Biographies of the Secretaries of State: Robert Bacon


Robert Bacon was appointed Secretary of State January 27, 1909, and entered into duty the same day. Bacon had served as Assistant Secretary of State under Elihu Root prior to his appointment. He served only 37 days as Secretary of State, until March 5, 1909, when President Theodore Roosevelt left office.

Robert Bacon, 39th Secretary of State

Robert Bacon, 39th Secretary of State

Rise to Prominence

Bacon was born in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts in 1860 to a prominent merchant family. He attended Harvard, where he befriended future president Theodore Roosevelt. Bacon graduated in 1880 and went on to travel the world for one year before returning to Boston to begin a successful career in business. He took part in negotiations that formed major companies, including the Northern Securities Company and the United States Steel Corporation.

In 1905, Robert Bacon became Assistant Secretary of State at the behest of his friend President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Elihu Root. In 1909, after Root resigned his position, he was asked to serve as Secretary of State for the duration of the Roosevelt administration.

Influence on American Diplomacy

Bacon’s business savvy aided his diplomatic efforts as he worked diligently to ratify treaties between Colombia, Panama and the United States regarding the Panama Canal. Bacon’s appointment as Secretary of State for the remainder of Roosevelt’s term was mostly due to his friendship with the President. However, he used that month wisely, successfully passing the treaties through the Senate.

Bacon also convened an environmental conference between the North American states, to discuss conservation of natural resources on the continent. Bacon’s diplomatic skill was recognized by his successor, Secretary of State Philander Knox, who appointed Bacon as Ambassador to France.

Years later, Bacon served under General Pershing during World War One. His military service at an advanced age put a general strain on Bacon’s health, and he died in 1919, shortly after returning to the United States.


  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg, ed. The American Secretaries of State and Their Diplomacy. Vol. 2. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1927.
  • Lansford, Tom. The Lords of Foggy Bottom: American Secretaries of State and the World They Shaped. New York: Encyclopedia Society, 2001.
  • Mihalkanin, Edward S., ed. American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004.
  • Born 1860
    Died 1919

Career Overview

  • Non-career appointee
  • State of Residence
    New York

  • Assistant Secretary of State
    Appointed: September 5, 1905
    Entry on Duty: October 11, 1905
    Termination of Appointment: January 27, 1909
    • Commissioned during a recess of the Senate; recommissioned after confirmation on Dec 6, 1905.

  • Secretary of State
    Appointed: January 27, 1909
    Entry on Duty: January 27, 1909
    Termination of Appointment: March 5, 1909

  • Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (France)
    Appointed: December 21, 1909
    Presentation of Credentials: December 31, 1909
    Termination of Mission: Presented recall April 19, 1912