Robert Shaw Oliver
Assistant Secretary of War
In office
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Preceded byWilliam Cary Sanger
Succeeded byHenry Skillman Breckinridge
Personal details
Born(1847-09-13)September 13, 1847
Boston, Massachusetts
DiedMarch 15, 1935(1935-03-15) (aged 87)
Charleston, South Carolina
Resting placeAlbany Rural Cemetery, Menands, New York
Marion Lucy Rathbone
(m. 1870; died 1926)
RelationsQuincy Adams Shaw (uncle)
Children4, including John Rathbone Oliver

Robert Shaw Oliver (September 13, 1847 – March 15, 1935) was an American soldier and businessman.

Early life

Oliver was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on September 13, 1847. He was a son of Daniel Augustus Oliver and Elizabeth Willard (née Shaw) Oliver (1823–1850), who died three years after his birth.[1]

His maternal grandparents were Robert Gould Shaw and Eliza Willard (née Parkman) Shaw. Through his abolitionist uncle Francis George Shaw and, his wife, Sarah Blake Sturgis Shaw, he was a first cousin of Josephine Shaw Lowell (wife of Charles Russell Lowell) and Robert Gould Shaw (who was killed at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner during the Civil War). Through his uncle Quincy Adams Shaw and, his wife, Pauline Agassiz Shaw, he was also a first cousin of wealthy landowner Robert Gould Shaw II (who was the first husband of Nancy Langhorne, who later became Viscountess Astor).[2]

He graduated from a military academy in Ossining, New York.[2]


Oliver served as a second lieutenant in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry at the age of 17. After the Civil War, he remained in the Army assigned to the 25th Army Corps in Texas and the 8th US Cavalry in California, Oregon and Arizona fighting in many Indian campaigns until 1879.[3]

From 1881 to 1903, he was employed by Rathbone, Sard & Co., stove manufacturers in Albany.[4] In 1881, he was elected as the first president of the United States National Lawn Association, known today as the USTA.[5] He served as brigadier general of the 3rd brigade of the New York State Militia. In 1903, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of War by President Theodore Roosevelt and continued under President William Howard Taft, serving for ten years.

General Oliver spoke at the dedication of several monuments to Civil War Union Units from Pennsylvania at the Antietam Battlefield in 1904. The content of his speech can be found in the reference.[6]

Personal life

In 1870, Oliver was married to Marion Lucy Rathbone (1847–1926), a daughter of General John Finley Rathbone and Mary (née Baker) Rathbone. They had four children:[2]

Oliver died on March 15, 1935, in Charleston, South Carolina,[2] and was cremated and buried with his wife, Marion in the Albany Rural Cemetery according to the Cemetery's Burial Cards.


Through his daughter Cora, he was a grandfather of Helen (née Choate) Platt (1906–1974),[14] great-grandfather of diplomat Nicholas Platt, the former U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, the Philippines, and Pakistan; and a great-great-grandfather of actor Oliver Platt.[15] Also through Cora, he was a grandfather of Marion (née Choate) Harding (1905–1979), who married Charles Barney Harding, who served as chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and Smith, Barney & Co. (founded by his grandfather Charles D. Barney).[16]


  1. ^ Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1967). The Letters of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1814-1843. Harvard University Press. p. 493. ISBN 978-0-674-52725-6. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Times, Special to The New York (17 March 1935). "Brig. Gen. Oliver Dies in South at 87; Served as Assistant Secretary of War Under Theodore Roosevelt and Taft". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  3. ^ Parker, Amasa J. (1897). Landmarks of Albany County, New York. Syracuse, N.Y.: D. Mason & Co. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  4. ^ America, Order of the Founders and Patriots of (1902). Social Register: 1902. Authority of the General court of the Order. p. 133. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  5. ^ Sprechman, Jordan; Shannon, Bill (October 7, 1998). This Day in New York Sports. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 1571672540. Retrieved 17 November 2016.
  6. ^ Commission, Antietam Battlefield Memorial (31 August 2017). "Pennsylvania at Antietam: report of the Antietam Battlefield Memorial Commission of Pennsylvania and ceremonies at the dedication of the monuments erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to mark the position of Thirteen of the Pennsylvania Commands engaged in the battle". Harrisburg publishing company, state printer. Retrieved 31 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "John Oliver Dies; a Psychiatrist; Medical Historian' Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins From 1930 to 1939". The New York Times. 22 January 1943. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  8. ^ "John Rathbone Oliver Criminological Collection · Center for the History of Medicine: OnView". Retrieved 31 August 2017.
  9. ^ "Mrs. Francis K. Stevens". The New York Times. 22 April 1951. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  10. ^ Studio, Kaiden (29 August 1945). "F.K. Stevens Dies; Realty Leader, 68; First Vice President of Brown, Wheelock Was Appraiser for Government and Industry". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  11. ^ "Mr. Choate's Son Married.; Weds Daughter of Gen. Robert Shaw Oliver at St. Peter's Church, Albany". The New York Times. 7 June 1903. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Joseph H. Choate, Lawyer, 91, Dead. Led Federal Unit to Guide Liquor Industry at Repeal". The New York Times. January 20, 1968. Retrieved 2010-11-04. Joseph H. Choate Jr., a distinguished lawyer who was chairman of the Federal Alcohol Control Administration from 1933 to 1935, died today in his home on ...
  13. ^ "Miss Marion Lucy Oliver; Daughter of Late Cabinet Aide in Theodore Roosevelt Regime". The New York Times. 4 October 1936. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  14. ^ "Mrs. Geoffrey Platt". The New York Times. 22 June 1974. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  15. ^ "Weddings; Camilla Campbell, Oliver Platt". New York Times. 1992-09-13. Retrieved 2008-03-10.
  16. ^ Treaster, Joseph B. (3 November 1979). "Charles Barney Harding, a Financier, Is Dead at 80; A Distinguished Family Chairman in '40 and '41". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 July 2020.