Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910

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Thomas Collier Platt was a Republican Senator from New York. It was through his influence in the Republican party that Theodore Roosevelt became William McKinley's running mate in the 1900 presidential election.

From the description of Thomas Collier Platt photograph album of Theodore Roosevelt, not before 1905. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 612813357

Thomas Collier Platt: clerk of Tioga County (N.Y.), 1859-1961; member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1873-1877, and Senate, 1881, 1896-1909; president of the Tioga National Bank; president of the U.S. Express Company, 1880-1910; president of Quarantine Commissioners of New York, 1880-1888.

From the description of Thomas Collier Platt papers, 1851-1915 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702168327

Thomas Collier Platt (1833-1910) of Owego, New York, was an American legislator and politician. A two-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1873-1877) and a three-term U.S. Senator from New York in the years 1881 and 1897-1909, he is best known for his contribution to the creation of the City of Greater New York which incorporated the four outer boroughs of Kings, Queens, Richmond and Bronx counties.

From the guide to the Thomas Collier Platt Letters, 1896-1910, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)

Thomas Collier Platt: clerk of Tioga County (N.Y.), 1859-1961; member of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1873-1877, and Senate, 1881, 1896-1909; president of the Tioga National Bank; president of the U.S. Express Company, 1880-1910; president of Quarantine Commissioners of New York, 1880-1888.

(adapted from Richard L. McCormick's article in the Spring, 1975, Yale Library Gazette)

Thomas Collier Platt was born on July 15, 1833, in Owego, Tioga County, New York. His father William was committed to making his youngest son, Thomas, a minister. "Not at all favorably impressed" with the prospect Thomas, nevertheless, entered Yale College in 1849 with the expectation of proceeding for the degree of Doctor of Divinity. Poor health cut short his college education after a single year. (In 1876 Yale awarded Platt, then a congressman, an honorary Master of Arts degree.)

Returning to Owego, Platt began his business career as a druggist entering into a partnership with Frederic K. Hull. Late in 1852, Platt married Ellen Lucy Barstow of Owego. Though the drug store prospered, Platt's preoccupation was with politics. An early supporter of the newly-formed Republican party, Platt cast his first vote in 1856 for John C. Fremont. Despite nationwide defeat, the fledgling Republicans established their dominance in Tioga County, and Platt prospered politically with his party. Due to his ill health Platt did not serve in the Civil War, but remained at home raising money to support Union troops and persuading voters to support the Republican administration. By the late 1860s, Platt was Republican County Chairman in Tioga, and already a political power in the Southern Tier

From 1870 until 1881, Platt tied his political career closely to that of Senator Roscoe Conkling. State party conventions in the early 1870s saw a succession of battles for leadership between Conkling and Reuben E. Fenton. At each convention Platt worked wholeheartedly for Conkling, marshalling the votes of the "Southern Tier" in the Senator's support. Conkling's triumph over Fenton continued Platt's political advancement. Platt was elected to Congress in 1872 and 1874 but declined re-election in 1876. That year saw Platt's first attendance at a National Republican convention, not surprisingly as a leader of the movement to nominate Conkling for President. In recognition of his loyalty Conkling made Platt chairman of the Republican State Committee.

Platt's rise to power in the 1870s was not based on his identification with any abstract political principles or espousal of any significant policies. Rather, Platt had made himself a careful student of the leadership tactics of Thurlow Weed, Reuben Fenton, and Conkling. He had learned well the details of party management, the day in and day out business of rewarding loyalty and punishing infidelity, granting patronage, collecting campaign funds and getting the faithful out to vote on election day.

During the decades when he was party boss, Platt added a significant new element to the techniques of his predecessors by rationalizing and centralizing the flow of corporate campaign funds to the party coffers. Rather than allow favor-seeking businessmen to deal individually with members of the legislature, Platt collected the contributions, distributed funds to friendly candidates, and masterminded the passage of legislative rewards for the generous corporations. Theoretically, all contributions were thereafter received at party headquarters. In practice, however, the Platt system failed to eliminate bribery entirely and it systematized the domination of the New York Republican party by business and financial interests.

Platt himself did not profit financially from his political dealings. He made his money elsewhere. He became president of the Tioga County National Bank and held substantial lumbering and railroad interests. Platt's advancement to the state party chairmanship coincided with his appointment as general manager of the United States Express Company, and in 1880 he became the company's president, a position he would hold for the next 30 years.

