Secretarial Portraits at the U.S. Department of the Interior
Artist Henry Salem Hubbell (1870-1949) ultimately painted portraits of 17 secretaries of the Interior. Thirty-second secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes considered the artist a family friend and owned some of his works, so it was not surprising that Ickes turned to him to paint his official secretarial portrait in 1934. When Ickes learned that several past secretarial portraits had been rendered simply as crayon drawings incongruous with the other existing paintings, he again enlisted Hubbell. The artist took the additional commissions very seriously. Since many secretaries were long since deceased, Hubbell conducted exhaustive research to ensure faithful likenesses, including corresponding with secretaries' descendants to verify eye color and hair style, and—where available—consulting photographs and other known works.
Charles J. Fox—purportedly the son of a prominent Austrian artist—was actually Leo Fox, an art dealer with elite social connections. An IRS investigation in 1978 revealed that Fox had adopted a pseudonym for tax evasion purposes. For decades the true artist behind the high-profile commissions was Russian immigrant Irving Resnikoff, who would work from photographs Fox provided of the portrait subjects. These misattributed portraits also appear in several state capitols and at the Pentagon, U.S. Capitol, U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Secretary Jewell’s official portrait depicts a sunrise over Washington’s Mount Rainier, the first national park Jewell recalls visiting as a child and a peak she has summited multiple times. She selected this location due to its U.S. Department of the Interior connections as well, since the mountain is both a national park and an active volcano studied and monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Portrait of an Agency
U.S. Department of the Interior Museum
Tracy Baetz, Chief Curator
To view a related public lecture, Within These Halls: A Beyond-the-Frame Look at Secretarial Portraiture presented on July 13, 2016, see
The brief biographies of the secretaries were compiled from a variety of primary and secondary materials, including contemporaneous newspaper articles, official Departmental records and correspondence, and published obituaries. Selected additional resources include:
Crampton, Louis C. The Department of the Interior: Its History and Proper Functions. December 1932.
The Department of the Interior in the Age of the Civil War. Eastern National, 2012.
History of the Cabinet of the United States of America, from President Washington to President Coolidge, An Account of the Origins of the Cabinet, A Roster of the Various Members with the Term of Service, and Biographical Sketches of Each Member, Showing Public Offices Held by Each. Baltimore: The Industrial Printing Company, 1925.
Trani, Eugene. Secretaries of the Department of the Interior, 1849-1969. Washington, DC: National Anthropological Archives, 1975.
University of Colorado Boulder | Center of the American West
For transcripts of interviews with seven former secretaries of the Interior
University of Virginia | Miller Center
For synopses and essays on administrations of American Presidents and brief biographical information on their Cabinet members
Utley, Robert M. and Barry Mackintosh. The Department of Everything Else: Highlights of Interior History National Park Service, 1989.