In the first years of the 20th century, a small number of committee chairmen dominated the federal government. As one newspaper reporter observed, the four most powerful senators could "block and defeat anything that the president or the House may desire. " Among the "Senate Four, " the unquestioned leader was Republican Senator Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island, who chaired the Finance Committee. John S. Pughe, in a cartoon that appeared in Puck on May 16, 1906, portrayed Aldrich as a large, menacing spider who had trapped worthwhile legislation in the web of his Senate committee room, with the implication that these bills would be devoured rather than enacted. Aldrich’s web is anchored both in the U.S. Capitol and in the Standard Oil Corporation, an allusion to the marriage of his daughter, Abby Aldrich, to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
1. Charles Willis Thompson, Party Leaders of the Time (New York: G.W. Dillingham, 1906), 27.