In Hot Springs, Virginia, on August 5, 1908, President William Howard Taft addresses the importance of healthy agriculture to the economic well-being of the nation in what came to be known as his Farmer and the Republican" speech.
The first known ancestor of the Taft family is Richard Robert Taft, who died in County Louth, Ireland in 1700, which is also where his son, Robert Taft Sr., was born circa 1640. Robert Taft Sr. would be the first Taft to migrate to what is now the United States. He married his wife Sarah Simpson, who was born in January 1640 in England, in 1668 in Braintree, Massachusetts. Robert Taft Sr. began a homestead in what is today Uxbridge and then Mendon, circa 1680, and which was where he and his wife died in 1725 and 1726 respectively. His son, Robert Taft Jr., was a member of the founding Board of Selectmen for the new town of Uxbridge in 1727.
A branch of the Massachusetts Taft family descended from Daniel Taft Sr., son of Robert Taft Sr., born at Braintree, 1677–1761, died at Mendon. Daniel, a justice of the peace in Mendon, had a son Josiah Taft, later of Uxbridge,  who died in 1756. This branch of the Taft family claims America's first woman voter, Lydia Taft, and five generations of Massachusetts legislators and public servants beginning with Lydia's husband, Josiah Taft. 
The Tafts were very prominently represented as soldiers in the Revolutionary War, mostly in the New England states. Peter Rawson Taft I was born in Uxbridge in 1785 and moved to Townshend, Vermont circa 1800. He became a Vermont state legislator. He died in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. His son, Alphonso Taft, was born in Townshend, Vermont, and attended Yale University, where he founded the Skull and Bones society. He later was Secretary of War and Attorney General of the United States and the father of President William Howard Taft.  Elmshade in Massachusetts was the site of Taft family reunions such as in 1874. 
The American Taft family began with Robert Taft Sr. who immigrated to Braintree, Massachusetts circa, 1675. There was early settlement at Mendon, Massachusetts circa 1669 and again in 1680 at what was later Uxbridge, after the King Philip's War ended.  Robert's homestead was in western Mendon, in what later became Uxbridge, and his son was on the founding board of selectmen. In 1734, Benjamin Taft started an iron forge, in Uxbridge, where some of the earliest beginnings of America's industrial revolution began. Robert Sr.'s son, Daniel, a justice of the peace in Mendon had a son Josiah Taft, later of Uxbridge,  who died in 1756. Josiah's widow became "America's first woman voter", Lydia Chapin Taft, when she voted in three Uxbridge town meetings.  President George Washington visited Samuel Taft's Tavern in Uxbridge in 1789 on his "inaugural tour" of New England.  President William Howard Taft's grandfather, Peter Rawson Taft I, was born in Uxbridge in 1785.  The Hon. Bezaleel Taft Sr., Lydia's son, left a legacy of five generations or more of public service, including at least three generations in the state legislature of Tafts in Massachusetts.     Ezra Taft Benson, Sr, a famous Mormon pioneer, lived here between 1817–1835, and married his first wife Pamela, of Northbridge, in 1832.  This family eventually became an American political dynasty.
- Robert Taft Sr. (c. 1640–1725) The famous Taft family in America developed its roots in Mendon and Uxbridge. Robert Taft, Sr came to America from Braintree. The original American Taft homestead was in western Mendon, which later became Uxbridge, and was built by Robert Taft Sr., the first immigrant, in 1681.  Robert Taft Sr. had built an earlier home in 1669, but it was abandoned due to King Philip's War. Robert Taft Sr.'s descendants are a large politically active family with descendants who are prominent in Ohio, but live throughout the U.S.
- Robert Taft Jr. was born in 1674 to Robert Sr., and Sarah Taft at Braintree. He grew up in the western part of Mendon in what later became Uxbridge. He became a founding member of the Uxbridge Board of Selectmen in 1727.  Robert Taft Jr. may have been the first American Taft to hold political office. His descendants included a Governor of Rhode Island, Royal Chapin Taft, a United States Senator from Ohio, Kingsley Arter Taft, and a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson II, among others.
- Lydia Chapin Taft Noteworthy among early Uxbridge residents was Lydia Chapin Taft, a Mendon native by birth, who voted in three official Uxbridge town meetings, beginning in 1756.  She was the widow of Robert Taft Sr.'s grandson, Josiah Taft, who had served in the Colonial Legislature. Josiah was the son of Daniel Taft of Mendon. Taft was America's First Woman Voter.  This is recognized by the Massachusetts legislature. Her first historic vote, a first in Women's suffrage, was in favor of appropriating funds for the regiments engaged in the French and Indian War.
- Hon. Bezaleel Taft Sr., Lydia's son, held the rank of captain in the American Revolution, and answered the Battle of Lexington and Concord Alarm  on April 18, 1775, while Lydia looked on. He went on to become a prominent Massachusetts legislator, and State Senator.  At least 12 soldiers with the surname of Taft served in the Revolutionary War from the town of Uxbridge. Many more Tafts from throughout the former colonies also served in the War of Independence.
- Hon. Bezaleel Taft Jr., the son, followed a legislative career in the Massachusetts General Court, the state Senate, and the State Executive Council.  - Bezaleel Taft Jr. and five generations of influential Tafts lived in a historic home known as Elmshade which was a gathering place for Taft family reunions, and which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Young William Howard Taft and his father, Alphonso Taft, Secretary of War and founder of Skull and Bones at Yale, visited this home on a number of occasions.
- George Spring Taft, Bezaleel Jr.'s son, was the county prosecutor, and Secretary to U.S. Senator, George Hoar.  George Spring Taft also lived at Elmshade.
- The tradition of public service continued for at least five generations in this Massachusetts branch of the Taft family. The "Life of Alphonso Taft by Lewis Alexander Leonard", on Google Books, is a particularly rich source of the history of the Taft family origins in Massachusetts. 
- Other local Tafts Other local Tafts in political service in the Massachusetts legislature included Arthur M. Taft, Arthur Robert Taft, and Zadok Arnold Taft. Royal Chapin Taft, originally from Northbridge, became the Governor of Rhode Island. The number of Tafts in public service across America was extraordinary including New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio, Michigan, Utah, and other states.
- First President's visit Samuel Taft was an American Revolutionary War soldier, father of 22, an Uxbridge farmer and tavern keeper. President George Washington stayed at the Samuel Taft Tavern in November 1789, during the founding father's inaugural trip through New England. 
