Happy 200th Birthday, John Sherman!

Today, May 10th, marks a milestone: the 200th birthday of John Sherman, a monumental figure in the history of Mansfield.

John Sherman was born in Lancaster, Ohio, on 10 May 1823, in the same house as his brother William Tecumseh Sherman, who would become one of the most notable generals of the U.S. Civil War. John Sherman would go on to study law in Mansfield, and have a career of more than 40 years in the federal government, including appointments as Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State.

Scroll through this post for a timeline of Sherman’s life!


John Sherman is born in Lancaster to Charles Robert and Mary (Hoyt) Sherman, as the eighth of their eleven children.

Charles would pass away when John was only six years old.

John Sherman at 19 years old


John moves to Mansfield to begin studying law with his oldest brother, Charles Taylor Sherman.

Charles Taylor Sherman


John Sherman marries Margaret Cecelia Stewart, the daughter of a local judge. She had been raised in Mansfield, and then attended the Granville Female College and the Patapsco Institute of Maryland.

Margaret Cecelia Sherman
John Sherman at 23
Sherman’s first home in Mansfield

1854: Elected to the House of Representatives

In 1860, Sherman is elected to the House for the third time. He falls short of being elected Speaker of the House by 3 votes, and instead is chosen to be the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

1861: Elected to the Senate

In 1861, Ohio Senator Salmon P. Chase is chosen by newly-elected President Abraham Lincoln to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. John Sherman is selected to take his place in the Senate

During this time, the conflicts that would erupt into the Civil War were escalating. As a member of first the House and then the Senate, Sherman was well aware of the situation, and he also corresponds with his brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, about it.

John Sherman’s house in Mansfield, beginning in 1867.


Sherman is re-elected to the Senate for his first full term. He becomes the chairman of the Finances Committee.

Also in 1867, Sherman travels through Europe during the Senate recess. During this trip, he is invited to dine with Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte III of France at the Tuileries.


John Sherman introduces a Concurrent Resolution before the Senate to encourage Congress to fund the completion of the Washington Monument, construction of which had halted in 1848 due to lack of funds. The resolution passes, and on 2 August 1876 President Ulysses S. Grant signs a law appropriating funds for the completion of the Monument.


Rutherford B. Hayes is elected president, and selects John Sherman as his Secretary of the Treasury.


Sherman is elected to the Senate for the fourth time.

In the spring, he also receives the honorary degree Doctor of Law from Kenyon College.


In February, John Sherman serves as the chairman of the dedication ceremonies for the Washington Monument.

In December, Sherman is elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate.


1890 marked the passage of Sherman’s signature legislation, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The act was the first federal legislation that addressed trusts and monopolies. The law was used as the basis of anti-trust suits against many companies over the years, including Standard Oil, General Electric, AT&T, and Microsoft.

The Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Photo from the National Archives.


Sherman is selected to become President William McKinley’s Secretary of State.


Sherman resigns his post as Secretary of State and retires to Mansfield.

John Sherman with his grandson, John Sherman McCallum


On October 22, John Sherman dies in Washington, D.C. A large funeral was held in D.C. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, and then his body was brought back to Mansfield to be buried with Cecelia, who had died in January from a stroke, in Mansfield Cemetery.


John Sherman and the Washington Monument

Since monument day was this week (April 18th), we thought it only appropriate to discuss one of the most well-known monuments in our nation: the Washington Monument in Washington, D. C.

Photo by Mary McKinley.

The construction of the Washington Monument began in 1848, but was halted in 1854 as the private organization that had been funding the construction ran out of funds. The monument stood incomplete at about 156 feet tall for many years, far short of its intended 555 feet.

On 5 July 1876, Senator John Sherman brought a concurrent resolution before the Senate, proposing that Congress “at this the beginning of the second century of national existence, do assume and direct the completion of the Washington Monument in the city of Washington, and instruct the committees on appropriations of the respective Houses to propose suitable provisions of law to carry this resolution into effect” [1]. Concurrent resolutions are not enforceable as law, but proposing the resolution apparently had enough impact to get Congress to move on the idea. After some debate, Congress passed an act to fund the monument later in July, and it was signed by President Ulysses S. Grant on 2 August 1876.

