Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Albert Rosenthal (American, 1863-1939)
United States: District of Columbia: Washington
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 45 in x 35 in; 114.3 cm x 88.9 cm
This portrait of William R. Day, which was painted from life in 1903, was purchased by the Department of State from Mr. Rosenthal on January 18, 1904.
Signed "Albert Rosenthal 1903." An inscription on the back includes information that the portrait was painted in Washington, D.C. in October-November 1903.
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


William Rufus Day (1849–1923) was born in Ravenna, Ohio. He graduated from the University of Michigan and began a law practice in Canton, Ohio, where he became friends with another lawyer, the future president William McKinley. Following his election, President McKinley chose Day to serve as assistant secretary of state, and in this position he took over the duties of the increasingly alienated secretary, John Sherman. When Sherman resigned, Day succeeded him as secretary.

Congress had just declared war against Spain following the explosion of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, but the explosion, which was later understood as an accident, was not the only reason for war. The U.S. public had long been stirred to sympathy with the rebels in the Cuban independence movement, and U.S. businesses sought to protect their interests in Cuba. The conflict, which lasted four months, ended in a decisive U.S. victory. Day vacated his position to lead the peace commission in Paris. By its terms, Spain ceded its colonies of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico to the United States for $20 million. Cuba was guaranteed its independence. During the war, in July 1898, the U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution annexing Hawaii. Within a year the U.S. had become an imperial power, with overseas possessions for the first time. 

Shortly thereafter President McKinley appointed Day to the U.S. court of appeals. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served for two decades.