Charles G. Dawes

Charles G. Dawes
United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
June 15, 1929  December 30, 1931
President Herbert Hoover
Preceded by Alanson B. Houghton
Succeeded by Andrew Mellon
30th Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1925  March 4, 1929
President Calvin Coolidge
Preceded by Calvin Coolidge
Succeeded by Charles Curtis
1st Director of the U.S. Bureau of the Budget
In office
June 23, 1921  June 30, 1922
President Warren G. Harding
Preceded by Position created
Succeeded by Herbert Lord
10th Comptroller of the Currency
In office
January 1, 1898  September 30, 1901
President William McKinley
Preceded by James H. Eckels
Succeeded by William Barret Ridgely
Personal details
Born (1865-08-27)August 27, 1865
Marietta, Ohio, U.S.
Died April 23, 1951(1951-04-23) (aged 85)
Evanston, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Caro Blymyer Dawes (m. 1889; d. 1951)
Children Rufus Fearing, Carolyn, Dana, Virginia
Alma mater
Religion Congregationalist
Civilian awards Nobel Peace Prize (shared), 1925
Signature Cursive signature in ink
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1917–1919
Rank Brigadier general
Unit American Expeditionary Force
United States War Department (Liquidation Commission)
Battles/wars World War I
Military awards Distinguished Service Medal

Charles Gates Dawes (August 27, 1865 – April 23, 1951) was an American banker, politician, and military general who was the 30th Vice President of the United States (1925–29). For his work on the Dawes Plan for World War I reparations, he was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. Dawes served in the First World War, was the Comptroller of the Currency, the first director of the Bureau of the Budget, and, in later life, the Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Dawes was married to Caro Blymyer on January 24, 1889, and they had four children: Rufus Fearing Dawes, Carolyn Dawes, Dana McCutcheon, and Virginia Dawes.

Early life, family, and career

From 1909 to 1951, Charles G. Dawes lived in this house at 225 Greenwood St. in Evanston, Illinois, which was built in 1894 by Robert Sheppard. The house is a National Historic Landmark.

Dawes was born in Marietta, Ohio in Washington County, son of Civil War General Rufus Dawes and his wife Mary Beman Gates.[1] He graduated from Marietta College in 1884,[2] and from the Cincinnati Law School in 1886.[3] His fraternity was Delta Upsilon.

Dawes was admitted to the bar in Nebraska, and he practiced in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1887 to 1894.[2] and from the Cincinnati Law School in 1886.[4] When Lieutenant John Pershing, the future Army general, was appointed as a military instructor at the University of Nebraska while attending its law school, he and Dawes met and formed a lifelong friendship.[5]

Dawes was a great-great-grandson of Revolutionary War figure William Dawes and the son of Brigadier General Rufus Dawes, who commanded the 6th Wisconsin regiment of the Iron Brigade from 1863 to 1864 during the American Civil War. His brothers were Rufus C. Dawes, Beman Gates Dawes, and Henry May Dawes, all prominent businessmen or politicians. He also had two sisters, Mary Frances Dawes Beach, and Betsey Gates Dawes Hoyt.[6]

In 1894, Dawes acquired interests in a number of Midwestern gas plants, and he became the president of both the La Crosse Gas Light Company in La Crosse, Wisconsin and the Northwestern Gas Light and Coke Company in Evanston, Illinois.[7]

Dawes was a self-taught pianist and a composer. His composition, "Melody in A Major" in 1912 became a well-known piano and violin song, and it was played at many official functions as his signature tune. It was transformed into the pop song "It's All in the Game" in 1951 when Carl Sigman added lyrics. Tommy Edwards' recording of "It's All in the Game" was a number one hit on the American Billboard record chart for six weeks in the fall of 1958.[8] Edwards' version of the song also hit number one on the United Kingdom chart that year.[9] Since then, it has since become a pop standard, recorded hundreds of times by artists including Cliff Richard, The Four Tops, Isaac Hayes, Jackie DeShannon, Van Morrison, Nat "King" Cole, Brook Benton, Elton John, Mel Carter, Donny and Marie Osmond, Barry Manilow, and Keith Jarrett. Dawes is the only Vice-President or winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to be credited with a No. 1 pop hit. Dawes and Sonny Bono are the only people credited with a No. 1 pop hit who were also members of the United States Senate or House of Representatives. Dawes and Bob Dylan are the only persons credited with a No. 1 pop hit to have also won a Nobel Prize.

