Monday, March 12, 2012

10 Fun Facts About William McKinley

William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States

1. William McKinley, Jr., was born in Ohio in 1843, the son of a businessman who owned several iron mills.  McKinley was a devout Methodist throughout his life, and volunteered as a teenager at his local church.  He attended only one year of college, returning home due to depression and illness.  Afterwards, he worked briefly as a schoolteacher. 
2. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, 18-year-old McKinley volunteered for the military and served under Major Rutherford B. Hayes, who would, of course, go on to become president in the 1870's.  They remained close friends and political allies for the remainder of their lives.  McKinley eventually earned the rank of Brevet Major.  
3. After several years of law school and training, McKinley set up a small practice in Canton, Ohio.  In 1869, he was elected District Attorney of Stark County, Ohio, but was defeated in 1871 in his bid for re-election. That same year, he married Ida Saxton, and the couple had two daughters.  Their second daughter, Ida, died in infancy in 1873, and the eldest daughter, Katherine, died of typhoid fever two years later.  The couple never had anymore children.  Her daughters' deaths devestated Ida McKinley, and she began to develop pscyhological and physical health problems, including epilepsy and debilitating anxiety.  She remained a recluse for the rest of her life, including during her husband's presidency.   
4. In 1875, McKinley famously defended a group of striking coalminers who had been arrested for rioting after strikebreakers attempted to penetrate their line.  McKinley managed to secure acquittals for all but one of the coalminers, and this greatly raised his notoriety around the state.  Following this, McKinley ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1876, also campaigning for his old friend and comrade-in-arms, Rutherford B. Hayes, in his run for the presidency.  Hayes won a narrow victory to become president, and McKinley easily won a seat in Congress.  
5. From the start of his first term in Congress, McKinley proved himself to be independently-minded, frequently voting across the aisle and event voting once to override a presidential veto from his friend and fellow Republican  Hayes.  
6.  By the late 1880's, McKinley had become a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and after failing in a bid to become Speaker of the House in 1888, he instead was appointed as the chairman of the committee.  As chairman, he was instrumental in passing a new tariff that greatly increased the taxes levied against foreign products entering the country.  This was designed to promote American businesses, and the tariff became known as the McKinley Tariff of 1890.  
7. The McKinley Tariff went over like a lead balloon.  Domestic prices shot up throughout the early 1890's as demand for them increased, and the economy delved into the worst economic depression of the 19th century.  Numerous Republicans lost seats around the country, including McKinley, who was defeated for re-election in 1890.  The recession peaked in 1893, thus becoming known to history as the Panic of 1893.  In 1894, the McKinley Tariff was repealed and a new, lower, tariff was put back into place.
8. Finding himself out of a job in 1891, McKinley ran for governor of Ohio and won, taking office in 1892.  He proved a popular governor, and was re-elected in 1894.  Despite his involvement in the unpopular tariff that was named for him, McKinley managed to maintain a prominent profile in Republican politics, and was nominated for president in 1896.  He continued to support high tariffs, denying that they were to blame for the recession, and took a compromise position on the issue of the gold standard, which was a hot-button topic at the time.  
9. McKinley instituted an effective "Front Porch Campaign," opting to meet with voters and journalists at his home in Ohio, rather than touring the country giving speeches, as his Democratic challenger (William Jennings Bryan) was doing.  It paid off.  McKinley won the election in a narrow victory, winning 51% of the popular vote.  His inauguration was the first in U.S. history to be videotaped.  At least one of his campaign speeches was recorded on audio as well.      
10.  McKinley's presidency was widely viewed as a successful one, with the economy improving and American businesses growing larger.  McKinely was also given credit for America's resounding victory in the Spanish-Americacn war, which resulted in territorial gains for the U.S.  In 1900, McKinley again faced William Jennings Bryan in the election, and this time defeated him handily.  Six months after his second inauguration, McKinley was shot twice by an anarchist named Leon Czolgosz while shaking hands at a public appearance in Buffalo, New York.  One bullet was stopped by a button and only lodged in McKinley's clothes; the other, however, entered his abdomen.  The only doctor in the vicinity capable of performing a surgical operation was a gynecologist named Matthew Mann.  He was unable to locate the bullet.  As days passed, the president's condition seemed to improve, and the news media was assured that he was in no mortal danger.  However, seven days later, he took a sudden turn for the worse and died, on September 12, 1901.  The bullet had gone through his pancreas and kidney, and gangrene had formed along its trajectory.  He was buried in Canton, Ohio. 


Anonymous said...

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Scott said...

Thanks for the advice, but no, I'm not a law student.

Anonymous said...


Scott said...


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