President William Howard Taft's grandfather, Peter Rawson Taft I, was born in Uxbridge in 1785 and grew up there. His father Aaron moved to Townshend, Vermont, because of the difficult economy, when he was fifteen. The story is told that Peter Rawson walked a cow all the way from Uxbridge to Townshend, a distance of well over 100 miles. The "Aaron Taft house" is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Peter Rawson Taft I became a Vermont legislator and eventually died in Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio.   Peter Rawson Taft's son, Alphonso Taft, founded Skull and Bones at Yale, served as U.S. Secretary of War, and his son William Howard became the U.S. President. The ancestry of U.S. presidents traces to Uxbridge and Mendon more than once, including both presidents bearing the last name Bush.  President Taft, a champion for world peace and the only president to also serve as Chief Justice of the United States, returned to Uxbridge for family reunions.    He remarked as he stepped off the train there on April 3, 1905, "Uxbridge. I think I have more relatives here than in any town in America."  Young William Howard Taft had made other trips to Uxbridge, and Bezaleel Taft, Jr.'s home, "Elmshade", in his earlier years. It was at "Elmshade" that young William Howard Taft likely heard his father, Alphonso Taft, proudly deliver an oratory on the Taft family history and the family's roots in Uxbridge, and Mendon, circa 1874.   President Taft stayed at the Samuel Taft tavern when he visited Uxbridge, as did George Washington 120 years earlier.   The New York Times recorded President Taft's visits to his ancestral homes in Mendon and Uxbridge during his Presidency.  William Howard Taft, as a young boy, spent a number of summers in the Blackstone Valley in Millbury, Massachusetts, and even attended schools for at least a term in that nearby town.
Ezra T. Benson (to distinguish him from his famous great-grandson, Ezra Taft Benson), a Mendon and Uxbridge native, is famous as a key early apostle of the Mormon religion. His own autobiography states that he lived in Uxbridge between 1817–1835, or about 17 years, after his mother, Chloe Taft and father, John Benson, moved to a farm there.  Young Ezra married Pamela Andrus, of Northbridge, on January 1, 1832, at Uxbridge. He had moved in with his family in an Uxbridge center Hotel in 1827. He and Pamela lived here in the 1830s, had children, and had a child who died, which is recorded in the Uxbridge Vital Records.  He later managed and owned the hotel in Uxbridge Center before investing in a cotton mill at Holland, Massachusetts. He moved to Holland Mass in 1835.  He later moved to Illinois, and became a Mormon apostle. Ezra joined the LDS Church at Quincy, Illinois in 1840, entered plural marriages, marrying seven more wives after Pamela. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by Brigham Young in 1846, a high post within the LDS Church. He had eight wives and 32 children.  He was a Missionary to the Sandwich Islands, also known as Hawaii. He served as a Representative to the Utah Territorial Assembly. He died in Ogden, Utah, in 1869.
Benjamin Taft started the first iron forge in the Ironstone section of Uxbridge in 1734  There was good quality "bog iron ore" here. Caleb Handy added a triphammer, and scythes and guns were manufactured here before 1800. The Taft family continued to be instrumental in the early industrialization of the Blackstone Valley including mills built by a 4th generation descendant of Robert Taft I, the son of Deborah Taft, Daniel Day in 1810, and his son in law, Luke Taft (1825) and Luke's son, Moses Taft in (1852).  These woolen mills, some of the first to use power looms, and satinets, ran 24/7 during the Civil War producing cloth for U.S. military uniforms.  The 1814 Rivulet Mill Complex was established at North Uxbridge by Chandler Taft. In 1855, 2.5 million yards of cloth was produced in the mills of Uxbridge.  Uxbridge is the center of the Blackstone Valley, the earliest industrialized region in the United States. It is part of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Samuel Slater, who built his mill in (1790), at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on the Blackstone River, was credited by President Andrew Jackson as the father of America's industrial revolution.
In 1864, Judge Henry Chapin, a three-term Worcester Mayor and Chief Judge, quoted a well known Uxbridge story as follows: A stranger came to town, met a new person and said, "Hello Mr. Taft". Mr. Taft said, "How did you know my name?" The stranger replied, "I presumed that you were a Taft, just like the other 12 Tafts I have just met!".  This story was repeated in a poem form by Mayor Chapin, at a famous Taft family reunion here, [ where? ] recorded in the Life of Alphonso Taft. 
William Taft / William Taft - Key Events
William Howard Taft takes the oath of office, becoming the twenty-seventh President of the United States. Taft had been handpicked by his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, and trusted to carry through Theodore Roosevelt's progressivism. Not surprisingly, Taft makes many references to his “distinguished predecessor” in his inaugural address. Nevertheless, a newfound chill had arisen between the two men, mirroring the frigid temperatures in the capital that day.
A special session of the United States Congress convenes to consider revision of the tariff. On March 16, Taft sends a special message to Congress urging prompt revision of the tariff.
Robert E. Peary reaches the North Pole.
Helen “Nellie” Taft suffers a stroke, leaving her speech impaired. Her recovery lasts approximately one year.
Delivering a message to Congress, Taft proposes a two-percent tax on the net income of all corporations except banks, which he believes will make up for revenue lost by tariff reductions. He also proposes that Congress adopt a constitutional amendment that would permit the collection of personal federal income taxes.
The Senate passes a resolution calling for a Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, authorizing Congress to collect income taxes.
Taft cables the Chinese regent Prince Chun, requesting that China grant American investors a share of a loan that had been floated in Europe for the purposes of building a railroad in southern China. The Chinese reluctantly grant the United States investment privileges.
Taft signs the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, which establishes a Tariff Board and reduces the tariff.
President Taft begins a tour of the southern and western states of the United States.
While on a tour of the United States, Taft calls the Payne-Aldrich Act “the best” tariff bill ever passed by the Republican Party, leaving both Republican progressives and party regulars dismayed.
Taft visits Mexican dictator Porfirio DÌaz at El Paso, Texas, and at Juarez, Mexico.
Taft returns from his trip across the United States, having made 259 speeches. An observer in Winona, MN comments about Taft, “I knew he was good natured but I never dreamed he was so dull.”
Louis Glavis, chief of the Field Division of the Department of the Interior, charges in Collier's Weekly magazine that Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger conspired to defraud the public domain in the Alaskan coal fields and that the Taft administration was complicit in Ballinger's wrongdoing.
Taft orders two U.S. warships to Nicaragua in response to the deaths of 500 revolutionaries, and two of their American advisors, at the hands of Nicaragua dictator José Santos Zelaya. The further threat of American force convinces Zelaya to retire on December 16.
