02996 - Miss Kate Chase; Daughter of Salmon Chase, Sec. of Treasury [LC-DIG-cwpbh-02996]
Kate Chase was the daughter of Salmon Chase and just twenty one at the start of the war. Her father having been widowed three times relied on Kate as his hostess and backstage champion. Her own mother had died (Salmon Chase’s second wife) when she was five and she had a contentious relationship with her stepmother. She was sent from Cincinnati to New York City for her education. After nine years in New York she returned to be the official hostess when her father was elected Governor of Ohio. Her father, recently widowed for the third time, used her for back room negotiations to help champion his anti-slavery cause.
When he was unable to secure the Republican nomination in 1860 she campaigned for Lincoln. With her father’s appointment to Secretary of the Treasury, Kate set out to become the “Belle of the North”. She hosted soirees that were well attended and she became friends with many Union generals. She also became an adversary to Mary Lincoln who felt that she should hold the title of “Social Queen”. During this time she met and fell in love with William Sprague, who was then Governor of Rhode Island.
Married in 1863 she continued to be the hostess for her father. The following year she worked to attempt to secure the Republican nomination for him against Lincoln. When this failed, her father offered to resign and soon left office. Within six month’s he was appointed to become the Chief Justice and continued his campaign for president. Pregnant in 1868 she led her father’s campaign (this time as a Democrat) to get the nomination. Once again a Republican, by 1872 she tried for a final time to elect her father as president before his death but again failed.
Her marriage in shambles she allegedly had an affair with New York Senator Roscoe Conkling. Sprague, also a Senator at the time, chased Conkling with a shotgun and threatened to throw Kate out of a second story window. Divorced in 1882, Kate retired to her father’s estate outside of Washington and was rarely seen in public. She became even more reclusive after her son’s suicide in 1890 and died in poverty nine years later at the age of 58.