Winthrop Murray Crane (or just Murray Crane, April 23, 1853 – October 2, 1920) was a U.S. political figure and businessman. Born into the Dalton, Massachusetts family that owned the papermaking Crane & Co., he successfully expanded the company during the 1880s after securing an exclusive government contract to supply the paper for United States currency (a monopoly the company continues to hold). During the 1890s he became increasingly active in Republican Party politics, and was for 20 years a dominating figure in Massachusetts politics. He served several times on the Republican National Committee, and was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts 1896-99 and Governor of Massachusetts 1900-03. In 1904 he was appointed by his successor John L. Bates to fill a vacated United States Senate seat, which he held until 1913.
Crane was an advisor to Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, and served as a political mentor to Calvin Coolidge. His success in defusing a Teamsters strike while governor prompted Roosevelt to bring him in as a negotiator to resolve the Coal Strike of 1902. He refused repeated offers for cabinet-level positions, and was known to dislike campaigning and giving speeches. He was highly regarded and popular in western Massachusetts.
Early years and business
Winthrop Murray Crane was born in Dalton, Massachusetts to Zenas Marshall Crane and Louise Fanny Laflin. His father was owner of the Crane Paper Company, a dominant economic force in the small community and a major producer of paper products. Crane entered the family business in 1870, and, alongside his brother Zenas, Jr. presided over a period of significant growth of the company. In 1872 Crane secured a major contract for the supply of wrapping paper to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, and followed this up in 1879, with an exclusive contract to paper for the Federal Reserve Notes, the currency of the United States. The Crane Company continues to be the sole supplier of currency paper to the federal government today. The company continued significant growth throughout the 1880s and 1890s. Crane expanded his business interests, and amassed a significant fortune by investing in the Otis Elevator Company and in American Telephone and Telegraph Company.
In 1880 Crane married Mary Benner, who died in 1884 giving birth to their only child, Winthrop Murray Crane Jr. In 1906, Crane married Josephine Porter Boardman, 20 years his junior, from a politically well-connected family. They had three children: Stephen, Bruce, and poet Louise Crane.
Crane's rise in politics began in 1892, when he was invited to attend the Republican National Convention as a delegate by the "Young Republican Club", a group of Massachusetts Republicans, organized in 1888, who would come to dominate the state party apparatus and political landscape. After the convention he was elected chairman of the state party. Although he was from western Massachusetts, he was viewed by the party's mainly eastern leadership as a "safe" and moderate choice, who would be good at fundraising. Crane, although he was politically conservative, was adept at smoothing over and negotiating the differences between the wings of the party, and refused to become deeply entrenched into either the progressive or conservative wing. He was also well known as a somewhat taciturn politician, who did not make stump speeches while campaigning, and is not recorded as having made speeches on the floors of the legislative bodies in which he served.
In 1896 he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, serving under another Young Republican, Roger Wolcott. The post was then viewed as a stepping stone to the higher office, and Crane ran for governor when Wolcott opted not to run in 1899. He won a comfortable victory against a disorganized Democratic opposition, and was reelected the next two years by wide margins. Crane's tenure as governor was marked by fiscal conservatism, business-like management, and relatively little reform. He was viewed with favor even by Democrats, and his leadership was characterized as nonpartisan. He successfully defused a Teamsters strike in 1902, and was also called in by President Theodore Roosevelt to mediate the 1902 Coal Strike, which threatened the state's winter coal supplies. He vetoed legislative authorization of a merger between the Boston Elevated Railway and the West End Street Railway, in part because it did not contain a clause calling for a referendum by the affected populations. He did, however, sign legislation authorizing the lease of the Fitchburg Railroad to the Boston and Maine Railroad, and of the Boston and Albany Railroad to the New York Central Railroad. Crane was a major shareholder in the New York Central. He would later use his political clout as US Senator to help secure the state's approval of a merger of the Boston and Maine with the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad.
Crane was hosting President Roosevelt in Pittsfield on September 3, 1902 when a speeding trolley car rammed into the open-air horse carriage carrying Roosevelt. The accident killed the president's Secret Service agent, William Craig.
Crane was appointed October 12, 1904 by Governor John L. Bates to continue the U.S. Senate term of the late George F. Hoar. He was then elected in a January 18, 1905 special election to finish the term. he was re-elected in 1907, and served until 1913.
As Senator, Crane was famous for his lack of public statements, and behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Chauncey Depew, another Senator, wrote of Crane that he "never made a speech. I do not remember that he made a motion. Yet he was the most influential member of that body." Calvin Coolidge observed that "his influence was very great, but that it was of an intangible nature." He was also known to often choose inaction over action on many matters, with a common answer to requests for advice being "Do nothing. He was an opponent of reciprocity (reduced tariffs) with Canada and the Dominion of Newfoundland, working to water down provisions of a proposed treaty.
In the 1908 presidential election, Crane expressed early support for William Howard Taft, but later came to oppose him, believing him a weak candidate. This placed him in opposition to fellow Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, with each leading their wing of the state party in a fight for control over the state delegation to the national convention. Crane preferred to leave the delegates without formal instruction as to how they should vote, while Lodge preferred that they be required to pledge for Taft. Crane engineered the anti-Taft forces into control by convincing Lodge to support delegate independence in exchange for the placement of former Governor John Davis Long, a Taft supporter, as an at-large delegate. Despite his lack of support for Taft, Crane became one of Taft's closest advisors after taking office, and he worked to secure Lodge's reelection in 1911.
Crane was also operative in a secret deal that denied Democrat William L. Douglas a second term as governor. Douglas, owner of a successful shoe manufacturing business, had won election in 1904 with labor support and widespread name recognition due to his marketing activities. According to Charles S. Hamlin, Douglas may have been forced into to this position by the discovery by Republicans that he had apparently fraudulently acquired an honorable discharge after deserting during the Civil War. The quid pro quo for this information not being revealed, supposedly engineered by Crane and Lodge, was that Douglas would not run again.
In the 1912 general election, in which the Republican Party was divided by Roosevelt's defection, conservative elements of the Republican Party dominated the state legislature's caucus. This resulted in the election in early 1913 of the ultraconservative John W. Weeks over Crane for the Senate seat.