Our 25th President: 1897-1901
Just the Facts:
- McKinley was the last of the Ohio president dynasty (5 presidents in 28 years!)
- He was the first president to ride in a car.
- He had a pet parrot (its name was “Washington Post.”)
- His inauguration was the first to be recorded on film.
- He thought red carnations were his “good luck charm.” He often wore them in the button hold of his jacket. He was very formal and wore a black suit, satin tie, gloves and top hat everyday.
- His picture is on the $500 bill (you probably will never see one, since they haven’t been printed since 1934).
William McKinley was born in Ohio (sound familiar?). He and his 8 siblings grew up on a farm and he spent his days outside fishing, riding horses, and swimming. He attended public school, then prep school, then one year of college. Unfortunately, his family lost their savings in the Panic of 1857 and he returned home to become a teacher and help his family. He volunteered to served in the Civil War, and rose from a private to a major. After the Civil War was over, he decided to become a lawyer. He moved to Canton, Ohio to practice law. Before long, he entered politics. Before running for President, William served as a county prosecutor, Ohio governor, and represented Ohio in Congress.
President McKinley led America through the Spanish-American War. It all started when an American warship was sunk by the Spanish off the coast of Cuba. It was one of America’s shortest wars – lasting only six months. As a result of winning that war, America acquired land such as Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. For the first time, America was taken seriously as a world power. During his term, President also annexed the Hawaiian Islands (we didn’t take Hawaii by force, it was by agreement the Hawaiian government and America.
When McKinley ran for re-election, he asked a young politician from New York to be his Vice-President – none other than Theodore Roosevelt. Sadly, President McKinley was assassinated shortly after his second term began. It happened while he was attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York (otherwise known as a “world fair”). He reached out to shake a man’s hand and the man shot him twice instead (Leon Frank Czolgosz was an anarchist, who believed the world would be a better place with no governments at all). He was so kind that he told his guards to not hurt the man who shot him. He died 8 days later.
William married Ida when he was 28 years old. They had two daughters – Katherine and Ida. Unfortunately, baby Ida died before her first birthday and Katherine died as a young child from typhoid fever. Ida was never the same after that – she became quite frail and depressed and developed epilepsy.
When Ida became First Lady, she asked that anything “yellow” in the White House be removed, even flowers in the garden (she disliked the color that much). She spent a lot of time crocheting while First Lady – she donated 3,500 pairs of slippers to charity!
“The free man cannot be long an ignorant man.”
“That’s all a man can hope for during his lifetime – to set an example – and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history.”
“War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.”