In January, 1881, the New York State legislature elected Platt to the United States Senate. As state party chairman Platt had distributed patronage and party funds wisely, and many members of the State Assembly were under personal obligation to him. What is more, he had won Chauncey Depew's support by campaigning strenuously for the election of Garfield, though he had originally preferred the nomination of Ulysses S. Grant for an unprecedented third term.

Scarcely two months after Platt's election, President Garfield chose William H. Robertson to be Collector of the Port of New York, a post which represented the most lucrative patrongage position in the country. Robertson was a member of the anti-Conkling faction of the New York Republican party, and his selection was a rebuff to Conkling by Garfield. At Platt's suggestion, both he and Conkling resigned from the Senate to seek vindication through re-election by the state legislature. Conkling and Platt failed to be renamed; the episode ended Conkling's political career.

After Conkling's demise, the New York state Republican party was leaderless, disoriented, and frequently beaten at the polls. Platt, having changed sides in the factional struggle going on in the party reemerged as a party leader in the mid-1880s. In supporting James G. Blaine for the presidency in 1884 Platt indicated that he was now allied with the forces who had always opposed Conkling.

By 1893 the New York Republican party's fortunes were rising and for the next sixteen years, the party would win every state and national election save one. As Republican boss Platt would lead an organization that controlled the government of New York state. His most significant political accomplishments came between 1894 and 1904. During that period Platt selected each of his party's successful gubernatorial nominees, including Levi Morton, Frank S. Black, Theodore Roosevelt, and Benjamin Odell. He presided over the legislative program, notably the consolidation of Greater New York City, state control of liquor traffic, and the improvement of the Erie Canal. In 1897 he was elected to the United States Senate.

During Theodore Roosevelt's term in Albany Platt's power gradually decreased as the governor insisted on choosing his own appointees and pushing his own programs through the legislature. It was Platt's plan to shelve Roosevelt by nominating him for the vice-presidency in 1900, thereby regaining control of the state party. The plan became a failure when Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency, and his successor as governor, Benjamin Odell, proved equally independent of the aging senator's domination. Though reelected to the Senate in 1904 Platt's real power was gone.

He died in New York City in March 6, 1910.

