Recently Inaugurated President James K. Polk Removes a Famous Inventor From a Collector’s Post and Replaces Him With a Polk Loyalist

He asks the Secretary of the Treasury for the file he needs to review to accomplish this

Solomon Andrews was a medical doctor and three times Mayor of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, constructing the city’s first sewer system. John Tyler made him Collector of the Port of Perth Amboy in 1844. Andrews is best remembered as an inventor, particularly of the Aereon, a balloon airship with steering controls, and...

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Recently Inaugurated President James K. Polk Removes a Famous Inventor From a Collector’s Post and Replaces Him With a Polk Loyalist

He asks the Secretary of the Treasury for the file he needs to review to accomplish this

Solomon Andrews was a medical doctor and three times Mayor of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, constructing the city’s first sewer system. John Tyler made him Collector of the Port of Perth Amboy in 1844. Andrews is best remembered as an inventor, particularly of the Aereon, a balloon airship with steering controls, and taking it on a dynamic two-hour flight from New York to Oyster Bay, Long Island. This was the first successful dirigible airship, and he thus made history’s first controlled flight. Andrews later served as a volunteer surgeon in the Union Army, and offered President Lincoln use of the Aereon for military purposes.

When President Polk took office, he wanted to reward his political friends and party loyalists with federal position, such as Collector. As was customary, he removed the previous President’s picks, such as Andrews, and replaced them with men of his own choice. James A. Nichols had been Deputy Collector of the Port of Perth Amboy under Van Buren, and then served as a town official in Perth Amboy. Polk removed Andrews and replaced him with Nichols.

Robert J. Walker was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi when he was tapped by President Polk to be Secretary of the Treasury, taking office on March 8, 1845. Walker was a passionate defender of slavery, and in favor of the annexation of Texas, as was Polk, claiming that an independent Texas might fall into the hands of Great Britain. Collectors of customs at ports were under his jurisdiction.

Autograph letter signed, Washington, May 5, 1845, to Walker, asking for the file that led to the Andrews/Nichols switch. “The Secretary of the Treasury is requested to send to me all the papers on file in his department relating to the appointment of Collector at Perth Amboy, N. Jersey.”

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