Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1876-1941)
ca. 1906
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 57 in x 46 in; 144.78 cm x 116.84 cm
This portrait of John Hay was purchased by the Department from Miss Emmett on July 20, 1906, after Mr. Hay's death. In December 1907, at Mrs. Hay's request, the portrait was temporarily removed from the Department to enable the artist to make certain alterations in it.
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


John Milton Hay (1838–1905) was born in Salem, Indiana, and his family later moved to Illinois. He attended Illinois State College and Brown University and then read law in his uncle’s office, in Springfield. After helping in Abraham Lincoln’s campaign for the presidency, Lincoln asked Hay to be one of his private secretaries. Hay’s 10-volume study of Lincoln, written with the other private secretary, John Nicolay, is a classic. Following the Civil War, Hay served at diplomatic posts in Paris, Vienna, and Madrid. President William McKinley appointed him ambassador to Great Britain and then, in 1898, secretary of state. 

With possessions in the Pacific—the Philippines and Hawaii—Hay amplified U.S. interests in the region. When the United States joined an international effort to suppress the anti-foreigner Boxer Rebellion, Hay promoted an “Open Door” policy that protected China’s integrity while assuring equal access to China by all its trading partners. Hay also secured the settlement of the Alaska-Canada boundary controversy. When President McKinley was assassinated, Hay stayed on as secretary of state to serve under President Theodore Roosevelt. Although the new president wielded greater influence over foreign policy than had his predecessor, Hay helped secure, by a 1903 treaty, the right for the United States to construct and defend the Panama Canal. 

Hay died in office in 1905.