Special government prosecutor Frank Kellogg wins a Court of Appeals case against Standard Oil, which is ruled a monopoly and in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Taft appoints General Leonard Wood as Chief of Staff of the Army. He also elevates circuit judge Horace H. Lurton to the Supreme Court.
Taft fires Gifford Pinchot, head of the United States Forest Services, upon the release of a letter Pinchot had written to Senator Dolliver of Iowa on behalf of two of his employees implicated in the Glavis case. Pinchot was a leading conservationist and one of the most recognizable officials in the federal government.
Secretary of State Philander Knox tours Central and South America on a good-will mission.
Representative George Norris, a progressive Republican from Nebraska, wins a major procedural victory in the House of Representatives when that body approves a plan by which the members of the House Rules Committee would be elected by the full House, rather than appointed by the Speaker of the House. This represented a major defeat for Speaker “Uncle Joe” Cannon (R-IL), a leading opponent of the progressives.
President Taft appoints Governor Charles E. Hughes of New York to the Supreme Court.
At a congressional investigation into the Glavis-Ballinger dispute, attorney Louis Brandeis, representing Glavis, reveals damaging information about the Taft administration. Congress clears Ballinger and the Taft administration of any wrongdoing, however.
Taft obtains an injunction to prevent western railroads from raising freight rates. Taft was a fervent anti-trust supporter whose unrelenting anti-trust crusade outmatched even that of Teddy Roosevelt.
Taft elects not to greet Theodore Roosevelt upon the latter's return from Africa, a move that widens the rift between the two men.
TR declines Taft's invitation to the White House but praises the President's progress on a number of fronts, including railroad legislation, a postal savings bill, and conservationism.
Congress passes the Mann Act, also known as the “white slave traffic act,” which prohibits the interstate or international transport of women for “immoral purposes.”
Taft signs the Postal Savings Bank Act, which allowed one bank in each state, under federal supervision, to give two percent interest on accounts under $500.
TR returns and delivers the most radical speech of his political career at Osawatomie, Kansas. In his “New Nationalism” speech, Roosevelt outlines a new role for the government in dealing with social issues. His program takes American progressivism in a new direction, endorsing conservation, control of trusts, labor protection, and a graduated income tax. It also embraces the growing conviction that the nation must address the plight of children, women, and the underprivileged.
Taft rejects a proposed dinner, given by the National Conservation Congress, that would honor both himself and TR.
The International Court of Arbitration at The Hague settles a dispute between Britain and the United States over the Newfoundland fisheries.
Taft, in a letter to his brother, comments that Roosevelt “has proposed a program ("New Nationalism") which it is absolutely impossible to carry out except by a revision of the federal Constitution. In most of these speeches he has utterly ignored me. His attitude toward me is one that I find difficult to understand and explain.”
At the New York State Republican Convention in Saratoga, New York, Taft supports Roosevelt's choice for governor of New York, Henry Stimson.
The National Urban League is formed in New York. Its mission is “to enable African Americans to secure economic self-reliance, parity and power and civil rights.”
Taft appoints Willis Van Devanter to the Supreme Court to replace Justice William Moody.
In congressional elections, Democrats win control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1894, gaining a 228 to 162 to 1 majority. In the Senate, Republicans hold a 51 to 41 advantage.
Taft appoints Associate Justice Edward White as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in January, Taft would also appoint Joseph R. Lamar to the Supreme Court.
Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette establishes The National Progressive Republican League in Washington, D.C.
The United States and Great Britain sign a treaty guaranteeing the preservation and protection of pelagic fur seals in Bering Sea waters.
Taft appoints a commission to investigate postal rates for newspapers and magazines its report helps to convince Congress that a recent rate increase was justified.
Taft orders the mobilization of 20,000 American soldiers along the Mexican border after American ambassador to Mexico Henry Lane Wilson reports that the safety of Americans residing in Mexico may be endangered.
Taft appoints Walter Fisher, an ally of Gifford Pinchot, as Secretary of the Interior to replace Richard Ballinger, who resigned.
Taft appoints Henry Stimson secretary of war to replace Jacob Dickinson.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company bursts into flames in Manhattan. Women who worked in very cramped and unsafe conditions stampeded toward inadequate exits 146 women would die, some even leaping to the pavement hoping to survive. The tragedy highlights the need to provide social justice for immigrant sweatshop workers, and the New York legislature responds by undertaking remedial legislation to ensure better working conditions and provide fire safety measures.
The U.S. Supreme Court orders the dissolution of the Standard Oil Company.
Standard Oil Company Dissolved
On May 15, 1911, Chief Justice Edward White issued the Supreme Court's majority opinion upholding the dissolution of the Standard Oil Company. White agreed that the Standard Oil Company's business practices did violate the Sherman Antitrust Act because they were anticompetitive and abusive. However, he muted the circuit court's breakup plan for the company, allowing Standard Oil six months to spin off its subsidiaries instead of the initial three months mandated.
After the circuit court of St. Louis initially ruled against the Standard Oil Company, the company's lawyers prepared their appeal to the Supreme Court. With the support of President William Taft, Attorney General George Wickersham and prosecutor Frank Kellogg presented the government's case in January 1911. Mimicking Kellogg's successful argumentation in front of the St. Louis circuit court, they claimed that Standard Oil's consolidation of the petroleum industry through its trust company and its enormous size restricted interstate trade and produced a monopoly as outlawed in the Sherman Antitrust Act. Standard Oil lawyers countered that the circuit court's decree for the breakup of the company violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment that guaranteed freedom of contract and right to property. The company's lawyers also claimed that the oil trust was beyond the constitutional reach of the Sherman Act because the corporation engaged in production, not commerce.
The way Chief Justice White interpreted the Sherman Act altered the vague sweep of the legislation. The Sherman Act was worded to outlaw every single contract or arrangement that resulted in a restriction of trade. White added a rule of reason test-a centuries-old principle of common law-to his interpretation of the act. If the restrictions of trade produced by a trust were reasonable, that is, did not infringe on individual rights or the public good, then the judiciary need not dissolve the trust through the arbitrariness of the Sherman Act. Only if a trust unreasonably interfered with commerce in a way that damaged the American economy could it be dissolved. White's extraneous interpretation of the Standard Oil case considered the possibility of trusts to be socially beneficial. It also allowed the judiciary to be the ultimate arbitrator to what was a “reasonable” infringement of commerce by a corporation, a principle Justice Harlan claimed violated the intent of the Sherman Act's authors.
