Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Henry A. Floyd (British, American, 1871-ca. 1912; active Washington, D.C. 1895-1904)
oil on canvas
Overall: 42 1/4 in x 32 1/4 in; 107.315 cm x 81.915 cm
This portrait of John W. Foster, which is thought to have been done from life, was purchased by the Department of State from Secretary of State John Hay on May 11, 1900.
Signed "Henry Floyd. 1899."
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 Watson Foster (1836–1917) was born in Pike County, Indiana. He graduated from Indiana University and attended Harvard Law School. He practiced law until he joined the U.S. Army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of colonel. He worked to build support for the reelection of President Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 and was named by Grant as minister to Mexico. There he sought to secure U.S. recognition of the government of Porfirio Díaz and to resolve border issues. Foster subsequently served as minister to Russia, where he advocated for the rights of Jewish U.S. citizens living there, and as minister to Spain, where he tried to secure trade agreements for the Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico. In 1892 President Benjamin Harrison named Foster secretary of state.

As secretary, Foster was involved in negotiations for trade agreements with nations in Latin America. He attempted to counter the expansion of British imperialism in the region and to negotiate a 99-year lease for a naval base in the Dominican Republic. His efforts to annex the Kingdom of Hawaii were unsuccessful.

After leaving office Foster represented the United States in arbitration of seal-hunting rights in the Bering Sea. At the time of his death, in 1917, his son-in-law Robert Lansing was secretary of state. His grandson, John Foster Dulles, would be secretary of state later in the 20th century.

Related Objects

Portrait of John Watson Foster

Portrait of John Watson Foster

American School
ca. 1866-1870
oil on canvas