harrison tried to pass the Lodge Bill, an election law enforcing the voting rights of blacks in the South; the billed failed because Morton did little in his role as the Senate's presiding officer to support the bill against a Democratic filibuster.[9] Harrison blamed Morton for the bill's eventual failure, and at the Republican convention prior to the 1892 election, Morton decided not to run for a second term and Whitelaw Reid won the nomination for vice president.[10] Harrison and Reid went on to lose the 1892 election, to Grover Cleveland and Adlai E. Stevenson, the Democratic candidates.

Governor of New York[edit]

Gubernatorial portrait of Levi P. Morton

In 1894, Morton was elected governor of New York, defeating Democratic nominee David B. Hill and several minor party candidates.[2] He served one two-year term, and focused his efforts on initiatives including road construction and civil-service reform. He was a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 1896, but the delegates chose William McKinley. He was then considered for the vice presidential nomination, but McKinley's campaign manager, Mark Hanna, was opposed and the nomination went to Garret Hobart. After Morton completed his term as governor, he became a real estate investor and was active in other business ventures.[6]

Later life[edit]

In 1890, he became one of the first members of the District of Columbia Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He was assigned national society membership number 1838 and district society number 38. He was also a member of the General Society of Colonial Wars.[11]

In retirement, he served as president of the Metropolitan Club at One East 60th Street, New York, between 1900 and 1911. He was preceded in that office by J. Pierpont Morgan and succeeded by Frank Knight Sturgis.[12] He was also a member of the Union League Club of New York, and served as president of the New York Zoological Society from 1897 to 1909.[11]

Personal life[edit]

On October 15, 1856, Morton was married to his first wife, Lucy Young Kimball (1836–1871), the daughter of Elijah Huntingdon Kimball, in Flatlands, Brooklyn. Together, they had one child, a daughter, Carrie Morton, who died in infancy, in 1857.[13]

After his first wife's death in 1871, Morton married Anna Livingston Reade Street in 1873.[14] She was Second Lady of the United States during her husband's vice presidency, and often handled entertaining duties for the administration due to First Lady Caroline Harrison's ill health. She had five daughters with Morton, and a son who died in infancy.

In 1902, Alice Morton founded "Holiday Farm" as a convalescent home for children. Children who attended were picked up at Grand Central Station and brought to the farm in Rhinebeck. Train fare, board and clothing were provided free. In 1917, Vincent Astor served as President, with Helen Dinsmore Huntington as Secretary.[29] Holiday Farm later developed into the Astor Home for Children.

Morton became ill during the winter of 1919 to 1920; a cold developed into bronchitis, and Morton eventually contracted pneumonia, which proved fatal.[30] He died in Rhinebeck, New York, on May 16, 1920.[31] After a memorial service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, he was interred at Rhinebeck Cemetery.[32] At the time of his death, Morton, who died on his 96th birthday, was the longest-lived vice president in U.S. history.


In 1881, Morton received the honorary degree of LL.D. from Dartmouth College.[2] In 1882, Middlebury College presented him with an honorary LL.D.[33]


The Mortons lived at Ellerslie an estate near Rhinecliff, New York. Anna L. and Levi Morton erected the Morton Memorial Library in Rhinecliff in memory of their daughter Lena. It was dedicated as a library in 1908 and is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places.[34]

The Village of Morton Grove, Illinois, is named after Morton. He provided the funding necessary to allow Miller's Mill (now Lincoln Avenue) to pass through the upstart neighborhood, and provide goods to trade and sell. Morton Grove was incorporated in December 1895.

Morton owned property in Newport, Rhode Island, spending his summers on Bellevue Avenue in his mansion called "Fairlawn", built 1852-1853, which is currently owned by Salve Regina University, housing the Pell Center of International Relations and Public Policy. He left a nearby property to the city of Newport for use as a park. The park is at the corner of Coggeshall and Morton Avenues (the latter formerly Brenton Road), and is named Morton Park.