Marriage and family

Dawes married Caro Blymyer in 1889. They had a son, Rufus Fearing Dawes, and a daughter, Carolyn. They later adopted two children, Dana and Virginia.[7]

Early political career

Dawes' prominent positions in business caught the attention of Republican party leaders. They asked Dawes to manage the Illinois portion of William McKinley's bid for the Presidency of the United States in 1896. Following McKinley's election, Dawes was rewarded for his efforts by being named Comptroller of the Currency, United States Department of the Treasury. Serving in that position from 1898 to 1901, he collected more than $25 million from banks that had failed during the Panic of 1893, and also changed banking practices to try to prevent a similar event in the future.

Upon the death of his father in 1899, Dawes became a First Class Companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

In October 1901, Dawes left the Department of the Treasury in order to pursue a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois. He thought that, with the help of the McKinley Administration, he could win it. McKinley was assassinated and his successor, President Theodore Roosevelt, preferred Dawes's opponent.[10] In 1902, following this unsuccessful attempt at legislative office, Dawes declared that he was done with politics. He organized the Central Trust Company of Illinois, where he served as its president until 1921.[7]

On September 5, 1912, Dawes' 21-year-old son Rufus drowned in Geneva Lake, while on summer break from Princeton University. Reverend W.T. McElveen read Dawes' tribute to his son. Inspired by his son's charity, Dawes wrote,

I have taken him with me among the greatest in the nation and looked in vain for any evidence in him of awe or even curiosity. He has taken me, asking me to help them among the poor and lowly of earth.

In his memory, Dawes created residence homes for down-and-out individuals in both Chicago and Boston.

In 1915, Dawes joined the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution by right of his descent from William Dawes who, on April 18, 1775, accompanied Paul Revere on his famous ride to warn Massachusetts militiamen of the approach of the British Army.

World War I participation and the Nobel Peace Prize

Gen. Charles Dawes during World War I

Dawes helped support the first Anglo-French Loan to the Entente powers of $500 million. Dawes support was important because the House of Morgan needed public support from a non-Morgan banker. The Morgan banker Thomas Lamont said that Dawes' support would "make a position for him in the banking world such as he otherwise could never hope to make."[11] (Loans were seen as possibly violating neutrality, and Wilson was still resisting permitting loans.)

During the First World War, Dawes was commissioned Major, Lieutenant Colonel, and Colonel of the 17th Engineers. In October 1918 he was promoted to Brigadier General.[12] From August 1917 to August 1919, Dawes served in France during World War I as chairman of the general purchasing board for the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), as a member representing the A.E.F. on the Military Board of Allied Supply, and, after the war, as a member of the Liquidation Commission of the United States War Department. He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal[13] and the French Croix de Guerre in recognition of his service. He returned to the United States on board the S.S. Leviathan in August 1919.[14]

In February 1921, the U.S. Senate held hearings on war expenditures. During heated testimony, Dawes burst out, "Hell and Maria, we weren't trying to keep a set of books over there, we were trying to win a war!"[15] He was later known as "Hell and Maria Dawes" (although he always insisted the expression was "Helen Maria").

Dawes resigned from the Army in 1919[7] and became a member of the American Legion. When the Bureau of the Budget was created, he was appointed in 1921 by President Warren G. Harding as its first Director. Hoover appointed him to the Allied Reparations Commission in 1923. For his work on the Dawes Plan, a program to enable Germany to restore and stabilize its economy, Dawes shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925.[7] The plan was deemed unworkable and replaced with the Young Plan, which had harsher provisions against Germany.

