Robert Bacon

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Robert Bacon
Bacon, Robert.jpg
United States Ambassador to France
In office
December 31, 1909 – April 19, 1912
PresidentWilliam Howard Taft
Preceded byHenry White
Succeeded byMyron T. Herrick
39th United States Secretary of State
In office
January 27, 1909 – March 5, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Preceded byElihu Root
Succeeded byPhilander C. Knox
26th United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
October 11, 1905 – January 27, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byFrancis B. Loomis
Succeeded byJohn Callan O'Laughlin
Personal details
Born(1860-07-05)July 5, 1860
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, U.S. (now Boston)
DiedMay 29, 1919(1919-05-29) (aged 58)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Martha Waldron Cowdin
Children4, including Robert, Gaspar
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
RankLieutenant Colonel

Robert Bacon (July 5, 1860 – May 29, 1919) was an American statesman and diplomat. He served as United States Secretary of State from January to March 1909.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, to William Benjamin Bacon and Emily Crosby Low, he was a graduate of Harvard University (Class of 1880), where he was a member of the A.D. Club and Delta Kappa Epsilon. He was married on October 10, 1883 to Martha Waldron Cowdin.[2] They had four children: Robert Low Bacon, Gaspar Griswold Bacon, Elliot Cowdin Bacon, and Martha Beatrix Bacon (1890–1967) who married George Whitney (1885–1963). Their son Robert was a United States Congressman their other son Gaspar was the President of the Massachusetts Senate from 1929–32 and Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts from 1933 to 1935. A grandson, Robert Bacon Whitney, married Adelaide Weld, a daughter of Stephen Minot Weld Jr..


He worked in the steel world, including partnership with J.P. Morgan & Co. for many years starting in 1894. He acted as J.P. Morgan's chief lieutenant and participated in the formation of the U.S. Steel Corporation and the Northern Securities Company. The pressure of the job shot his nerves, and he left the company in 1903.[2]

He was named Assistant Secretary of State in 1905, a position which held until 1909; he was acting Secretary while Elihu Root was in South America in 1906. He became full Secretary only for the last 38 days of the term of President Theodore Roosevelt (with whom he was friends at Harvard), from January 27 to March 5, 1909.[2] Bacon obtained the advice and consent of the Senate for the Panama Canal treaties with Colombia and Panama. He served as United States Ambassador to France from 1909 until 1912.[2] He was supposed to return home on the RMS Titanic with his wife and daughter, but his voyage was delayed by the late arrival of the new ambassador. The family attended another maiden voyage instead, of the new French ocean liner SS France, which left Le Havre on April 20, 1912, ten days after Titanic had departed Southampton and five days after she had sunk. Upon his safe arrival back in the U.S. he became a Fellow of Harvard in 1912.

Portrait by Joaquín Sorolla

In August 1914, he went to France to help with the work of the American Field Service - which provide ambulances and drivers to support French and British forces. He was also attached to the British Army Medical Corps and assisted with the establishment of a typhoid hospital near Ypres. His book For Better Relations with Our Latin American Neighbors was published in 1915.[3]

He was then commissioned a major in the U.S. Army in May 1917 before sailing to France as a member of General Pershing's staff. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1918 and served as Chief of the American Military Mission at British General Headquarters. He returned to the United States in April 1919.[2]

Bacon died on May 29, 1919 from blood poisoning after undergoing surgery on his mastoiditis.[1]


Malvina Hoffman, The Sacrifice, caen marble sculpture, 1922, Modern and Contemporary Art Museum, Harvard University

A sculpture entitled The Sacrifice was made by Malvina Hoffman as a memorial to the late Ambassador of France, Robert Bacon, and alumni of Harvard University who lost their lives during the World War I. In it, the head of a 13th-century crusader lay on the lap of a draped woman.[4] The sculpture was dedicated in 1923 at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York.[4] After the War Memorial Chapel at Harvard University was completed in 1932, it was installed there.[5][6]


  1. ^ a b "Col. Robert Bacon Dies In Hospital. Ex-Secretary of State Expires of Blood Poisoning After Mastoiditis Operation. Ex-Ambassador To France. Noted Financier Was Former Member of Firm of J. Pierpont Morgan. His War Services. Robert Bacon's Career. Aided Roosevelt in Coal Strike. Advocate of Preparedness. Criticised Wilson's Policies". New York Times. May 30, 1919. Retrieved 2011-03-25. Colonel Robert Bacon, former Secretary of State and ex-Ambassador to France, died last night at 11:30 o'clock in the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, as the result of the development of blood poisoning in the neck following an operation for mastoiditis ...
  2. ^ a b c d e Marquis Who's Who, Inc. Who Was Who in American History, the Military. Chicago: Marquis Who's Who, 1975. P. 22 ISBN 0837932017 OCLC 657162692
  3. ^ Bacon, Robert. For Better Relations with Our Latin American Neighbors: A Journey to South America. Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Division of Intercourse and Education, 1915. OCLC 1438766
  4. ^ a b American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society (1922). Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society to the Legislature of the State of New York. pp. 41–42.
  5. ^ David Bernard Dearinger (2004). Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design: 1826-1925. Hudson Hills. p. 276. ISBN 978-1-55595-029-3.
  6. ^ Paula E. Calvin; Deborah A. Deacon (September 8, 2011). American Women Artists in Wartime, 1776-2010. McFarland. p. 84. ISBN 978-0-7864-8675-5.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Elihu Root
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

January 27, 1909 – March 5, 1909
Succeeded by
Philander C. Knox
Preceded by
Francis B. Loomis
United States Assistant Secretary of State
September 5, 1905 – January 27, 1909
Succeeded by
John Callan O'Laughlin
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Henry White
United States Ambassador to France
Succeeded by
Myron T. Herrick