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Porter James McCumber


U.S. Senator Porter James McCumber served his last day in the Senate on this date in 1923, ending a twenty-four year career in the Senate. The staunch Republican had been reelected three times since taking office in 1899, and had gained a reputation as a protector of American agriculture and business interests.

McCumber was born on February 3, 1858, in Crete, Illinois, but his family moved to Rochester, Minnesota, before his first birthday. After completing high school, McCumber taught school himself. Eventually, he decided to pursue a career in law, and enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1880. McCumber was admitted to the bar shortly after graduation, and the newly-certified young attorney headed west to begin his law practice. He settled down in Wahpeton, in Dakota Territory, and took an active role in the community. He served in the Territorial Senate and the House of Representatives in 1885 and 1887, and as State’s Attorney of Richland County from 1889 to 1891. In 1899, he ran successfully for a seat in the U.S. Senate, and was re-elected three times. While there, he served in a variety of positions, including a stint as Chairman of the Committee on Manufacturers, and as a member of the Committees on Pensions, Indian Affairs, Transportation Routes, and Finance. He is most remembered for his participation in passing the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Act of 1922, which raised the tariff on imported goods. At the time, the post-war global economy was ravaging farmers and manufacturers in the U.S., who only a few years earlier were having trouble keeping up with demand. As the European economies rebuilt after the war, they no longer relied upon U.S. agricultural goods or products, and the supply overwhelmed demand, slashing prices. The tariff was meant to make U.S.-produced goods more affordable, and therefore desirable, to U.S. consumers.

Although McCumber failed to win reelection in 1922, he remained in Washington, D.C., to practice law. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge appointed him to serve on the International Joint Commission that dealt with legal cases involving the boundary waters between the U.S. and Canada. He passed away in 1933, and was buried in the Abbey Mausoleum adjoining the Arlington National Cemetery, although his remains have since been relocated.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job