Vice Presidency

Dawes (r) and Calvin Coolidge
I should hate to think that the Senate was as tired of me at the beginning of my service as I am of the Senate at the end.
Charles G. Dawes[16]

At the 1924 Republican National Convention, President Calvin Coolidge was quickly selected almost without opposition to be the Republican presidential nominee.[17] The vice presidential nominee was more contested. Illinois Governor Frank Lowden was nominated, but declined. Coolidge's next choice was Idaho Senator William Borah, but he also declined the nomination. The Republican National Chairman, William Butler, pledged to nominate then Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, but he was not sufficiently popular.[17] Eventually, the delegates chose Dawes to be the vice presidential nominee. Coolidge quickly accepted the delegates' choice and felt that Dawes would be loyal to him and make a strong addition to his campaign.[17]

Dawes was elected Vice President of the United States on November 4, 1924 with more popular votes than the candidates from the Democratic and Progressive parties combined.[18] Dawes and Coolidge were inaugurated on March 4, 1925.

Soon after his election, Dawes sent a letter to the president saying that he would not be attending cabinet meetings. This is believed to be the beginning of a feud between the two which brought the reputation of the Vice Presidency to its nadir for the 20th century.

Having angered the President, Dawes publicly criticized the U.S. Senate. At that time, the Vice President was inaugurated in the Senate Chamber, where he would give an inaugural address. After that, the parties would go to the outside platform, where the President would take the oath. Dawes made a fiery, half-hour address denouncing the rules of the Senate, the seniority system and many other things that Senators held dear.[16] His speech overshadowed that of Coolidge, which angered the President.

Only days after Dawes started presiding over the Senate, he made a major error. On March 10, the president's nomination of Charles B. Warren to be United States Attorney General was being debated. In the wake of the Teapot Dome scandal and other business-related scandals, Democrats and Progressive Republicans objected to the nomination because of Warren's close association with the Sugar Trust. At midday six speakers were scheduled to address Warren's nomination. Desiring to take a break for a nap, Dawes consulted the majority and minority leaders, who assured him that no vote would be taken that afternoon. After Dawes left the Senate, however, all but one of the scheduled speakers decided against making formal remarks, and a vote was taken. When it became apparent that the vote would be tied, Republican leaders hastily called Dawes at the Willard Hotel. He jumped in a taxi and sped toward the Capitol. But in the intervening time, the only Democratic senator who had voted for Warren switched his vote against him. By the time Dawes arrived, there was no longer a tie to break. The nomination had failed by a single vote—the first such rejection of a president's nominee in nearly 60 years.[16]

This incident was chronicled in a derisive poem, based on the Longfellow poem "Paul Revere's Ride;" it began with the line, "Come gather round children and hold your applause for the afternoon ride of Charlie Dawes." The choice of poem was based on Charles Dawes being descended from William Dawes, who rode with Paul Revere.

Dawes convinced the Senate to pass the McNary–Haugen Farm Relief Bill; Coolidge vetoed the bill.[16]

In 1928, the Republican presidential nomination went to Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover. Rumors circulated about Dawes serving as the vice-presidential candidate on the ticket with Hoover. Coolidge made it known that he would consider an affront the renomination of Dawes as Vice President and Charles Curtis of Kansas, known for his skills in collaboration, was chosen as Hoover's running mate.[19]

However, with the esteem in which Europeans held Dawes, he made a better candidate for an ambassadorship.[20]

Court of St. James's and the RFC

After Dawes had finished his term as Vice President, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom (i.e., to the Court of St. James's) from 1929 to 1932.[21] Overall, Dawes was considered to be a very effective U.S. ambassador, as George V's son, the future Edward VIII, would later confirm in his memoirs. Dawes was rather rough-hewn for some of his duties, disliking having to present American débutantes to the King. On his first visit to the royal court, in deference to American public opinion, he refused to wear the customary Court dress, which then included knee breeches. This episode was said to upset the King, who had been prevented by illness from attending the event.

