Edwin Denby

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Edwin Denby (18 February, 1870 – 8 February, 1929) served as the forty-second Secretary of the Navy from 1921 through 1924.

Life & Career

Edwin Denby was born in Evansville, Indiana on February 18, 1870. He attended public schools and went to China in 1885 with his father, who was United States Minister. While in China he found employment with the Chinese imperial maritime customs service from 1887 through 1894 when he returned to the United States in 1894 to begin studying law. He graduated from the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor in 1896 and was admitted to the bar the same year, practicing in Detroit.

With the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Denby enlisted as a gunner's mate, third class and served aboard the auxiliary cruier Yosemite. In 1902 he was elected as a member of the State house of representatives. His transition to national office came in 1904 when he was elected for three terms in the House of Representatives beginning in 1905. After losing his seat in the 1910 elections, Denby resumed his law practice in Detroit, as well as engaging in banking and various other business enterprises. He was chosen to be president of the Detroit Charter Commission in 1913 and president of the Detroit Board of Commerce in 1916. When the United States entered World War One, Denby enlisted as a private in the United States Marine Corps and served until 1919 when he retired as a Major in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Denby was appointed chief probation officer in the recorder's court of the city of Detroit and in the circuit court of Wayne County in 1920. President Warren G. Harding appointed Denby as Secretary of the Navy in 1921. He remained Secretary after Harding's death in 1923, but resigned in 1924 in the aftermath of the Teapot Dome scandal. Returning to Detroit, he practiced law and carried out other business activities until his death there on 8 February, 1929.

See Also


  • Denby, Edwin (1922). Memoranda for the American Delegates to the Conference on Limitation of Armament. Washington: Government Printing Office.
  • Irwin, Manley R. (2013). Silent Strategists: Harding, Denby, and the U.S. Navy's Trans-Pacific Offensive, World War II. Revised ed. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America.
  • Miller, Phillip Harlow (1957). The Role of Secretary of the Navy, Edwin Denby, in the Teapot Dome Affair. Unpublished B.A. Thesis. Champaign-Urbana: University of Illinois.
  • Trani, Eugene P. (Winter 1967). "Secretary Denby Takes a Trip". Michigan History 51: pp. 277-297.


Naval Appointments
Preceded by
Josephus Daniels
Secretary of the Navy
6 Mar, 1921 – 10 Mar, 1924
Succeeded by
Curtis D. Wilbur