From the guide to the Thomas Collier Platt papers, 1851-1915, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Clarkson, James Sullivan, 1842-1918. James Sullivan Clarkson papers, 1851-1917. Library of Congress
referencedIn Thomas Ewing Family Papers, 1757-1941, (bulk 1815-1896) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Roosevelt, Theodore, 1858-1919. Theodore Roosevelt papers, 1759-1993 (bulk 1878-1919). Library of Congress
referencedIn Depew, Chauncey M. (Chauncey Mitchell), 1834-1928. Chauncey Mitchell Depew papers, 1880-1928 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn George B. Cortelyou Papers, 1871-1948, (bulk 1897-1908) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf United States Mint. Records of San Francisco branch of the United States Mint, 1856-1899. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Theodore Roosevelt Collection: Books, pamphlets, periodicals, 18-- - <ongoing> Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn William McKinley Papers, circa 1847-1935, (bulk 1897-1901) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Photographic Portrait File The Huntington Library
referencedIn Louis T. Michener Papers, 1880-1927 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Tracy, Benjamin F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1830-1915. Papers of Benjamin F. Tracy, 1870-1924 (bulk 1889-1893). Library of Congress
referencedIn John Appleton Stewart correspondence, ca. 1902-ca. 1932 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Root, Elihu, 1845-1937. Papers of Elihu Root, 1863-1937 (bulk 1899-1937). Library of Congress
referencedIn McKinley, William, 1843-1901. William McKinley papers, circa 1847-1935 (bulk 1897-1901). Library of Congress
referencedIn Michener, Louis T. (Louis Theodore), 1848-1928. Papers of Louis T. Michener, 1880-1927. Library of Congress
creatorOf Frost, Edwin Collins, 1867-1956. Edwin Collins Frost papers, 1846-1967. Brown University, Brown University Library
creatorOf Hazel, John R., 1860-1951. Papers, 1884-1967 (bulk 1900-1907). Buffalo History Museum, Research Library
referencedIn Quigg, Lemuel Ely, 1863-1919. Correspondence, [ca. 1894-1919]. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Thompson, William Gilman, 1856-1927,. William Gilman Thompson autograph collection, 1771-1924 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910,. Thomas Collier Platt photograph album of Theodore Roosevelt, not before 1905. Harvard University, Houghton Library
referencedIn Shaw, Albert D. (Albert Duane), 1841-1901. Papers, 1830-1920. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Elihu Root Papers, 1863-1937, (bulk 1899-1937) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910. Letter : Owego, N.Y., to the George H. Williams, n.p., 1875 Mar. 13. Texas Christian University
referencedIn Gates, Addison W. Papers, 1814-1905. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Woodruff, Timothy Lester. Papers, 1897-1909 Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library,
referencedIn Woodruff, Timothy Lester. Papers, 1897-1909. University of Chicago Library
referencedIn Gates, Addison W. Papers, 1814-1905 (inclusive), 1881-1895 (bulk). Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
referencedIn Century Company records, 1870-1924 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Barker, Wharton, 1846-1921. Papers of Wharton Barker, 1870-1921 (bulk 1887-1896). Library of Congress
referencedIn William Gilman Thompson autograph collection, 1771-1924 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Frost (Edwin Collins) and William Henry Frost Papers, Frost (Edwin Collins) and William Henry Frost papers, (bulk 1890-1927), 1890-1941 John Hay Library, Special Collections
creatorOf Thomas Collier Platt Letters, 1896-1910 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
creatorOf Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910. Letter, 1904 January 6 : Washington, D.C., to C.A. Wieting, Albany, New York. Washington State University, Holland and Terrell Libraries
referencedIn William E. Chandler Papers, 1863-1917 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Ashley W. Cole Letters, 1882-1916 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Cornell, Alonzo B., 1832-1904. Alonzo B. Cornell papers, 1830-1904. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Cortelyou, George B. (George Bruce), 1862-1940. George B. Cortelyou papers, 1871-1948 (bulk 1897-1908). Library of Congress
referencedIn Horace White Papers, 1903-1914 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn Depew, Chauncey M. (Chauncey Mitchell), 1834-1928. Chauncey Mitchell Depew papers, 1880-1928 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Chauncey Mitchell Depew papers, 1879-1928 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Thomas Collier Platt papers, 1851-1915 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Wharton Barker Papers, 1864-1921, (bulk 1887-1896) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Russell, Francis, 1910-1989. President Makers from Mark Hanna to Joseph Patrick Kennedy, [197-]. New Hampshire Newsp Project
creatorOf Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910,. Typescript signed from T.C. Platt, New York, to Augustin Daly [manuscript], 1894 December 5. Folger Shakespeare Library
referencedIn Autograph File, P, 1554-2005. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Platt, Thomas Collier, 1833-1910. Thomas Collier Platt papers, 1851-1915 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Stewart, John Appleton, 1865-1928. John Appleton Stewart correspondence, ca. 1902-ca. 1932. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Hay, John, 1838-1905. Correspondence, 1854-1914, "Platt" to "Ray". Brown University, John Hay Library
referencedIn John Tyler Morgan Papers, 1840-1907, (bulk 1882-1907) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Moore family. Moore family papers, 1835-1962, 1835-1916 (bulk dates) University of Kentucky Libraries
referencedIn Chandler, William E. (William Eaton), 1835-1917. William E. Chandler papers, 1863-1917. Library of Congress
referencedIn Ewing, Thomas, 1789-1871. Thomas Ewing family papers, 1757-1941 (bulk 1815-1896). Library of Congress
referencedIn Oliver Lyman Spaulding papers, 1861-1921 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Morgan, John Tyler, 1824-1907. Papers of John Tyler Morgan, 1840-1907 (bulk 1882-1907). Library of Congress
referencedIn Theodore Roosevelt Papers, 1759-1993, (bulk 1878-1919) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Scribner, G. Hilton (Gilbert Hilton), 1831-1910. Papers, 1868-1911. American Periodical Series I
referencedIn Fairbanks mss., 1819-1939 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly
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Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)
New York (State)
New York (State)
United States
United States
United States
United States
Subject
Irish--United States
Presidents--United States--Election
Republican party (N.Y.)
Politicians--United States
Public prosecutors--History--19th century
Legislators--United States
Politics, government and public administration
New York State
Irish
Presidents--Election
Occupation
Compilers
Legislators
Politicians
Function

Person

Birth 1833-07-15

Death 1910-03-06

Americans

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