President Taft supported the decision, claiming it was not a dramatic departure from previous cases. The President had little ideologically invested in the Standard Oil case and actually supported industrial combinations. The case had been former President Theodore Roosevelt's idea and the centerpiece of his popular trust-busting campaign. Taft could not afford to break with Roosevelt on the case and so he supported the prosecution of Standard Oil for his own political gain. Taft praised the decision while progressives and Democrats attacked White's reason test.
President Porfirio DÌaz of Mexico resigns.
The Supreme Court finds the American Tobacco Company in violation of the Sherman Anti-trust Act and orders its dissolution.
The United States signs a treaty with Nicaragua which would have made that nation a U.S. protectorate. The Senate later rejects the treaty.
Senator Robert LaFollette, a progressive from Wisconsin, announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Taft signs the Canadian Tariff Reciprocity Agreement.
Taft signs general arbitration treaties with France and England. Roosevelt, along with his friend and ally Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, lead the campaign in opposition to the treaties.
Taft vetoes tariff reductions on wool and woolen goods, arguing that the Tariff Board had not completed its investigation.
In the Canadian parliamentary elections, reciprocity with the United States is defeated, killing the treaty signed earlier in the year by the United States and Canada.
Taft tours the western United States to drum up support for his arbitration treaties with England and France. In March 1912, the Senate will approve the treaties, which are rejected by Britain and France.
Taft files suit against U.S. Steel for violating the Sherman Act. In papers filed for the suit, Taft alleges that Roosevelt in 1907 had mistakenly let U.S. Steel purchase the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. This action damages the Taft-TR relationship irreparably.
Francisco Madero, a wealthy landowner, assumes office after being elected President of Mexico.
Andrew Carnegie founds the Carnegie Corporation with an initial endowment of $125,000,000.
New Mexico is admitted as the forty-seventh state.
Taft urges the adoption of an annual federal budget.
American troops occupy Tientsin, China, to protect American interests from the Chinese Revolution.
Arizona is admitted as the forty-eighth state.
President Taft nominates Mahlon Pitney for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Pitney is confirmed by the Senate and takes his oath on March 13.
Theodore Roosevelt announces that his “hat is in the ring” as a candidate for President. Taft and running mate James S. Sherman are re-nominated together, the first time that Republicans endorse a sitting President and vice president for the party ticket.
The Justice Department begins proceedings to halt the merger of the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads.
Dr. Harvey Wiley, Head Chemist at the Department of Agriculture, resigns because of differences with Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson. Wiley was a chief proponent of safe food and drug laws.
Mrs. Taft plants the first of the cherry trees in Washington, D.C., given to the United States by Japan as a symbol of international friendship, along the Tidal Basin of Potomac Park.
Taft signs a bill authorizing the creation of the Children's Bureau in the Department of Commerce. The agency is charged with monitoring child welfare.
The British luxury liner Titanic sinks off the coast of Newfoundland. Taft's key aide, Archie Butt, perishes in the tragedy.
President Taft appoints Julia Lathrop head of the newly-created Children's Bureau. She is the highest ranking woman in the U.S. government.
American Marines land in Cuba to ensure order under the Platt Amendment.
Taft wins the Republican presidential nomination over Theodore Roosevelt. James Sherman is re-nominated for vice-president. The bitter primary campaign between TR and Taft featured a thorough discussion within the Republican Party on the issue of government regulation.
Congress passes a labor law authorizing an eight-hour working day for all workers with federal contracts.
The Democratic Party nominates Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey as its candidate for President. Thomas Marshall of Indiana is nominated as vice president.
TR is nominated for President by the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party. Hiram Johnson of California is nominated for vice president on the ticket.
U.S. battleships are sent to Nicaragua to protect American economic interests and rail lines.
Taft signs the Panama Canal Act, which exempts American coastwise shipping from paying tolls when transiting the Panama Canal. Many Americans, as well as Britons, consider this a violation of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty of 1901.
U.S. Marines are sent to restore order in Santo Domingo.
Vice President John Sherman dies, and Nicholas Butler, the president of Columbia University, replaces him on the Republican presidential ticket.
Democrat Woodrow Wilson defeats Taft and TR in the 1912 presidential election. Wilson wins the electoral college with 435 votes to TR's 88 and Taft's 8. In the popular vote, Wilson defeats TR by over 2 million votes, and Taft by almost 3 million, but TR musters the best third-party showing in history with 27 percent of the popular vote. In congressional elections, Democrats take a majority in the Senate, 51-44-1. In the House, Democrats enjoy a 291-127-17 lead.
On November 5, 1912, President William Taft was defeated by Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the presidential election of 1912. The three-way race between Taft, Wilson, and former President Theodore Roosevelt illustrated the rise of progressivism in presidential politics. Although Roosevelt's Progressive Party had one of the strongest third-party showings in American history, he and Taft divided the Republican Party vote, and Wilson easily won the election.
Before President Theodore Roosevelt left office in 1909, he hand-picked William Taft as his successor and worked to get him elected. But once Taft became President, Roosevelt became increasingly disenchanted with his successor. He felt Taft was not progressive enough, turning his back on environmental conservation and targeting so-called good trusts. Enraged by his protégée's tenure, Roosevelt decided to challenge him for the Republican nomination in 1912.
The Republicans met in Chicago in June 1912, hopelessly split between the Roosevelt progressives and the supporters of President Taft. Roosevelt came to the convention having won a series of preferential primaries that put him ahead of the President in the race for party delegates. Taft, however, controlled the convention floor, and his backers managed to exclude most of the Roosevelt delegates by not recognizing their credentials. These tactics enraged the former President, who then refused to allow himself to be nominated, paving the way for Taft to win on the first ballot.
Roosevelt and his supporters bolted the Republican Party and reconvened in Chicago two weeks later to form the Progressive Party. Roosevelt became the Progressive Party candidate for President, and Governor Hiram Johnson of California joined the ticket as Roosevelt's running mate. Roosevelt electrified the convention with a dramatic speech in which he announced that he would “stand at Armageddon and battle for the Lord” and declared that he felt “as strong as a Bull Moose,” thus giving the new party its popular name.
At the Democratic National Convention in Baltimore at the end of June, Speaker of the House James “Champ” Clark entered as the favorite to gain the party's nomination after a strong showing in the primaries against New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson. Democrats engaged in an intense struggle over the nomination, however, prompted by William Jennings Bryan's criticism that Clark's machine base was too close to big business. Wilson secured the nomination on the forty-sixth ballot of the convention. His selection over the more moderate, less charismatic Clark ensured the Democrats a vibrant, progressive-minded candidate to challenge the vim of Roosevelt and overshadow Taft. Democrats nominated Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana for the vice presidency.
