William Crowninshield Endicott
Photograph of Endicott, c. 1886
36th United States Secretary of War
In office
March 5, 1885 – March 5, 1889
PresidentGrover Cleveland
Preceded byRobert Todd Lincoln
Succeeded byRedfield Proctor
Personal details
Born(1826-11-19)November 19, 1826
Salem, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMay 6, 1900(1900-05-06) (aged 73)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Ellen Peabody
(after 1859)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
Harvard Law School

William Crowninshield Endicott (November 19, 1826 – May 6, 1900)[1] was an American politician and Secretary of War in the first administration of President Grover Cleveland (1885–1889).

Early life

Ellen Peabody Endicott (Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott), John Singer Sargent, 1901

Endicott was born in Salem, Massachusetts on November 19, 1826. He was a son of William Putnam Endicott and Mary (née Crowninshield)[2][3] Endicott. He was a direct descendant of the Massachusetts governor, John Endecott, and a first cousin three times removed of another Massachusetts governor, Endicott Peabody.[4]

He graduated from Harvard University in 1847 and attended Harvard Law School in 1849–1850. He studied law with Nathaniel J. Lord prior to his admission to the Massachusetts bar in 1850.[1]


In 1852, he was elected a member of the Salem Common Council and, five years later, became City Solicitor.[1] He was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1862.[5] In 1853, he entered into a law partnership with J. W. Perry under the name Perry & Endicott, which was dissolved in 1873 upon his appointment to the bench. From 1857 to 1873, also served as president of the Salem Bank.[4]

In 1873, Endicott, although a Democrat (and originally a Whig), was appointed by Republican governor William B. Washburn to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where he served until 1882. In 1879, he unsuccessfully ran for Congress, followed by an unsuccessful gubernatorial race in 1884.[6] Grover Cleveland appointed Endicott Secretary of War and he served in that capacity in the administration between 1885 and 1889. Endicott oversaw many important changes in the organization of the United States Army, including the establishment of a system of examinations to determine the promotion of officers.

Endicott convened and chaired the Board of Fortifications in 1885 (usually called the Endicott Board), which would provide detailed recommendations and designs for the generation of American coastal defense fortifications constructed in the era of the Spanish–American War. Most of these Endicott Period fortifications served through early World War II.

Personal life

Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott Jr., John Singer Sargent, 1903

On December 13, 1859, Endicott was married to Ellen Peabody (1833–1927) in Salem. Ellen was the daughter of philanthropist George Peabody and Clarissa Peabody of Salem.[7] Her grandfather was the distinguished Salem ship owner, Joseph Peabody, who made a fortune importing pepper from Sumatra and was one of the wealthiest men in the United States at the time of his death in 1900.[8] Together, William and Ellen had two children:

Endicott died of acute pneumonia in Boston, Massachusetts on May 6, 1900.[1][12] His wife lived another twenty-seven years, until her death in Boston on August 20, 1927, after which she was buried with William in the Endicott Lot at Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d "William C. Endicott Dead; Ex-Secretary of War Succumbs to Acute Pneumonia at Boston" (PDF). The New York Times. Boston. May 7, 1900. p. 7. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  2. ^ Mass. Vital Records
  3. ^ Rand, John Clark (1890). "One of a Thousand: A Series of Biographical Sketches of One Thousand Representative Men Resident in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, A.D. 1888-'89".
  4. ^ a b "William C. Endicott" (PDF). The New York Times. September 11, 1884. p. 3. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  5. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  6. ^ "The Massachusetts Democrats. William C. Endicott Nominated for Governor—Blaine Denounced" (PDF). The New York Times. Worcester, Massachusetts. September 4, 1884. p. 2. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  7. ^ a b "Mrs. Ellen P. Endicott. Widow of Secretary of War Under Cleveland Dies at 95" (PDF). The New York Times. August 21, 1927. p. 26. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  8. ^ Walter Muir Whitehill, Captain Joseph Peabody: East India Merchant of Salem (1757–1844) (Salem, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum, 1962), 179.
  9. ^ "William C. Endicott: Son of the Secretary of War in Cleveland's First Cabinet" (PDF). The New York Times. November 29, 1936. p. N8. Retrieved September 9, 2019.
  10. ^ Catalogue note for a painting of Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott Jr. by John Singer Sargent
  11. ^ "William Crowninshield Endicott Papers, 1828-1936". Peaboby Essex Museum.
  12. ^ "The Death of William C. Endicott" (PDF). The New York Times. London. May 13, 1900. p. 7. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
Legal offices New seat Associate Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 1873–1882 Succeeded byWaldo Colburn Party political offices Preceded byBenjamin Butler Democratic nominee for Governor of Massachusetts 1884 Succeeded byFrederick O. Prince Political offices Preceded byRobert Todd Lincoln United States Secretary of War 1885–1889 Succeeded byRedfield Proctor