Schuyler Colfax, 17th Vice Pres. of the USA

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Schuyler Colfax, Jr.

Birthplace: New York City, New York, United States
Death: January 13, 1885 (61)
Immediate Family:

Son of Schuyler Washington Colfax and Hannah Delamater Matthews
Husband of Evelyn Colfax and Ellen Maria Colfax
Father of Schuyler Colfax, III
Brother of William Washington Colfax
Half brother of Clara Vroom Colfax Griffin; Caroline Vroom Hollister and Mary Schuyler Cowles

Managed by: Gene Daniell
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About Schuyler Colfax, 17th Vice Pres. of the USA

Schuyler COLFAX (1823-1885), 17th Vice President (1869-1873), Speaker of the House (1863-1869), Congressman (from 1854), editor and journalist, married first in 1844 Evelyn CLARK (d. 1863), and second in 1868 Ellen WADE.


Schuyler Colfax, Jr. ( /ˈskaɪlər ˈkoʊlfæks/; March 23, 1823 – January 13, 1885) was a United States Representative from Indiana (1855–1869), Speaker of the House of Representatives (1863–1869), and the 17th Vice President of the United States (1869–1873). To date, he is one of only two Americans (John Nance Garner in the 20th century being the other) to have served as both House speaker and vice president.

President Ulysses S. Grant and Colfax, 46 and 45 respectively at the time of their inauguration, were the youngest Presidential team until the inauguration of Bill Clinton and Al Gore in 1993.


Colfax was born in New York City to Schuyler Colfax, Sr. and Hannah Stryker. His grandfather, William Colfax, had served in George Washington's Life Guard during the American Revolution, became a general in the New Jersey militia and married Hester Schuyler, a cousin of general Philip Schuyler.

In 1836, Colfax moved with his mother and stepfather to New Carlisle, Indiana. As a young man, Colfax contributed articles on Indiana politics to the New York Tribune and formed a friendship with the editor, Horace Greeley. He established a reputation as rising young Whig and at 19 became the editor of the pro-Whig South Bend Free Press. In 1845, Colfax purchased the newspaper and changed its name to the St. Joseph Valley Register.

Whig Party delegate

Colfax was a delegate to the Whig Party Convention of 1848 and the Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1849. He was a member of the state constitutional convention in 1850. Colfax was nominated for Congress in 1850, but narrowly lost to his Democratic opponent. He ran again two years later, this time successfully, in 1854 as an Anti-Nebraska candidate in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The same year, Colfax was initiated as a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at DePauw University, without ever having attended that (or any) university.

Republican party

When the Whig Party collapsed, Colfax briefly considered the Know-Nothing Party, but finally joined the new Republican Party that was formed as a fusion of northern Whigs, Anti-Nebraska Act Democrats, Know Nothings, and Free Soilers. After the Republicans gained the majority in the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections of 1858, Colfax became chairman of the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads. He was an energetic opponent of slavery and his speech attacking the pro-slavery Lecompton Legislature in Kansas became the most widely requested Republican campaign document in the election. In 1862, following the electoral defeat of House Speaker Galusha Grow, Colfax was elected Speaker of the House. During his term as Speaker, he announced the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

Vice Presidency under Ulysses S. Grant

In 1868 Colfax was elected Vice President of the United States on the ticket headed by Ulysses S. Grant. He was inaugurated March 4, 1869, and served until March 4, 1873. Colfax was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination for the vice presidency in 1872 and was replaced by Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson. Colfax had been involved in the Crédit Mobilier of America scandal and left office under a cloud.

Personal life

On October 10, 1844, Colfax married childhood friend Evelyn Clark. She died childless in 1863. On November 18, 1868, two weeks after he was elected vice president, Colfax married Ella M. Wade, a niece of Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade. They had one son, Schuyler Colfax III, born in 1870.

Founder of Rebekah Degree

As a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Colfax, along with Martin of Mississippi and Steel of Tennessee, were appointed to prepare a Ritual of ceremonies pertaining to the Rebekah Degree and report at the 1851 session. On September 20, 1851, the IOOF approved the degree and Colfax was considered the author and founder.

Last years

After leaving office, Colfax embarked on a successful career as a lecturer. On January 13, 1885, he walked about three-quarters of a mile in minus 30˚F weather from the Front Street depot to the Omaha depot in Mankato, Minnesota. He had to change trains in Mankato to reach Rock Rapids, Iowa, going from South Bend via Chicago for a speaking engagement. Five minutes after arriving at the depot, Colfax died of a heart attack brought on by the extreme cold and exhaustion.

He was buried in the City Cemetery at South Bend, Indiana. A historical marker in Mankato in Washington Park, site of the former depot, marks the spot where he died.


The towns of Colfax, California; Colfax, Washington; Colfax, Indiana; Colfax, Iowa and Colfax, Louisiana, are named for Schuyler Colfax. The "Jewel of the Midwest", Schuyler, Nebraska, named after Colfax, is the county seat of Colfax County, Nebraska. The now ghost town of Colfax, Colorado, was named after him. Colfax County, New Mexico, is named after him as well. Colfax, California boasts a bronze statue of Colfax, next to the tracks at the AMTRAK station.

The main east-west street traversing Aurora, Denver and Lakewood, Colorado, and abutting the Colorado State Capitol is named "Colfax Avenue" in the politician's honor. There is another Colfax Avenue in South Bend, Indiana (a few miles east of his New Carlisle home and adjacent to his burial site); Colfax Place in the Highland Square neighborhood in Akron, Ohio, in Grant City, Staten Island; in Minneapolis, Minnesota; in Roselle Park, New Jersey; and a Colfax Street on Chicago's North Side. There is a Colfax Street leading up Mt. Colfax in Springdale, Pennsylvania, by the Post Office and train station in Palatine, Illinois and a Colfax Avenue in Benton Harbor, Michigan, where the school fight song contains the phrase "of that Colfax school" because the high school is located on Colfax. There is also a Colfax Street in Jamestown, New York. There is also a Colfax Avenue in Concord, California.

There is a Colfax elementary school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a middle school in Wayne, New Jersey. Also in Wayne is the Schuyler-Colfax House, built by antecendents.

His family now resides in Northern New Jersey, but they no longer own the Colfax museum. They are currently trying to purchase the museum and all of its conents.


Hollister, Ovando James. Life of Schuyler Colfax. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

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Schuyler Colfax, 17th Vice Pres. of the USA's Timeline

March 23, 1823
New York City, New York, United States
April 11, 1870
Washington, District of Columbia, United States
January 13, 1885
Age 61