Unlike many proceeding campaigns, which boiled down to contests of personality or character, the election of 1912 remained essentially a campaign of ideas. Wilson and Roosevelt emphasized their progressive ideologies on the campaign trail. Wilson devised the “New Freedom” appellation for his campaign, emphasizing a return to individualism in industrial enterprise encouraged by the end of tariff protection, the breaking up of Wall Street's control of financial markets, and vigorous antitrust prosecution. Wilson believed federal power should be used to break up all concentrations of wealth and privilege, disagreeing with Roosevelt that monopolies could serve a common good through their efficiency.
Roosevelt built his “New Nationalism” campaign on the back of ideas he had been advocating since his return to public life in 1910, including strengthening federal regulatory control over interstate commerce, corporate conglomeration, and labor conditions. President Taft emphasized how his brand of conservatism offered practical solutions to tangible problems facing Americans. He chided the idealism of his opponents as dangerous to the constitutional system. Socialist Eugene V. Debs joined the triumvirate with his campaign more focused on socialist education for American voters than success. Debs urged the public ownership of transportation and communication networks, progressive income and corporate taxes, and a rigorous worker protection laws.
With the Republican Party badly split between its conservative and progressive wings, neither Taft nor Roosevelt rightfully expected victory in November. The election yielded the Democratic Party its greatest victory since before the Civil War as it gained both houses of Congress and the presidency. The popular vote was more an endorsement of progressivism than of Wilson as he and Roosevelt combined for nearly 70 percent of the ballots cast. Wilson failed to win a majority of the popular vote, earning 41 percent of the popular vote to Roosevelt's 27 percent. Taft finished with 23 percent of the vote, and Debs made a considerable showing with 6 percent. Taft won only two states in the Electoral College: Vermont and Utah. Roosevelt carried progressive strongholds California, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Michigan, but could not contend with Wilson's enormous success in his home region of the South and his wins in key Northern states such as New York and Wisconsin. Wilson carried 435 of 531 votes in the Electoral College to become the nation's twenty-eighth President.
How much power does the Constitution give the President to fire the heads of departments, and what does this imply about lower-level civil servants who staff those departments? The former question has been debated since the First Congress, of course and the latter question since the Pendleton Act. And both questions are once again in the front of our minds in the aftermath of Lucia v. SEC and Seila Law v. CFPB—and with Collins v. Mnuchin soon to follow.
As we grapple with these questions, we benefit from the work of scholars who carefully research the historical record with an eye to modern controversies. Aditya Bamzai exemplified such work this year in his study of “Tenure of Office and the Treasury,” and in his paper last year on “Taft, Frankfurter, and the First Presidential For-Cause Removal.”
And now Robert Post has published his own study of Taft and removal—not President Taft’s removal of officers, but Chief Justice Taft’s view of the removal power in Myers v. United States. For those of us looking forward to Post’s contribution to the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise History of the Supreme Court of the United States (Volume X, on the Taft Court), this article is a nice preview of coming attractions. And for students of constitutional law and administration, this article, newly published in the Journal of Supreme Court History (and available in draft on SSRN), is a must-read.
In “Tension in the Unitary Executive: How Taft Constructed the Epochal Opinion of Myers v. United States,” Post explores Taft’s correspondence and other records to reconstruct the Court’s consideration of the Myers case, from its oral argument in December 1924 (not 1923, as erroneously marked by the United States Reports) and re-argument with the newly seated Justice Harlan Stone in April 1925, until its decision nearly two years later. He describes an extraordinary process in which the Chief Justice worked to produce a majority opinion initially on his own (beginning at his summer home in Murray Bay, Canada), before enlisting colleagues’ help in a belabored process of writing and re-writing.
“It would be accurate to say that the Myers opinion was constituted through a most unusual process,” Post concludes. “There appears to be nothing even remotely analogous during the entire Taft Court era,” in which the Chief “essentially constituted his majority of six into a committee that met twice at his home to discuss the holding, structure, and argument of Taft’s drafts.”
By the end, Taft is exasperated by the new Justice (i.e., future Chief Justice) Stone’s relentless barrage of suggestions. Months into drafting, Taft writes to his brother Horace that “youngest member Stone is intensely interested and is a little bit fussy,” and “betrays in some degree a little of the legal school master—a tendency which experience in the Court is likely to moderate.” A week later he wrote to Justice Van Devanter, “Stone continues to tinker, but I don’t think he helps much.”
Yet Justice Stone’s barrage of comments amplified the crucial issue of how far Chief Justice Taft’s logic of executive removal power would cut. And that is the crux of Post’s account: once Chief Justice Taft reached the conclusion that the Constitution empowered the President to remove officers such as Portland’s Postmaster Myers, he needed to explain how far the logic of presidential removal power would cut—to executive officers alone, or to members of independent regulatory commissions, or to members of the civil service?
Post parses Taft’s opinion, especially in light of Justices Brandeis’s and McReynolds’s dissents, and concludes that Taft fell short of the analytic task. “At root,” Post writes, “the weakness of Taft’s position lay in its failure to specify the precise circumstances that required unfettered executive control.”
Moreover, while Taft’s opinion for the Court is remembered for exalting executive power, Post emphasizes that its attempt to identify a limiting principle (in response to McReynolds’s pointed dissent) seemed to concede immense power to Congress. For while Taft’s majority opinion held in favor of unfettered presidential power to remove principal officers, it further explained that an inferior officer, for whom Congress had vested appointment power in the department head rather than the President, might not be removable by the President at will after all. In drawing that line, Post writes, “Taft thus constructed an argument effectively ceding to Congress constitutional authority to determine when discretionary removal power for inferior executive officers was and was not prerequisite for the president’s capacity to execute the laws.”
It is a fascinating account, and Post connects it to modern debates surrounding executive power and originalism. It will entertain its readers and challenge them—especially those of us who are inclined to disagree with the conclusions that he draws with respect to independent agencies specifically, or Originalism and the “unitary executive” more broadly.
Sidestepping doctrinal questions, I would add to Post’s narrative one more story that I think illuminates Taft’s thinking in Myers.
Post connects Chief Justice Taft’s analysis to President Taft’s experience, writing that the Chief Justice “did not approach the Myers case as a blank slate … He would bring to Myers the entire weight of his considerable presidential experience.” Surely this is true, and to Post’s account of Taft’s presidency I would add still one more important episode: the Gifford Pinchot affair.
