William McKinley

Photograph of William McKinley, circa 1900

Photograph of William McKinley, circa 1900

William McKinley was the twenty-fifth President of the United States. He served from 1897-1901. He was born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio. He was seventh in a family of nine children. When he was nine years old, the family moved to Poland, Ohio.

McKinley attended Union Seminary and became president of the local debating society. He began attending Allegheny College in Pennsylvania in 1859, but was forced to drop out after a year because of illness. He both clerked in the post office and taught in a county school until the Civil War broke out.

Following the tradition of his great grandfather and grand father, McKinley enlisted in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in June of 1861. He was made commissary sergeant and then received a promotion to second lieutenant, then captain, then major, all for bravery during battles in 1863, 1864 and 1865.

When the war ended, McKinley was only 22. The war had changed him from a sickly youth to a robust and healthy man. He was asked to stay in the army but instead decided to study law. After working for an attorney in Ohio for two years, he entered law school in Albany and was admitted to the bar the following year in 1867.

McKinley then moved to Canton, Ohio to establish a law practice. This was due in part to the fact that one of his sisters was a school teacher there. He was well-liked and successful and took an active role in the Republican Party. He was nominated for county prosecutor in 1869 and to the surprise of most, won election. He married Ida Saxton in 1871. The marriage was tragic in that both of their daughters died, one in infancy and the other at age four. Mrs. McKinley then became a lifelong invalid.

McKinley was beaten by the Democrats by forty-five votes in the next election. His first victory had been a shock to them as they very rarely lost a county election. McKinley returned to his practice and prospered there.

In 1876, McKinley’s old commanding officer, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President and McKinley was elected to Congress at the age of thirty three. He would be repeatedly re-elected, serving for more than fifteen years all told.

His career in Congress was marked by passage of the McKinley Tariff Act, which forced tariffs to all time highs, causing prices to escalate as well. He believed America’s small industry needed protection, as his father had been a small iron manufacturer. The backlash caused by high prices caused McKinley and many of his fellow Republicans to lose their seats in 1890.

In 1891, McKinley ran for Governor of Ohio. He campaigned very hard and won a marrow victory. He was reelected two years later by a greater margin. When the depression of 1893 struck, McKinley acted resolutely and sent trainloads of food to the poor. He himself was wiped out due to the failure of a partner, but wealthy friends got together to help him and pay his debts.

McKinley had received some votes in the 1892 convention where Harrison had been renominated. In 1896 he and his friends worked hard to ensure he would get the nomination. He traveled widely prior to the convention, giving almost four-hundred speeches in eight weeks. He was nominated on the first ballot. He ran against William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic nominee and came out strongly for sound money and the gold standard. He won the election.

As President, McKinley drew on his long experience in Congress and was able to partner very well with that body to further America. McKinley was able to get higher tariffs passed and an economic upturn followed.

William McKinley campaign poster

William McKinley campaign poster

McKinley also intervened in Cuba to help Americans trapped there. Relations with Spain began to deteriorate in 1897 and continued into 1898. When the battleship “Maine” was blown up in Havana harbor, declaration of war against Spain followed in April 1898. The war lasted less than four months and, as a result the American flag flew over Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

Trouble then ensued in China in 1900 with Boxer Rebellion. McKinley ordered the US Marines to join an international relief mission. The troops captured Beijing in 1900 and forced China to pay indemnities. The US returned its share to China which used the money to send Chinese students to American Universities.

McKinley ran again in 1900, and again against Bryan. He won more easily than before due to a good economy and pride in the US. His running mate was Theodore Roosevelt, Governor of New York.

The first months of McKinley’s second term went well. He traveled but when his wife fell ill, returned to Canton, Ohio for the summer. He went to Buffalo, NY for an address on September 5. In the speech, he basically said that isolation was no longer possible and began to question the need for tariffs and moved rhetorically toward reciprocal agreements. The day after the speech, he stood in line at the exposition shaking hands with the crowd. Suddenly, one of the people in line shot him twice. He died on September 14, and Theodore Roosevelt became President.

William McKinley Facts

  • President No.: 25th
  • When did William McKinley serve? 1897-1901
  • What was William McKinley’s party? Republican
  • Where was William McKinley from? Ohio
  • Who was William McKinley’s wife? Ida Saxton McKinley
  • When was William McKinley born? January 29, 1843
  • Where was William McKinley born? Niles, Ohio
  • When did William McKinley die? September 14, 1901
  • Where did William McKinley die? Buffalo, New York
  • How did William McKinley die? From being shot
  • Which college did William McKinley attend? Allegheny College, Albany Law School
  • What was William McKinley’s Jobs Before President? County prosecutor, Army Officer in the Civil War, Governor of Ohio, Congress
  • What was William McKinley’s height? 5 feet, 7 inches
  • What was the population when William McKinley was president? 75,994,575
  • What hobbies did William McKinley have? Riding, swimming, walking
  • What pets did William McKinley have? Mexican yellow parrot, roosters
  • What transportation did William McKinley use? Train
  • How did William McKinley communicate? Telephone, typed letter. telegram


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