As the Great Depression continued to ravage the United States, Dawes accepted President Herbert Hoover's appeal to leave diplomatic office and head the newly created Reconstruction Finance Corporation. But after a few months, Dawes resigned from the RFC. As a board member of the failing City National Bank and Trust Company of Chicago, he felt obligated to work for its rescue. (Political opponents alleged that, under Dawes' leadership, the RFC had given his bank preferential treatment.) This marked the end of Dawes' career in public service. For the 1932 election, Hoover considered the possibility of adding Dawes to the ticket in place of Curtis, but Dawes declined the potential offer.[22]

Later life

Dawes resumed a role in the banking business. He served for nearly two decades as chairman of the board of the City National Bank and Trust Co., from 1932 until his death in Evanston in 1951. He is interred in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago.

Legacy and honors

See also

Selected bibliography

The list below was retrieved from Haberman's 1972 Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901–1925. This list can also be obtained here.


  1. Dunlap, Annette B. (2016). Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. Northwestern University Press and the Evanston History Center. p. 12. ISBN 9780810134195.
  2. 1 2 Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. p. 17.
  3. Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. p. 18.
  4. Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. pp. 20–38.
  5. Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. pp. 24–25.
  6. Gates Dawes Ancestral Lines
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Raleigh, NC: Pentland Press, Inc. p. 103. ISBN 1571970886.
  8. Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, revised and enlarged 6th edition (New York: Billboard Publications, 1996), 201.
  9. (Hatfield 1997: 360)
  10. (Waller 1998:274)
  11. Merchants of Death Revisited, p. 61
  12. New York Times. October 4, 1918.
  13. "Valor awards for Charles G. Dawes".
  14. New York Times. August 7, 1919.
  15. Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Dawes Gates: a Life. p. 144.
  16. 1 2 3 4 Hatfield, M. O. (1997). Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789–1993. Senate Historical Office. Washington: United States Government Printing Office
  17. 1 2 3 Hatfield 1997: 363
  18. Hatfield 1997: 364
  19. Mencken, Henry Louis; George Jean Nathan (1929). The American mercury. p. 404.
  20. Dunlap, Annette B. (2016). Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. Northwestern University Press and the Evanston History Center. p. 223. ISBN 9780810134195.
  21. Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. pp. 221–244.
  22. Witcover, Jules (2014). The American Vice Presidency. Smithsonian Books. p. 296.
  23. Dunlap, Annette B. Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. pp. 178–179.


  • Dunlap, Annette B. (2016). Charles Gates Dawes: a Life. Northwestern University Press and the Evanston History Center. ISBN 9780810134195. 
  • Haberman, F. W. (Ed.). (1972). Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901–1925. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing.
  • Hatfield, M. O. (1997). Vice Presidents of the United States, 1789–1993. Senate Historical Office. Washington: United States Government Printing Office "".  External link in |title= (help);  (66.0 KiB)
  • Pixton, J. E. (1952). The Early Career of Charles G. Dawes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Sortland, R. A. (1958). Charles G. Dawes: Businessman in Politics. Unpublished manuscript, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.
  • Timmons, B. N. (1953). Portrait of an American: Charles G. Dawes. New York: Holt.
  • Waller, R. A. (1998). The Vice Presidents: A Biographical Dictionary. Purcell, L. E. (Ed.). New York: Facts On File.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Charles Gates Dawes.
Political offices
Preceded by
Calvin Coolidge
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1925 – March 4, 1929
Succeeded by
Charles Curtis
Preceded by
New office
Director of the Bureau of the Budget
Served under: Warren G. Harding

June 23, 1921 – June 30, 1922
Succeeded by
Herbert Lord
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Alanson B. Houghton
U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom
Succeeded by
Andrew W. Mellon
Government offices
Preceded by
New office
President of the
Reconstruction Finance Corporation

February 2 – June 7, 1932
Succeeded by
Atlee Pomerene
Preceded by
James H. Eckels
Comptroller of the Currency
Succeeded by
William Barret Ridgely
Party political offices
Preceded by
Calvin Coolidge
Republican nominee for
Vice President of the United States

Succeeded by
Charles Curtis
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