Born in 1808, just a mile from what would eventually be Augustus Saint Gaudens home and studios; (1885-1914) Aspet in Cornish, New Hampshire; Chase was the son of a tavern keeper and local town official. Upon the death of his father when he was nine, Chase moved to Ohio to live with an uncle who was president of Cincinnati College. Chase was accepted to Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He graduated in 1826 and moved to Washington D.C. where he studied law. Chase was admitted to the bar in 1829.

Returning to Ohio in 1830, Chase practiced law, wrote and lectured, and became highly active in antislavery activities. His law firm specialized in the defense of escaped slaves. Chase defended “runaways” so often that he became known as the “attorney general for fugitive slaves.” Chase helped form the antislavery Liberty Party. After the Mexican –American War, he helped form the Free-Soil Party in 1847. This party was formed to oppose the extension of slavery into any of the newly acquired territories won from Mexico. It advocated a change in homesteading legislation. A credo of the Free-Soil Party was that all men had a natural right to the soil. In 1849, a coalition of “Free-Soilers” and Democrats elected Chase to the United States Senate as its only Free-Soil representative. In the Senate, Chase used his experience to oppose measures such as the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was the principle reason for the formation of what would eventually become the Republican Party. Chase was elected Governor of Ohio in 1855 by a Republican ticket that was dominated by Know-Nothings. This party was formed as a reaction to the emerging political power of recent immigrants from Ireland and Germany. Officially called the American Party, this secretive organization of “old-stock” Americans was active from 1852 to 1856. After re-election to the governorship in 1857, Chase rejoined the Senate in 1860. By then, Chase was a leading figure in the Republican Party.

President Lincoln appointed Salmon P. Chase Secretary of the Treasury in March 1861. As Treasury Secretary during the Civil War, Chase was responsible for the daunting task of arranging the financing of the war for the Union. In February 1863, he established the national banking system, widely viewed as his finest achievement.

Chase’s portrait appears on the Series of 1862 $1 note, the first Legal Tender issue of United States Notes. He implemented the addition of the motto: “In God We Trust” onto U.S. coins, starting with the 2 Cent coin of 1864.

Chase’s radical antislavery views, as well as political ambition combined with a substantial ego, made it difficult for him to get along with the more moderate and reserved Abraham Lincoln. Chase resigned from the Treasury on June 29th, 1864. After failing to secure the Republican Party’s nomination, Chase accepted Lincoln’s nomination to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in December 1864 following the death of Chief Justice Roger Taney. It was Chase who administered the presidential oath to Andrew Johnson following Lincoln’s assassination. He took a moderate stand in most of the important reconstruction cases. Chase presided over the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. Chase was denounced by his old radical friends for his fairness during Johnson’s trial. Courted briefly by the Democrats in 1868 and the Liberal Republicans in 1872, Chase abandoned his further political prospects due to bad health. Salmon P. Chase, a giant in 19th century American political and legal history, died of a paralytic stroke in 1873. Final tributes were the featuring of his portrait on the last $10,000 banknote issued in 1928 and 1934, and the naming of the Chase Manhattan Bank in his honor.