Morton sold or donated property he owned in Hanover, New Hampshire to Dartmouth College, where the college built Webster Hall. As an honorary alumnus, Morton attended Dartmouth alumni gatherings in New York. He also owned a summer retreat on Eagle Island on Upper Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Park.[35] The architecture, designed by the notable architect William L. Coulter, is of the Great Camps style. The Mortons sold the property to banker Henry Graves, and in 1938, Graves gave the camp to the Girl Scouts, who operated a summer camp there for seventy years.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Emery, Samuel Hopkins (1893). History of Taunton, Massachusetts: From Its Settlement to the Present Time. D. Mason & Company. p. 63. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Murlin, Edgar L. (1897). The New York Red Book. Albany, NY: James B. Lyon. pp. 85–90.
  3. ^ "Partial Genealogy of the Mortons of New York, Plymouth, and Ohio" (PDF).
  4. ^ of 1880, Harvard College (1780-) Class (1912). Harvard College Class of 1880 Secretary's Report. Plimpton Press. p. 55. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  5. ^ Hubbard, Charles Horace (1895). History of the Town of Springfield, Vermont. G.H. Walker & Co. pp. 40, 75, 236.
  6. ^ a b c "MORTON, Levi Parsons - Biographical Information". bioguide.congress.gov. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Doenecke, Justus (2019). "James A. Garfield: Campaigns and Elections". Miller Center: U.S. Presidents. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia.
  8. ^ a b "Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton". Miller Center: U.S. Presidents. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia. 2019.
  9. ^ "Levi Parsons Morton, 22nd Vice President (1889-1893)". Senate Historical Office. Washington, DC: Historian of the United States Senate. Retrieved December 19, 2016.
  10. ^ "Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789-1993" (PDF). United States Senate Historical Office. 1997. Retrieved October 25, 2008.
  11. ^ a b "PRAISE THE MEMORY OF LEVI P. MORTON; Family and Delegates From Many Organizations Attend Services in Cathedral. ROOT TELLS OF EARLY LIFE Dr. Slattery Asks Business Men to Emulate Example of the Late Vice President". The New York Times. January 10, 1921. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  12. ^ Club Members of New York. New York, NY: Club Members of New York, Inc. 1940. p. 136. Seven presidents have presided over the club: J. Pierpont Morgan, L. P. Morton, F. K. Sturgis...
  13. ^ The Kimball Family News. G. F. Kimball. 1902. p. 365. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  14. ^ "Mrs. Levi P. Morton Dies At Home in Rhinecliff, N.Y.", Boston Daily Globe, Thursday, August 15, 1918, Boston, Massachusetts, United States Of America.
  15. ^ "FORMER V.P.'S DAUGHTER DIES -- Edith Morton Eustis, Active in Capital". The Record. November 13, 1964. p. 41. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  16. ^ "Wm. Corcoran Eustis Dies. Former Diplomat was Captain on Gen. Pershing's staff". The New York Times. November 25, 1921. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  17. ^ "MISS LENA MORTON DIED ON EVE OF ANNOUNCEMENT OF HER ENGAGEMENT". Detroit Free Press. June 11, 1904. p. 1. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  18. ^ "MRS. HELEN S. MORTON". Daily News. September 9, 1952. p. 83. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  19. ^ "MME. DE TALLEYRAND DEAD.; Duchess Was Born In 1839 -- Her Son Married Miss Morton". The New York Times. October 13, 1905. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  20. ^ "MISS HELEN MORTON TO WED COUNT DE PERIGORD.; Engagement Rumored Last Week Officially Announced -- The Count the Due de Talleyrand's Younger Son". The New York Times. August 29, 1901. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  21. ^ "DUCHESS OF VALENCAY SUES FOR A DIVORCE; Levi P. Morton's Daughter Resents Action of Mother-in-Law. POPE ASKED FOR ANNULMENT Ex-Governor Bought Castle for Bride and Now the Duke Occupies It Exclusively". The New York Times. June 7, 1904. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  22. ^ "GETS DIVORCE FROM VALENCAY.; Levi P. Morton's Daughter Obtains Decree In Paris -- Proceedings Private". The New York Times. July 1, 1904. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  23. ^ Strouse, Jean (2014). Morgan: American Financier. Random House Publishing Group. p. 184. ISBN 9780812987041. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  24. ^ "Mrs. Winthrop Rutherfurd". The New York Times. June 21, 1917. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  25. ^ a b Times, Special To Te New Yor (March 21, 1944). "W. RUTHERFURD, 82, LEADER IN SOCIETY; Sportsman, Member of Noted Family, Dies Was Owner of Famous Terrier Kennels". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  26. ^ "ENGAGEMENT OF MISS ALICE MORTON.; To Marry Winthrop Rutherfurd, One of the Best-Known Men in Society, an Adept at Out-Door Sports, and Wealthy". The New York Times. January 13, 1902. Retrieved July 18, 2017.
  27. ^ "MARY MORTON BURIAL PLANNED AT RHINEBECK". Poughkeepsie Eagle News. May 11, 1932. p. 2. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  28. ^ "MISS MARY MORTON". The New York Times. April 23, 1932. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  29. ^ The New York Charities Directory, Charity Organization Society in the City of New York., 1917, p. 143 This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  30. ^ "Levi P. Morton is Dead on his 96th Birthday". The Sun and the New York Herald. New York, NY. May 17, 1920. p. 1.
  31. ^ "Morton A Resident Of Washington. Only Part of His Estate Will Be Taxable in This State. But Suit Will Be Brought. Test Was Attempted In the Case of Mrs. Morton, but Never Reached Conclusion" (PDF). The New York Times. May 18, 1920. Retrieved May 16, 2015. The estate of ex-Governor Levi P. Morton will probably Day to the State of New York only the inheritance tax due from the estate of a nonresident, as Mr. Morton had made Washington, DC, his residence for ten years.
  32. ^ "Many Notables to Attend Funeral of Levi P. Morton". Poughkeepsie Eagle-News. Poughkeepsie, NY. May 18, 1920. p. 1.
  33. ^ "The Vice-President". The Hamilton Literary Monthly. Vol. 24. Clinton, NY: Hamilton College. 1890. p. 111.
  34. ^ Morton Memorial Library
  35. ^ "National Historic Landmark Nomination, Eagle Island Camp" (PDF). www.nps.gov. National Park Service. August 18, 2004. p. 13.
  36. ^ ""National Historic Landmark Nomination, Eagle Island Camp"" (PDF).

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Benjamin A. Willis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Roswell P. Flower
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Edward Noyes
United States Minister to France
Succeeded by
Robert Milligan McLane
Party political offices
Preceded by
John A. Logan
Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Whitelaw Reid
Preceded by
Sloat Fassett
Republican nominee for Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Frank S. Black
Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas A. Hendricks
Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Adlai Stevenson
Preceded by
Roswell P. Flower
Governor of New York
Succeeded by
Frank S. Black