William Howard Taft
|1909-1913||Republican||September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio||March 8, 1930, in Washington, D.C.|
|Vice President||First Lady||Previous Occupations||States in Union|
|James S. Sherman||Helen Herron Taft (Wife)||Lawyer, Public Official||48|
Taft’s parents were Alphonso and Louise M. Torrey Taft. Taft married Helen Herron in 1886. They had three children: Robert Alphonso, Helen, and Charles Phelps II.
President Roosevelt chose Taft as the Republican presidential candidate to succeed him, and Taft won the election easily. As president, Taft followed Roosevelt’s policies and continued to support workers and the poor, as well as oppose large and powerful businesses. In fact, Taft originated more antitrust suits than Roosevelt had. Taft is also credited with creating the Department of Labor and extending the Civil Service.
Two amendments to the Constitution were approved during Taft’s administration. The 16th Amendment allowed the federal government to collect personal income taxes. The 17th Amendment allowed for senators to be elected by the people for the first time. Previously, senators were elected by the state legislatures.
By the end of Taft’s term, Roosevelt had lost confidence in him and chose to run once again against Taft for the Republican Party’s nomination during the next election. However, Taft won the nomination, so Roosevelt ran for president as an Independent. Neither won the election––the Democrat Woodrow Wilson won overwhelmingly. Taft retired happily from the presidency and taught law at Yale University. Then in 1921 he was appointed as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Becoming Chief Justice had in fact been Taft’s lifelong ambition, and he recognized it as his most significant achievement, once having noted, “I don’t remember that I ever was President.”
“Our international policy is always to promote peace.” (Inaugural Address; March 4, 1909)
“Machine politics and the spoils system are as much an enemy of a proper and efficient government system of civil service as the boll weevil is of the cotton crop.”
“Anti-semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America.”
“I would rather be chief justice of the United States, and enjoy a quieter life than that which comes with the White House.” (1910)
At This Time
1909: Poet Ezra Pound publishes Exultations • Vladimir Lenin publishes Materialism and Empiric Criticism • Picasso paints Harlequin • T. H. Morgan begins research in Genetics • 1910: The U.S. Congress passes the Mann Act, which prohibits the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes in an effort to stop prostitution • The domestic architectural designs of Frank Lloyd Wright become influential in Europe • The South American Tango becomes popular in the U.S. and Europe • Marie Curie publishes Treatise on Radiography • Murray and Hjort embark on the first deep-sea expedition • The “week-end” becomes popular in the U.S • 1912: C. G. Jung publishes The Theory of Psychoanalysis • F. Oppenheimer publishes The Social Problem and Socialism • Modigliani sculpts Stone Head • Approximately 5 million Americans visit the cinema daily • C. T. R. Wilson’s cloud-chamber photographs help detect protons and electrons • The S.S. Titanic sinks on her maiden voyage after hitting an iceberg, killing 1,517 people
Did You Know?
Taft was a president of many “firsts:” the first president to own a car, the first president to throw the first ball on opening day of baseball season, the first president to play golf, and the first president whose funeral was broadcast on radio. Furthermore, he was the first and only president to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1921-1930).
In addition to these “firsts,” Taft was also the largest president at 6 feet 2 inches and approximately 325 pounds. He apparently was very good natured about his size. Before becoming president, he once visited a small town on legal business. After his meeting, he learned that the next train would not arrive for several hours, although a fast train would run through in an hour. He therefore wired the railroad superintendent to ask if the fast train would stop for a “large party.” The superintendent agreed. When Taft boarded the train, he remarked to the bewildered conductor, “You can go ahead; I am the large party.”
Information about the William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Lesson plans related to Taft’s life and home.
In-depth essays created by the University of Virginia on Taft’s life and administration.
Field Trips for William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft National Historic Site
Restored to its original condition, the Taft house is the birthplace and boyhood home of the only person to serve as President and Chief Justice of the U.S. Adjacent to the house, is the Taft Education Center.