Cornelius Newton Bliss

Cornelius Newton Bliss
21st United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 6, 1897  February 19, 1899
President William McKinley
Preceded by David Rowland Francis
Succeeded by Ethan A. Hitchcock
Personal details
Born (1833-01-26)January 26, 1833
Fall River, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 9, 1911(1911-10-09) (aged 78)
29 East 37th Street
New York City, New York, U.S.[1]
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Elizabeth Plummer
Children Lillie P. Bliss
Cornelius Newton Bliss Jr.
Profession Politician, Lawyer

Cornelius Newton Bliss (January 26, 1833 – October 9, 1911) was an American merchant, politician and art collector, who served as Secretary of the Interior in the administration of President William McKinley and as Treasurer of the Republican National Convention in four successive campaigns.[1]

Early life and career

Cornelius Bliss was born at Fall River, Massachusetts. He was educated in his native city and in New Orleans, where he early entered his stepfather's counting house. Returning to Massachusetts in 1849, he became a clerk and subsequently a junior partner in a prominent Boston commercial house. Later he moved to New York City to establish a branch of the firm. The firm, originally Wright & Whitman, in 1874 became Wright, Bliss & Fabyan upon the death of the senior partner, Mr. John S. Wright. On the death in 1881 of Mr. Eben Wright, the firm became Bliss, Fabyan & Co., under which name it continued until well into the 20th Century. Bliss, Fabyan & Co. was one of the largest wholesale dry-goods houses in the country.


A consistent advocate of the protective tariff, he was one of the organizers and for many years president of the American Protective Tariff League. In politics an active Republican, he was chairman of the Republican state committee in 1887 and 1888, and contributed much to the success of the Harrison ticket in New York in the latter year. He was treasurer of the Republican National Committee from 1892 to 1904. He turned down the offer of becoming United States Secretary of the Treasury under President McKinley but he served as United States Secretary of the Interior in President William McKinley's cabinet from 1897 to 1899. In 1900 he was invited to stand as President McKinley's vice-president. He refused the offer. The following year McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt (who did accept the offer) became President.

Death and legacy

Bliss' health began to fail in 1910. He spent the Summer of 1911 at his country home in Rumson, New Jersey, accompanied by his physician Arthur W. Bingham, but returned to New York City in September due to his frailty. He spent the last two weeks of his life at his residence at 29 East 37th Street before succumbing to heart disease at 7 pm on October 9, 1911.[1] He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.[2]

Cornelius Bliss was a collector of fine art. He owned works by Arthur Bowen Davies, along with Claude Monet's The Manneporte near Étretat, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[3][4]

He was also a member of the famous Jekyll Island Club (aka The Millionaires Club) on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

He is the father of Lillie P. Bliss (1864-1931), one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and financier Cornelius Newton Bliss Jr. (1875-1949).


  1. 1 2 3 Obituary (10 October 1911). "Cornelius N. Bliss, Merchant, is Dead". New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  2. Cornelius Bliss at Find a Grave
  3. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History". The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  4. The Frick Collection. "Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America". The Frick Collection. Retrieved 27 March 2012.
Party political offices
Preceded by
Chester S. Cole
Chairman of the New York Republican State Committee
1887 – 1889
Succeeded by
John N. Knapp
Political offices
Preceded by
David Rowland Francis
U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Served under: William McKinley

1897 – 1899
Succeeded by
Ethan A. Hitchcock
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