Pinchot, the first chief of the U.S. Forest Service, was a founding father of modern conservation policy—and a major thorn in President Taft’s side. Appointed to the Forest Service in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt, he continued in office for the first year of Taft’s term. But once Taft replaced Secretary of the Interior James Garfield, who was also a TR appointee, all hell broke loose. Pinchot waged war against the new Secretary, James Ballinger, largely through leaks to the press denouncing Ballinger as an enemy of conservation and a tool of the trusts. By January 1910, Taft had finally had enough, and he fired Pinchot. And that event, making front-page headlines nationwide, marked the beginning of the end of Taft’s presidency, for it inflamed the “Insurgent” Republicans against Taft and spurred TR to undertake the “Bull Moose” presidential campaign that ultimately thwarted Taft’s bid for re-election.
Surely the Pinchot debacle was not far from Taft’s mind when he wrote Myers. Indeed, the majority opinion’s most memorable rhetoric loudly echoes Taft’s letter firing Pinchot. As Chief Justice, Taft would write:
Each head of a department is and must be the President’s alter ego in the matters of that department where the President is required by law to exercise authority … He must place in each member of his official family, and his chief executive subordinates, implicit faith. The moment that he loses confidence in the intelligence, ability, judgment or loyalty of any one of them, he must have the power to remove him without delay.
Fifteen years earlier, President Taft’s January 8, 1910 letter to Pinchot (republished in full by the Washington Post) ended on a similar note:
… When the people of the United States elected me President they placed me in an office of the highest dignity, and charged me with the duty of maintaining that dignity and the proper respect for the office on the part of my subordinates. Moreover, if I were to pass over this matter in silence it would be demoralizing to the discipline of the executive branch of the government.
By your conduct you have destroyed your usefulness as a helpful subordinate of the government, and it therefore now becomes my duty to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to remove you from your office as the forester. Very sincerely yours, William H. Taft.
The Taft-Pinchot-TR story is an entertaining story for anyone who is interested in the modern history of administration. Pinchot was a character every bit as colorful as the Bull Moose whom he adored. “Gifford Pinchot is a dear,” TR once wrote, “but he is a fanatic.”
But more important for present purposes, the Pinchot affair seems invaluable for fully understanding Taft’s own understanding of the constitutional presidency, as informed by his own experience in that office—in addition to everything already offered by Robert Post in his entertaining and enlightening new article.
Adam J. White is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and director of George Mason University’s C. Boyden Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State.
Items included in this collection with the permission of rights holders are listed below. For further use or reproduction of those items contact the rightsholders listed.
Interview of William W. Lehfeldt by William Burr, April 29, 1987, made available here with permission from The Foundation for Iranian Studies, 4343 Montgomery Avenue, Suite 200, Bethesda, MD 20814.
Interview of John S. Service by Rosemary Levinson, 1977, made available here with permission from The Regional Oral History Office, 486 The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California 94720-6000.
Oral history interviews conducted by Mrs. Ann Miller Morin (below), made available here with permission from Mrs. Ann Miller Morin, 3330 North Leisure World Blvd., Apt. 808, Silver Spring, MD 20906.
- Interview of Anne Cox Chambers, October 23, 1985
- Interview of Jane Abell Coon, November 4, 1986
- Interview of Betty Crites Dillon, December 9, 1987
- Interview of Ruth Lewis Farkas, October 24, 1985
- Interview of Rosemary Lucas Ginn, October 28, 1997
- Interview of Constance Ray Harvey, 1988
- Interview of Mari-Luci Jaramillo, February 21, 1987
- Interview of Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick, May 28, 1987
- Interview of Caroline Clendening Laise, May 8, 1985
- Interview of Claire Boothe Luce, September 19, 1986
- Interview of Mary Seymour Olmsted, June 25, 1985
- Interview of Nancy Ostrander, May 14, 1986
- Interview of Rozanne L. Ridgway, March 18, 1987
- Interview of Mabel Murphy Smythe, May 2, 1986
- Interview of Margaret Joy Tibbetts, May 28, 1985
- Interview of Melissa Foelsh Wells, March 27, 1984
- Interview of Faith Ryan Whittlesey, December 7, 1988
These 17 interviews are part of the collection on deposit in the Sophia Smith Collection External .
Taft had written in 1906 that the Jim Crow laws designed to codify segregation and to disenfranchise Southern black voters were not harmful because African Americans were not ready to use the vote well anyway. In Taft&rsquos words, "When a class of persons is so ignorant and so subject to oppression and misleading that they are merely political children, not having the mental stature of manhood, then it can hardly be said that that their voice in the government secures any benefit to them." In 1906, over forty years after emancipation, Taft still favored a "gradual acquisition of political power" for Southern blacks.
During the campaign, President Taft wanted to break the Democratic Party&rsquos stranglehold on the "Solid South," and so he appealed to Southern whites.
Just like the other party platforms, the Republican Party Platform never mentions race. After receiving a great deal of pressure from African Americans the Republicans did include a statement condemning lynchings.
William H. Taft on Agriculture - HISTORY
William Howard Taft is known as the only person to have served both as a Chief Justice and as a President of the United States. He was born on the 15th of September 1857 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
His parents were both of British ancestry. His father, Alphonso Taft, came from Vermont to practice law in order to become a judge. Alphonso later became secretary of war and an attorney general of President Grant. William’s mother, Louise Torrey, came from Massachusetts.
William studied at schools in Cincinnati and was found to be intelligent and a fast learner. He enrolled in Yale in the year 1874 and proved to become popular among various cliques. He graduated second in his batch in 1878 before returning to Cincinnati to attend law school. He was able to pass the bar exams in Ohio in 1880.
He was soon appointed as assistant prosecutor in the state’s Hamilton County a year later. Taft moved on to become the county’s collector of internal revenue, which proved short-lived as he soon moved on to become a private practitioner of law. Four years later he returned to Hamilton County to become an assistant on solicitors.
On the 19th of June 1886, Taft married his childhood sweetheart Helen “Nellie” Herron, a daughter of a high-profile lawyer. They had had three children, namely Robert Alphonso, Helen Herron, and Charles Phelps. Nellie was intelligent and determined to support her husband in his endeavors.
She played a significant role in Taft’s political career, especially when he was soon appointed by President Benjamin Harrison as the US solicitor general. This position did not last, however, when a year later he returned to Cincinnati to become a court judge for a span of eight years.
