A Strong and Steady Presidency
The third president of the United States to be assassinated, William McKinley served as 25th president and was elected twice into office.
He is known for his leadership during the Spanish-American War, for promoting American industry through protective tariffs, and for being the last president who had served in the Civil War.
Showing an Early Dedication to the Union
Early on, McKinley had to abandon his studies after first becoming ill and then needing to help his family through hard economic times.
He worked as a postal clerk and schoolteacher before volunteering in the Poland Guards in 1861. McKinley did well in the Army and was vocal about the Union cause, even writing letters and being published in his hometown newspaper. While in the Army, he met Major Rutherford B. Hayes, future president, and they struck up a friendship that lasted until 1893, when Hayes died.
When the war ended, McKinley studied law and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1867. He set up a successful law office in Canton, Ohio, and dabbled in real estate by buying property in downtown Canton.
In 1871, McKinley married Ida Saxton; they had two daughters. Unfortunately, both daughters died early. Ida fell into a depression and began to suffer from poor health. However, McKinley devoted himself to tending to his wife throughout his life.
William McKinley’s Pets
- Mexican double-yellow-headed parrot, which he named Washington Post
- Valeriano Weyler and Enrique DeLome, angora kittens
MORE PETS! Check out our photo gallery of selected White House pets
Assassination and Anarchy
McKinley began his political career by winning the election for prosecuting attorney of Start County. Though he did not win re-election, he continued his political aspirations and began building relationships with local labor leaders. McKinley was next elected to Ohio’s 17th congressional district under Republican nomination.
After holding various congressional posts, including chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, as well as being governor of Ohio, McKinley ran for president in 1896 and won. The beginning of his presidency was marked by many ill-advised cabinet appointments. However, he helped lead the nation out of the Spanish-American War and successfully pursued the annexation of Hawaii.
On September 6, 1901, McKinley gave a speech — his last — at the Pan-American Exposition (World’s Fair) in Buffalo, New York:
During his speech (but not shown in the video above), McKinley was shot twice in the abdomen by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.
Did You Know…?
- After his assassination attempt, McKinley was rushed to the hospital; however, the bullet was not found and the doctor was only able to clean and close the wound. Still, doctors remained confident that the president was recovering well as he showed no signs of infection and his health appeared to improve. But once he was allowed to eat, it was found out that he had gangrene growing on the walls of his stomach and that his blood was being poisoned by it. His health quickly deteriorated, and he died on September 14, 1901.
- McKinley may have actually saved his assassin’s life — for a while. After being shot, the president not only tried to remain as calm as possible, but he also urged the crowd not to attack Czolgosz. But after McKinley’s death, Czolgosz was put on trial, found guilty, and executed by electric chair on September 26, 1901.