With funds once again available, construction on the monument resumed. However, the original marble was no longer available, which is why the color of the monument at the base is different than at the top, and repairs had to be made to the foundation of the monument. With these challenges and delays, the construction of the monument was not completed until late in 1884, and the ceremonies to dedicate the monument did not happen until 1885 [2].

John Sherman in the 1880s. Sherman Room Archives.

John Sherman was first elected to the federal legislature in 1854 as member of the House of Representatives from Ohio, and was subsequently elected to the United States Senate in 1861. He would be a senator for more than thirty years, but he also served as Secretary of the Treasury for Rutherford B. Hayes, from 1877 to 1881, returning to the Senate after his term was up [3].

So in 1885, John Sherman was a senator representing Ohio, and had recently been Secretary of the Treasury. The Washington monument was being completed, and Congress decided that since the completion of the monument had been funded by the people, it would be fitting for there to be a dedication ceremony for the completed monument. As the man who had originally proposed that Congress provide funding to complete the monument, Sherman was chosen to chair the commission of House members and senators who planned the dedication. As such, when the day of the dedication ceremony dawned, in the freezing cold mid-December weather, Sherman was the first to give a speech.

A Senators Ticket for the Dedication of the Washington Monument on 21 February 1885, with John Sherman’s signature as the Chairman of Commission. Stamped with the number 13. Sherman Room Archives.
A ticket for the Dedication of the Washington Monument on 21 February 1885, with John Sherman’s signature as the Chairman of Commission. Stamped with the number 1142. Sherman Room Archives.

Sherman’s Speech

“The Commission authorized by the two Houses of Congress to provide for suitable ceremonies for the dedication of the Washington Monument direct me to preside and to announce the order of ceremonies deemed proper on this occasion. I need not say anything to impress upon you the dignity of the event you have met to celebrate. The monument speaks for itself–simple in form, admirable in proportions, composed of enduring marble and granite, resting upon foundations broad and deep, it rises into the skies higher than any work of human art. It is the most imposing, costly and appropriate monument ever erected in honor of one man. It had its origin in the profound conviction of the people, irrespective of party, creed or race, not only in this country, but in all civilized countries, that the name and fame of Washington should be perpetuated by the most imposing testimonial of a Nation’s gratitude to its hero, statesman and father. This universal sentiment took form in this movement. Private citizens were associated under the name of the Washington National Monument Association who secured from Congress an act authorizing them to erect the proposed monument on this ground, selected as the most appropriate site by the President of the United States. Its corner stone was laid on the 4th of July 1848, by the Masonic fraternity with imposing ceremonies in the presence of the chief officers of the Government and a multitude of citizens. It was partially erected by the National Monument Association with means furnished by the voluntary contributions of the people of the United States. On the 5th of July, 1876, one hundred years after the Declaration of American Independence, Congress, in the name of the people of the United States, formally assumed and directed the completion of the monument. Since then the foundation has been strengthened and the shaft has been steadily advanced, and now the completed structure stands before you. It is a fit memorial of the greatest character in human memory. It looks down upon the scenes most loved by him on earth, the most conspicuous object in landscape, full of objects deeply interesting to the American people, and all eyes turn to it and all hearts feel the inspiration of its beauty, symmetry and grandeur.

Strong as it is it will not endure so long as the memory of him in whose honor it was built, but while it stands it will be evidence to many succeeding generations of the love and reverence this generation cherished for the name and fame of George Washington, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen; more than even this, [he is] the prototype of purity, manhood and patriotism for all lands and all time.”

John Sherman, Speech at the Dedication Ceremonies of the Washington Monument, 21 February 1885. Printed in the Belville Star, 26 February 1885, page 3. Read it here.

John Sherman used in his speech the phrase “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.” This phrase was not of Sherman’s creation, but rather a quotation from Henry Lee’s eulogy at Washington’s memorial service in the chambers of Congress on 26 December 1799.