Chief Civil Administrator
In 1900, Taft was sent to the Philippines by President McKinley to serve as the chief civil administrator. Having displayed an understanding for the Filipinos, he made it a point to contribute to the country’s economy by building schools and roads. He even allowed the people’s participation in government matters.
Taft soon became the Philippines’ first civil governor. As a leader, it was his intention to spread the importance of quality education. At that time the Philippines was still suffering from the trauma brought by the colonialism of the Spaniards and the Roman Catholic friars. Taft saw to it that any hint of their rule was put to an end by achieving an independent country free from land ownership of foreigners. With the help of the Vatican, he was able to sell the land back to the Filipinos.
A few years later when McKinley was assassinated, the presidency was taken over by Theodore Roosevelt, who twice offered Taft a position on the US Supreme Court. Taft declined both offers, saying that his work in the Philippines was yet to come to its conclusion.
Joining Theodore Roosevelt’s Cabinet
Taft had little knowledge that Roosevelt had already set his eyes on him as his ideal successor. The then-current president had ascertained his need for Taft to become part of his Cabinet. Both of them soon arrived to an understanding that Taft would still be able to continue supervising his work in the Philippines, which allowed him to accept the position as Secretary of War.
Taft was known for his ability to multitask. He was able to serve the US administration both at home and in the Philippines. He was able to oversee the construction of the Panama Canal between the year 1904 and 1908. He became one of Roosevelt’s most favorite emissaries, and the president felt confident whenever Taft was by his side.
Taft was offered a position in the Supreme Court in the year 1906. It was at this point when Roosevelt had announced that he would not run after the 1904 elections. A huge number of the ex-president’s supporters saw Taft as one of the best candidates to succeed the presidential seat. Even Roosevelt himself felt confident that his reforms would be continued once his favorite was elected. Taft decided to run for president.
William Jennings Bryan proved to be an intimidating opponent, having served as president twice in the past. Taft’s campaign methods involve undercutting Bryan’s support on liberalism. Bryan, on the other hand, assigned an elitist image on his opponent. After a strong and vigorous campaign period, Taft won by a small margin. In 1908, he was elected president.
Life as President
It was his new set of policies that made his presidential term memorable to Americans. William introduced new controls over the budget as well as an 8-hour workday for all employees serving the government. He also made it a point to pass the campaign-spending disclosure bills, which punished a number of companies that bypassed the anti-trust laws.
He found himself at a serious disadvantage after realizing the amount of contributions Roosevelt had done while in office. People saw him more as a judicial leader rather than a political one. He was often pointed out as a poor public speaker and a procrastinator. Soon there existed a falling out of trust between the two parties, with Roosevelt labeling Taft a huge disappointment and an incompetent individual controlled by important businesses. Taft would later on admit that he found his job overly intimidating.
In 1912 Roosevelt announced that he wanted the Republicans to nominate him as president. Taft, on the other hand, was resolute that his former friend would not succeed. At a 1912 convention he successfully stopped the organizers from giving important seats to a number of Roosevelt delegates. He acquired the Republican nomination afterwards. Roosevelt, desperate not to allow Taft to gain the seat of presidency for the second time, entered the Progressive Party, known as Bull Moose. The act managed to split the Republican votes. Taft’s past administration, however, proved ineffective to the voting masses, allowing his Democratic opponent Woodrow Wilson to win by a large margin.
Supreme Court Chief Justice
After losing the presidency, Taft worked as a Professor of Law in Yale. He spent his time writing articles for newspapers and books, most of which specialized in legal philosophy. He was also seen as an active advocate for world peace via international arbitration, which promoted the idea of a League of Nations. Years later, President Harding would make him Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, a position which he found to be one of the most memorable he took in his entire life. In fact, he once wrote that he never even remembered becoming president. He held the position of Chief Justice until his death.
On the 3rd of February 1930 Taft retired from the position due to ill health. He died a few weeks later on March 8, 1930. He was the first president to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery and was the only Chief Justice to gain a state funeral.
Various tributes to Taft spread after that. Courthouses in Ohio were named after him. So did streets in Cincinnati, a school in California, and a major street in Manila, Philippines, where he worked his hardest as a politician. His family would soon enter politics. Robert Taft, Jr., his grandson, became a Senator in Ohio from 1971 to 1977. William Howard Taft III, meanwhile, became US ambassador to Ireland in 1953.
The Classical Revival bridge was built from 1897 to 1907. It was designed by engineer George S. Morison and architect Edward Pearce Casey.   It is an arch bridge with unreinforced concrete arches and a reinforced concrete deck. The total length of the bridge is 274.5 meters (901 ft). It has been called an "engineering tour de force" and the largest unreinforced concrete structure in the world.  In 1931, the bridge was renamed in honor of U.S. President William Howard Taft, who frequently walked the bridge while Chief Justice of the United States. 
During early planning for the Washington Metro in the 1960s, the Red Line was slated to run across the bridge to connect Dupont Circle and Woodley Park. Instead, the metro was built underground. 
The bridge is "guarded" by four large male lions, two on each end of the bridge (each approx. 7 ft. x 6 ft. 6 in. x 13 ft.). Two of the lions rest on all fours with their heads tilted upwards and mouths slightly open while the other pair lie with their eyes closed, apparently sleeping. They were originally designed and sculpted by Roland Hinton Perry in 1906 out of cast concrete (the bridge as a whole is one of the first cast concrete bridges in the country) and were installed in 1907.
In 1964 the lions were restored and weatherproofed by Washington-based sculptor Renato Luccetti, although this restoration proved to be less than entirely successful. When a major rehabilitation of the bridge began in 1993, the lions, which were in very bad condition, were removed for further restoration. They are currently stored in the Air Rights Tunnel on southbound I-395. The sculptures were finally found to be beyond restoring.  
The United States Commission of Fine Arts worked with the city in the late 1990s to oversee the production of the replacement lions that now sit on the bridge. The sculptor Reinaldo Lopez-Carrizo of Professional Restoration produced molds based on the existing sculptures and photographs, and used them to cast new concrete lion sculptures that were installed on the bridge in July and August 2000.  The same molds were used to cast bronze lions installed at the main pedestrian entrance to the National Zoo farther north on Connecticut Avenue in 2002.  The white lion in the lobby of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts is a quarter-size replica from that effort. 
