New York State Governor Charles Evans Hughes Central Subject and Correspondence Files

Held by the New York State Archives

Overview of the Records


New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Charles Evans Hughes was elected to two terms as governor before resigning the office to accept a nomination to the United States Supreme Court. As governor, he advocated progressive legislation, environmental conservation, and administrative reform. Among his accomplishments were securing passage of workmen's compensation legislation and the Moreland Act, and creating public service commissions with strong regulatory powers. This series consists of a bound volume and several files of correspondence, petitions, reports, and other materials compiled by the governor's office.
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Items in bound volume are arranged chronologically.

Administrative History

Charles Evans Hughes was born on April 11, 1862 in Glens Falls, New York. He married Antoinette Carter in 1888 and together the couple raised four children. He graduated from Columbia Law School in 1884 and later served as professor of law at Cornell University. In 1905, Hughes gained valuable insight that would serve him in future years by leading an inquiry into malpractices of the New York City utilities industry and the New York life insurance scandals.

Hughes defeated publisher William Randolph Hearst to gain the governorship in 1906 and was reelected in 1908. As governor, he was known for his progressive legislative program, which included labor and welfare legislation as well as administrative reforms. Another major focus of his legislative program resulted in the establishment of two public service commissions (one for New York City and the other for the remainder of the state), both of which were endowed with strong investigative and rate-fixing authority over utility and transportation companies. Hughes augmented his legislative legacy by successfully advocating a workmen's compensation law that established one of the first social insurance plans in the nation. He also supported amendment of the Executive Law by insertion of a section (known as the Moreland Act) authorizing the governor or persons appointed by him "to examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau, or commission of the state."

Hughes aggressively opposed gambling on horse racing, arguing that the practice conflicted with the state constitution's prohibition against gambling of any form. He also put forth proposals to address the condition of resident aliens, improve the state's probation system, control the spread of tuberculosis, and regulate the packaging and sale of drugs. Lastly, he strengthened the state's existing environmental conservation policies.

Hughes resigned the governorship in 1910 when President William Howard Taft nominated him for a seat on the United States Supreme Court. In 1916, he mounted an unsuccessful campaign to defeat incumbent Woodrow Wilson for the presidency. He later served as secretary of state under Presidents Harding and Coolidge, after which he served as judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice. In 1930, President Herbert Hoover nominated Hughes for the position of chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, a seat which he held until his retirement in 1941. Hughes devoted the remainder of his life to his family and social causes that were dear to him. He died in 1948 at the age of eighty-six.

For further information regarding the life and political career of Charles Evans Hughes, see "Hughes, Charles Evans." In Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, vol. 3, ed. Robert Sobel and John Raimo, 1095-1096. Westport, Ct.: Meckler Books, 1978; and Klump, Robert A. "Hughes, Charles Evans." In The Encyclopedia of New York State, ed. Peter Eisenstadt, 748. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005.

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of one volume of transcripts of correspondence and other documents created mostly by the office of Governor Charles E. Hughes. The records include letters from private citizens, announcements of appointments to and dismissals from various commissions and other public positions, approvals of resolutions, memoranda on pending bills, and other public reports of the governor's activities. Four documents relating to Governor Frank Wayland Higgins' administration and one relating to Governor Horace White's administration are also included.

Records compiled by the office of Governor Charles E. Hughes also include a loose set of petitions requesting that the governor "exercise the power in [him] vested by law" to examine and abate pollution of the Hudson River by municipalities and industrial establishments. Additional records include a substantial subject and correspondence file pertaining to the examination and investigation of the management and affairs of the State Board of Embalming Examiners under the provisions of Section 7 of the Executive Law (Moreland Act). Contrary to the opinion of State Attorney General Edward R. O'Malley, Commissioner Owen L. Potter concluded that the board was not extravagant in its expenditures. Potter also concluded that the board did not exceed its statutory authority in adopting bylaws regulating embalming fluids and was not derelict in its duty to investigate complaints against members of the profession.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of the material.

Custodial History

The fore of the bound volume indicates the transcripts therein were transferred to the New York State Library Legislative Reference Section and then to the Manuscripts and History Section in 1921. The volume was bound in 1922. The title page indicates these records are not included in printed volumes of public papers. The volume was transferred to the New York State Archives from the State Library, Manuscripts and Special Collections unit, in 2005.

Loose petitions in this series were originally accessioned as part of record series A0525, New York State Comptroller's Office Assorted Records. Files pertaining to the investigation of the State Board of Embalming Examiners were originally accessioned as part of series 13682-78B, New York State Governor Nathan L. Miller Subject and Correspondence Files. These records were integrated into series 13682-05 in 2009.

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