Levi Woodbury (1798 - 1851), formerly Secretary of the Navy, was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President Jackson in 1834 and continued under President Martin Van Buren. Woodbury had been an opponent of the Second Bank of the United States in the Senate and as Secretary he continued to oppose it. Like his predecessor, Acting Secretary Roger B. Taney, Woodbury refused to place government funds with the Second Bank, depositing them instead in commercial banks. The 1830's were a period of general prosperity and by 1834 the national debt had been paid off.
Sec. Levi Woodbury
Henry Augustus Loop
Oil on canvas
66 1/4 x 57 x 3 1/2"
In 1836, when the Treasury realized an unprecedented surplus, the money was turned over to the States in four installments. This extra money was a contributing factor to wild speculation and an expansion of credit resulting in a panic in 1837. Consequently, Woodbury realized the need for a system which would enable the Government to directly administer its own funds. In 1840 Congress passed an act establishing an ''independent Treasury System", where the Treasury Department, not commercial banks, was to manage the Government's funds. Much of this law was repealed the next year, but Woodbury had laid the groundwork for a more permanent Independent Treasury system that was eventually established in 1846. He also oversaw the construction of the new Treasury Building, begun by architect Robert Mills in 1836, after the Department's previous quarters had been destroyed by fire. Woodbury resigned at the end of Van Buren's term in 1841.
About the Artist
The portrait and figure painter Henry Augustus Loop (1831 - 1895) was born in Hillsdale, New York in 1831. After working as a clerk in Great Barrington, Massachusetts for three years, he gave in to his desire to become an artist and moved to New York City where he studied with Henry Peters Grey. Around 1857 he went to Paris to paint in the studio of Thomas Couture, returning by 1861 to practice in New York. Elected a National Academician in 1861, Loop was thereafter one of the most regular participants in the annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design. He painted a number of genre and mythological subjects, though he also found steady employment as a portrait painter. His portrait of Levi Woodbury was copied in 1880 from a contemporary portrait by John Trumbull, now in the Birmingham Museum.