Franklin MacVeagh was born on a farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Yale in 1862 and earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1864.

MacVeagh practiced law in New York City from 1864 to 1866. He moved to Chicago in 1866, where he established a wholesale grocery company. In 1874 he was the President of the Chicago Citizens' Association, an influential civic improvement organization of that day. He was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator in 1894, but lost the race in the State legislature. MacVeagh became a Republican two years later. He served as Secretary of the Treasury in the administration of William Howard Taft.

MacVeagh became a member of The Chicago Literary Club in 1874 and served as President in 1906-07. He presented nine papers. A member of the Club for sixty-one years, he died on July 6, 1934. He was the last survivor of the 80 or so men who became members of the Club in the year of its founding.

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