Twenty-four lampposts are equally spaced along both sides of the Taft Bridge. Created by sculptor Ernest Bairstow in 1906 ,the lampposts are composed of concrete bases (about 5 feet high, 8 inches deep and four feet wide) with painted iron lampposts (about 17 feet high and 4 wide) set in them. The pedestals are decorated with garland and a fluted column featuring acanthus leaves at the top and bottom. Above the leaves is a horizontal bracket with two globes hanging from each side of the column. Each lamppost is topped with a painted iron eagle with its wings spread. 
A replica of the Bairstow eagles is seen in a World War I monument in Middletown, Delaware. 
William H. Taft
Portrait of William Howard Taft from Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the twenty-seventh President, serving
William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on September 15, 1857. His father was Alphonso Taft, who had been President Ulysses S. Grant's secretary of war and then attorney general. His mother was Louisa Maria Torrey Taft. He attended Woodward High School, a local private school, before enrolling at Yale University in 1874. After graduation, Taft returned to Cincinnati, where he studied law at the University of Cincinnati Law School. Taft was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1880. Six years later, Taft married Helen “Nellie” Herron on June 19, 1886.
Taft first entered politics in 1881, when he became the assistant prosecutor of Hamilton County. He continued to practice law in Cincinnati until 1887, when he was appointed as a judge on the Cincinnati Superior Court. Three years later, Taft became solicitor general of the United States and moved to Washington, DC. In 1892, Taft was appointed as a judge on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Ohio was part of the Sixth Circuit. At the same time, he taught law and served as dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School.
Taft had gained the attention of the national Republican Party by this time. In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft to be the Governor General of the Philippines. The United States had gained control of the Philippines as a result of the Spanish-American War. It was Taft's role as Governor General to establish a new civilian government in the Philippines. It was a very difficult position, as some of the Filipinos were revolting against American control. The United States had gained a negative reputation in the region as a result of brutal attempts to put down the rebellion. Taft set out to create a peaceful environment for change on the islands, creating a constitution that was modeled after the United States Constitution and developing other aspects of civilian life.
President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Taft to be his secretary of war in 1904, a position that he held until the end of his term. He traveled around the world, overseeing United States foreign policy objectives during this era.
When Roosevelt decided not to run for reelection in 1908, he chose Taft as his most likely successor. Taft became the Republican Party's nominee and successfully won the presidency, running against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Taft received 51.6 percent of the popular vote and 321 out of 483 electoral college votes.
Taft had promised to continue Roosevelt's Progressive reform policies if he won the presidency. During his administration, the United States ratified the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which allowed for the creation of a graduated income tax, and the Seventeenth Amendment, which established direct election of senators. He continued to pursue businesses with monopolistic tendencies, but Roosevelt believed that Taft did not have a strong commitment to other reforms. In the Election of 1912, Roosevelt challenged Taft for the Republican presidential nomination. Ultimately, Taft still won the nomination, but Roosevelt split the Republicans when he declared his own candidacy on the Progressive Party ticket. This split allowed Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the election. Even Taft's home state of Ohio voted for Wilson in the election.
Taft's presidential administration had an important influence on the expansion of United States trade abroad during this era. Taft referred to his foreign policy as “dollar diplomacy.” The United States would seek to sell its products overseas, especially to Latin America and Asia. This policy led to military intervention to protect American economic interests and, at times, created anti-American sentiment abroad.
After completing his term as president, Taft took a position teaching at the Yale University Law School. President Warren G. Harding appointed Taft as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1921, a position that he held until his death on March 8, 1930. Taft is the only person in American history to serve as head of both the executive and judicial branches of the national government.
The nation’s fattest president loved steaks for breakfast. Then he went on a diet.
One of the most entertaining White House memoirs in history was written not by a president but by a maid.
Her name was Elizabeth Jaffray.
From 1909 to 1926, Jaffray was the chief housekeeper for four presidents — William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge — and in a book titled “Secrets of the White House,” Jaffray chronicled their personal triumphs, foibles and domestic lives.
The meatiest of her stories were about her meatiest boss — Taft, a man so profoundly rotund that after sending a telegram to the secretary of war about a horseback ride, the secretary replied, “Referring to your telegram . . . how is the horse?”
As housekeeper, in addition to cleaning up after presidents, Jaffray was also responsible for their food — not just what they ate for themselves, but what they served to guests. Doing their grocery shopping gave Jaffray tremendous insight into presidential tastes and appetites.
At one end of the spectrum was Coolidge, her last boss.
Coolidge was a cheapskate who complained that the hams he was served were too large. He could eat just one slice. Also, according to the book “Real Life at the White House” by John and Claire Whitcomb, his breakfast consisted of a bit of wheat. How he survived on that caloric intake is one of history’s great mysteries.
At the other end: Taft, who occupied the White House from 1909 to 1913. The nation’s 27th president — who later became chief justice of the United States and an inspiration to a nation of yo-yo dieters — was Jaffray’s hungriest boss.
For him, Jaffray bought “butter by the tub, potatoes by the barrel, fruit and green vegetables by the crate,” she wrote.
Oh, and meat. A lot of meat.
Taft ate steak for breakfast.
“He wanted a thick, juicy twelve-ounce steak nearly every morning,” Jaffray wrote.
“President Taft liked every sort of food with the single exception of eggs,” Jaffray wrote. “He really had few preferences but just naturally liked food — and lots of it.”
The president scarfed down his steak breakfast every day at precisely 8:30 a.m. following a doctor prescribed workout in his bedroom with a personal trainer — a collision of routines that first lady Helen Taft found rather funny, according to Jaffray.
(For the record, the famous story of Taft getting stuck in a White House bathtub? That’s untrue.)
So let’s return to his eating habits. If you think Taft was just ahead of his time — going low-carb before the Atkins diet craze — you will be disappointed to learn that in addition to the steak, Jaffray reports Taft’s breakfasts included “several pieces of toast,” and his “vast quantity of coffee” were supplemented with large helpings of cream and sugar.
Under Jaffray’s watch, Taft got bigger and bigger.
In a diary entry from 1911, the housekeeper notes Taft’s weight — 332 pounds — and that he was going on a diet, apparently at the advice of his doctor. Taft told her, “Things are in a sad state of affairs when a man can’t even call his gizzard his own.”
Taft, who died in 1930 from heart disease, was deflated, but only metaphorically.
A year later, Jaffray wrote this in her diary: “The president looks as if he actually weighs 400 pounds."
Eventually, Taft ordered a reduction in steak sizes.
Instead of 12 ounces, he was served six.
“But somehow,” Jaffray wrote, “he really didn’t take off any great amount of weight while he was president.”