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Source: Typewriter and Phonographic World
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “A Representative Stenographer”
Author(s): Marshall, L. V.
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 18
Issue number: 2
Pagination: 103-05

Marshall, L. V. “A Representative Stenographer.” Typewriter and Phonographic World Oct. 1901 v18n2: pp. 103-05.
full text
George B. Cortelyou; McKinley assassination.
Named persons
Grover Cleveland; George B. Cortelyou; Matthew D. Mann; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; James E. Munson; Presley M. Rixey; Theodore Roosevelt; Henry T. Scott.
Quotations marks (single and double) are given below as they appear in the original document.


A Representative Stenographer

IN THE publisher’s department of the September WORLD, there appeared an item of fifteen lines, concerning a well-known stenographer, whose phenominal [sic] advancement, according to ex President Cleveland, has been due solely to merit, and the worth of whose services to the government have been such that he has remained undisturbed through all the political upheavals which are so common to changes in administration.
     Never was trust in a single individual more fittingly bestowed, and never has such trust become more universal, or received more of national acknowledgment. Few men have been compelled to pass through such a trying season, and few, very few, men in all this broad land could have so successfully borne the burden which was laid upon the shoulders of George Bruce Cortelyou, Private Secretary to the late President McKinley. Pages of encomium could not do him justice, but his strength of character, his firm yet gentle manner; his ability to do the right thing at the right moment; and, above all, the feeling of affection and respect with which he inspires everyone with whom he comes in contact, are well illustrated in the following, from the pen of a staff correspondent of the Brooklyn Eagle, and printed in that journal September 10, while yet the country was hoping against hope that the sun might burst through the dark cloud of despair caused by the dastardly crime at Buffalo.
     “One of these physicians of the President said to me today when I informed him that the Secretary of the President, George B. Cortelyou, was a Brooklyn man: ‘You may then well be proud of him. He is a man of brains, and what he knows he has at his finger tips. If Cortelyou did nothing else during his lifetime than what he has accomplished during the past few days, he must nevertheless always be rated as a great man.’ [103][104]
     The correspondent of the Eagle happened to see a despatch received at the Milburn house from one of the great Republican leaders of the West. It read about as follows:
     ‘I think that the almost miraculous recovery of the President is due as much as anything else to the efficient and excellent work of George B. Cortelyou.’
     The praise accorded to this modest Brooklyn man is well deserved. When President McKinley was borne into the operating room at the Emergency Hospital on the exposition grounds, a dozen physicians who happened to be present when the shooting took place, rushed forward and offered their services.
     Cortelyou, who had taken charge of everything, looked them over and said: ‘Gentlemen, you may all be capable men, but I do not know you. I have despatched a messenger for Mr. Milburn. When he arrives I will decide what course must be taken.’
     When Mr. Milburn reached the spot a few minutes afterward, Cortelyou asked him who in his judgment among those present was best able to act in the emergency. Mr. Milburn designated Mr. Mann, who at once made an examination of the President’s wounds and recommended an immediate operation.
     ‘Shall I go ahead?’ he said, turning to Mr. Cortelyou.
     ‘Begin at once,’ said the secretary, quietly but firmly, and the Buffalo surgeon then performed an operation that is designed to become world famous. It was Cortelyou who sent for the ambulance; it was he who ordered that the President should be taken to the Milburn residence, remembering as he did, how successfully Mrs. McKinley had been treated at the quiet home of Mr. Scott in San Francisco.
     It was Cortelyou, also, who remembered Mrs. McKinley, and saw to it that she should not be told about the attack upon the President until after the completion of the operation, when he notified Dr. Rixey by telephone to break the news to the first lady of the land. This was done in a gentle, skillful manner, and when the ambulance with the President arrived at the house on Delaware avenue, Mrs. McKinley was prepared.
     Secretary Cortelyou decided that it would be better for the suffering President and for his gentle wife that they should see each other at the earliest possible opportunity, and he arranged the first interview between them, an interview that is now historical, demonstrating as it did a fragile woman’s self-control and self-obliteration.
     Another of the President’s physicians who has watched with amazement this young Brooklynite’s matchless management of affairs during the past few days, said this morning: ‘Cortelyou, how is it that you seem to know so much about medicine and have been able to divine almost by intuition what ought to be done in a case of this sort?’ [104][105]
     ‘Eighteen years ago,’ replied Cortelyou, with a smile, ‘I made stenographic reports of a number of famous clinics at the New York Hospital. I then noted what was done in emergency cases and how absolutely essential it was for the patient to be operated on almost immediately after being wounded.’”
     Perhaps no man will ever be called upon to assume responsibilities of greater magnitude than those Mr. Cortelyou was compelled to assume during the terrible week of anxiety. He had practically to fill the place made vacant by the assassin’s pistol and to perform all its duties. All the arrangements for the comfort and care of the dying President, were made by him, and day and night he was on guard between the door of the sick room and the outside world. For three days after the tragedy he took little or no rest, and from that time until President McKinley’s death, he slept at only the briefest of intervals—rarely for more than two hours on any occasion. And during all this time it must be remembered that his duties as Private Secretary, always arduous, were doubled and trebled a thousand fold by the correspondence, both by mail and wire which poured in upon the Milburn house. Never for an instant did he lose in the slightest degree that innate courtesy which is so strong a part of the character of the man, and his mature judgment was in no wise impaired by the terrible strain of fatigue and labor. He loved his chief and was beloved by him, and he did what he could. Whatever was in the power of man to accomplish, he acomplished [sic]. Mr. Roosevelt, upon taking the oath of office as President of the United States, asked Secretary Cortelyou to remain in the position which he has so long occupied and so worthily filled.
     Mr. Cortelyou was born in the City of New York, July 26, 1862, and is therefore thirty nine years of age. He is descended from one of the most conspicuous revolutionary and colonial families, and his father and grandfather were prominent figures in the business and social circles of New York in their day. He was educated at Hempstead, Long Island, and at Westfield, Mass., and after tutoring for a time at Cambridge, returned to New York and took up the study of shorthand. In 1885 he became associated with Mr. James E. Munson, author of the “Munson System,” and later was principal of college preparatory schools in New York. In 1889 he was appointed private secretary to the New York Post Office Inspector, and in 1891 became secretary to the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General, receiving his appointment in 1896 as executive clerk to the President, and later as Mr. McKinley’s Private Secretary. How well he has filled this position may be read in the columns of the daily press.
     The paragraph in the September issue stated that he has been more than once mentioned as a cabinet possibility; he is nearer that goal today than he was when that paragraph was printed.



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