"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, September 18, 2016

William McKinley

This 1897 portrait of William McKinley (1843-1901) by August Benziger hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
“William McKinley's ‘front porch’ campaign for the White House in 1896 consisted mainly of speeches delivered to well-wishers flocking by train to his Canton, Ohio, home. As president, the main focus of his administration lay in responding to calls for aid in Cuba's struggle against Spanish rule. Although reluctant to meddle, McKinley felt obliged to act when the American battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor, and interventionists blamed it on the Spanish. The result was the Spanish-American War, which led to Cuba's independence and Spain's surrender of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States. Despite his own doubts about this turn of events, McKinley made the traditionally isolationist United States more visible in international politics. 
One of several portraits derived from 1897-98 sittings at the White House, August Benziger's likeness testifies to McKinley's blandly funereal appearance. But housed in that uninteresting exterior was an unusual supply of warmth and charm that, as one observer put it, made McKinley ‘a marvelous manager of men.’” -- National Portrait Gallery
President McKinley


Painted in the
Executive Mansion
Washington D. C.

A. Benziger
Here's an 1896 “Oilograph” of McKinley by The Brett Litho. Co. N.Y. (LOC)

This sound bite features McKinley speaking from his front porch, during the 1896 presidential campaign.

My fellow citizens, recent events have imposed upon the patriotic people of this country a responsibility and a duty greater than that of any since the Civil War. Then it was a struggle to preserve the government of the United States. Now it is a struggle to preserve the financial honor of the government.

Our creed embraces an honest dollar, an untarnished national credit, adequate revenues for the uses of the government, protection to labor and industry, preservation of the home market, and reciprocity which will extend our foreign markets. [CHEERS]

Upon this platform we stand, and submit its declaration to the sober and considerate judgment of the American people.
McKinley was the last Civil War veteran elected to the presidency.  Grant,  Hayes,  Garfield, and Benjamin Harrison had been Union Veterans. 

He's shown below carrying dispatches at Cedar Creek, in 1864.

Carrying Dispatches Under Fire at Cedar Creek

For McKinley's service at Antietam, see this 2016 blog entry

McKinley was shot by unemployed wire-puller Leon Czolgosz on Sept. 6, 1901 a few months into his second term.

Shot Sept. 6th, 1901

The African-American man coming up behind Czolgosz is James Benjamin “Jim” Parker. Parker subdued Czolgosz before the assassin could fire a third shot at the President. It was believed at the time that he had saved McKinley's life.
With the help of his doctors, McKinley died on September 14, making Theodore Roosevelt President and ushering in the Progressive Era.

Last Farewell (Milburn House - Buffalo.)
Last Words “Good-by, All, Good-By.
It is God's way, His Will, Not Ours Be Done.”


McKinley appears on the U.S. $500 bill.

 When the McKinley $500 bill was officially discontinued in 1969, none had been printed since 1945. McKinley had been on the bill since 1928. It remains legal tender in the U.S.

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