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Adolph Edward Borie
25th United States Secretary of the Navy

In office
March 9, 1869 – June 25, 1869
Preceded by Gideon Welles
Succeeded by George M. Robeson
Personal details
Born (1809-11-25)November 25, 1809
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died February 5, 1880(1880-02-05) (aged 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Profession Politician

Adolph Edward Borie (November 25, 1809 – February 5, 1880) was a United States merchant and politician who briefly served (1869) as Secretary of the Navy in the Ulysses S. Grant administration.


Borie was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of a French emigrant merchant and a Haitian refugee. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, graduated in 1825, toured Europe, and in 1828 entered his father's firm. Silk and tea were the emphasized commodities during his 30-year tenure in the firm. In politics he was a Whig and favored protectionist trade policies. In 1843 he was appointed U.S. Consul in Belgium.

He became a Republican and supported the Union cause in the Civil War. He was a founding member and one-time president of Philadelphia's Union Club, and guided the recruiting and equipping of several regiments.

In 1868 he was nominated as Secretary of the Navy by President-elect Grant, whom he had befriended in the past. Grant, in his choices for various posts, had a tendency of choosing people who were not fully qualified or able for the posts. A few of his nominees were exceptional in their service, most notably his effective Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow, and Attorney General Alphonso Taft. But, in his initial stages of choosing his 1869 cabinet, it was a hit-or-miss matter. Borie had been very friendly to Grant on a visit to Philadelphia that he chaired. Grant, considering that he owed something to Borie and to the Republicans in the Keystone State announced that there would be a man from Pennsylvania in his cabinet. When pressed for details ("was it a member of the Republican machine under Simon Cameron?") Grant's sense of humor took over and he became mysterious, talking about a "man from Philadelphia".

The question of who was this "man from Philadelphia" bothered the public, but the revelation it was Borie was met with amazement. Nobody had ever heard of him outside of Philadelphia. Borie had little interest in public office, and freely admitted that Admiral David Dixon Porter was the actual manager.

Borie (standing in center foreground) purchasing in India while accompanying Grant on his trip around the world in 1877-1879.[1]

Borie disliked the Native American Indian names borne by so many United States Navy ships of the post-American Civil War era, and during his very short term as Secretary of the Navy, had a great many vessels renamed after states of the Union, creatures and personages from classical Greek or Roman mythology, or names that conveyed power or strength. A sample of names that Borie selected were Florida, "Centaur", and "Tornado". His successor, George M. Robeson, had most of these ships reverted to their original names a few months later.[2][3] Ironically, Borie was a Philadelphian associated with the town of Manayunk (now a Philadelphia neighborhood), and one of the vessels that was never given back its original name was USS Manayunk, which permanently kept its new name of USS Ajax.

Borie served only a few months (March 9 to June 25) in the position. He returned to private life in order to resume his business interests, but remained close friends with Grant, who he joined for much of his world tour in 1879-1879. For his brief service, two ships were christened USS Borie in his honor.

In his later business career, he interested himself in railroads and financial concerns. He was a noted patron of the arts.



  • Claude Bowers The Tragic Era: The Revolution After Lincoln (New York: Halcyon Press, 1929), p. 238-239.
  • "Borie, Adolph Edward". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1929. 

External links

  • The Borie Family Papers, including personal and professional correspondence, business records, and various other materials, are available for research use at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Government offices
Preceded by
Gideon Welles
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
George M. Robeson

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