William Windom (1827 - 1891) resigned from the Senate in 1881 to become President James Garfield's Secretary of the Treasury, serving until the President's death eight months later when Windom returned to the Senate to complete his term. As a Senator he chaired a special committee on transportation routes to the western seaboard and was a proponent of expansion. President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Secretary a second time in 1889.
Sec. William Windom
Charles Harold L. MacDonald
Oil on canvas
63 1/2 x 53 x 5"
Windom's expansionist beliefs combined with his Minnesota roots made him personally sympathetic to the new Western states' desire for a currency backed by silver. Although he advocated a gold standard, he effected a compromise in the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which authorized the Secretary to buy silver and gold bullion and to issue notes of full legal tender. In 1891 Windom addressed the New York Board of Trade with the words, "As a poison in the blood permeates arteries, veins, nerves, brain and heart, and speedily brings paralysis or death, so does a debased or fluctuating currency permeate all arteries of trade, paralyze all kinds of business and brings disaster to all classes of people." Seconds later he suffered a heart attack and died.
About the Artist
After studying in Paris with Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebre, Charles Harold L. MacDonald (1861 - 1923) moved to Washington, D.C. in 1890 to establish a successful portrait business. He was well known in art and club circles in the Capitol, painting society portraits as well as fulfilling government commissions. The source for MacDonald's portrait of William Windom was probably a photograph taken at his desk in the Treasury Building. By the late nineteenth century, the practice of photographing Cabinet officials in their offices was widespread and such a photograph would have been readily available to MacDonald.