Sherman’s speech was published and paraphrased in newspapers around the country, along with the other speeches given at the event. Sherman’s speech was generally remarked upon to have been short but well-done; it even garnered this rather reluctant praise in the Farmer and Mechanic newspaper of Raleigh, North Carolina: “We hate to compliment the old South-Hater, but must say that John Sherman’s speech at the Washington monument ceremonies reads the best of the lot.” [4]

Despite his critics, Sherman would continue on in his career as a senator after the dedication ceremonies, and would serve as the Secretary of State under President William McKinley before retiring to his long-time home in Mansfield in 1898. While Sherman’s most notable contribution to the United States is usually considered to be the Anti-Trust act in his name, it is also worth remembering his contributions to the effort to complete the United States’ monument to its first president, the Washington Monument.


  1. Frederick Loviad Harvey, History of the Washington National Monument and Washington National Monument Society, .p. 90-91.
  2. US National Park Service, “History & Culture [of the Washington Monument].”
  3. “John Sherman: A Featured Biography.” https://www.nps.gov/wamo/learn/historyculture/index.htm
  4. Farmer and Mechanic [Raleigh, North Carolina], 25 Feb 1885, page 2. Chronicling America.

The Bust of John Sherman

The first time John Sherman met Abraham Lincoln was on February 23, 1861, the day the President-elect arrived in Washington D. C.  He arrived in disguise with his valet and bodyguard William H. Johnson after evading a suspected assassination in Baltimore.  Sherman wrote of meeting Lincoln and his wife in his autobiography.  The event happened at Willard’s Hotel, where Sheman was then staying.  When he was introduced, Lincoln took both of Sherman’s hands and said, “You are John Sherman!  Well, I am taller than you; let’s measure.”  They then stood back to back and someone announced that Lincoln was two inches taller.  Sherman said their conversation was cheerful and that a “congratulations for his escape from Baltimore ‘roughs’ was received with a laugh.”


Lincoln arriving in Washington D. C. with William H. Johnson, 1861

Both of these men would later be immortalized by American Sculptor, Daniel Chester French.  The statue of Lincoln, in the Lincoln Memorial, would become much more famous and is still one of the top tourist attractions in Washington D. C. today.  Sherman inquired about a bust in 1886 while Senator.  In a letter received by Sherman dated May 12, 1886, from French, French indicated the price for a marble bust sculpture was $1000 and that he would soon be in Washington D. C. to finish a bust of former Vice President Henry Wilson and that he could stay and begin Sherman’s if he desired.

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John Sherman Marble Bust by Daniel Chester French, 1886

French was born April 20, 1850, to Anne Richardson and Henry Flagg French.  In 1867 the family moved to Concord, Massachusetts where French became friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and decided to pursue sculpting under the influence of Lousia May Alcott’s sister, May.  Though he is most famous for his Lincoln design, he also is credited with many other monuments and sculptures. This includes the Justice statue, which adorns the pediment of the Appellate Division Courthouse of New York State in Manhattan and the bronze doors of the Boston Public Library.

Smithsonian Institution - The National Gallery of Art p 66 1922

from The Smithsonian Institution – The National Gallery of Art catalog (1922), p 66

The bust of John Sherman eventually came into the possession of his grandson, Lt. John Sherman McCallum, and was donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in the Memory of John Sherman in 1920.  The bust is currently part of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.


The Razing of John Sherman’s Mansion


John Sherman’s home was razed not long after his death on October 22, 1900, it stood for only four more years.  There were those who wished to save the property and others for various reasons, either financial or they were not a fan of the former senator, who hoped the property would be demolished.  The two articles below from the Mansfield Daily Shield show these two points of view in 1904.  Eventually, the home was razed and lots were sold.  The full page ad from the Mansfield News describes the 71 lots made from the Sherman property.


Mansfield Daily Shield, October 4, 1904, p. 5


Mansfield Daily Shield, October 6, 1904, p. 2

ad 14MAR1904

Full page ad from the Mansfield News, March 14, 1904