The Cabinets nominated by the U.S. President contain the men and women who advise and support the head of state in his duties. This reference book catalogs more than two hundred years’ worth of Cabinet secretaries, organized chronologically by presidential administration, documenting the work of the those serving in this capacity from the first administration to the most recent.
Each presidential administration has its own table of contents and is introduced with an article about the decisions and philosophies underpinning the Cabinet choices. Within that administration, the Cabinet members are organized by order of presidential succession. In pull-out boxes, each calender year is presented in timeline format, offering an historical snapshot with a dozen or more landmark events capturing the national zeitgeist underpinning the political machinations.
Each cabinet member’s entry is divided into three parts — biographical background, appointment and time in office, and a coda after leaving office. Cabinet members spanning administrations have their entire tenure addressed in the first article in which they appear, with cross-references from later administrations. References to each entry are presented as endnotes, as biographical summaries of many of the older secretaries are drawn from standard sources like The National Cyclopedia of American Biography and Scribner’s Dictionary of American Biography.
Some of the information contained within the entries can be sketchy at points — witness Charles Nagel, Taft’s Secretary of Commerce, who Grossman speculates "must have been surprised" to be appointed but "his reactions to this nomination are lost to history" (p.722).
In addition to the biographical sketches of U.S. Cabinet members, Grossman includes the Confederate cabinet of Jefferson Davis. There are also primary source documents — including contemporary news articles, and correspondence from Thomas Jefferson and Donald Rumsfeld — related to the Cabinet. An extensive bibliography covering dissertations, historical society holdings, and correspondence and other archival manuscripts will be useful as a finding aid and collection development tool for academic librarians. Appendices include chronological and alphabetical indices of all U.S. Cabinet members, as well as those whose nominations crossed parties, failed and withdrawn nominations, and secretaries who served in more than one post. The work also includes lists of female and minority Cabinet members.
The updates to this second edition are perhaps the most valuable aspect of the Encyclopedia. Grossman acknowledges the paucity of sources on the Obama appointees in the introduction to that segment, but pulls together a workable range of information on the nascent Cabinet. The Hilary Clinton biography involves a succinct recounting of the scandals of the Clinton presidency. The articles on Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and Attorney General Eric Holder are similarly pithy and provide those often-mandated print book sources. As a specialized work for serious students of American government, the Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet will be a solid supplemental pick for school and public libraries.