William McKinley

— 25th President of the United States —

View full portraits at:
National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery


March 4, 1897 to September 14, 1901

BORN: January 19, 1843
Niles, Ohio
September 14, 1901, Buffalo, N.Y.
Buried in Canton, Ohio
Ida Saxton, 1871
Katie, Ida

William McKinley spent his early years in Niles, Ohio. Once he nearly drowned in Mosquito Creek, but as he was going down for the third time, he was saved by a childhood friend.

During the Mexican War, McKinley and his friends had fun drilling like soldiers. At age nine, he and his family moved to nearby Poland, Ohio.

McKinley's educational roots were fostered in the Niles Public School system. In 1852, he enrolled at the Poland Seminary. A naturally gifted speaker, McKinley helped organize then served as first president of the school's Everett Literary and Debating Society.

When he was 17, McKinley entered Allegheny College, but exhaustion from studying too hard forced him to drop out. The economic panic of 1857 forced him to go to work instead of back to school.

After he spent time teaching and working in the post office, McKinley enrolled in the infantry and spent four years fighting in the Civil War. Although he was never injured, McKinley repeatedly risked his life in battles with the South. His commander and future president, Rutherford B. Hayes, said, "Young as he was, we soon found that in the business of a soldier, requiring much executive ability, young McKinley showed unusual and unsurpassedcapacity . . ."

His first elected office was that of governor of Ohio. McKinley easily won the Republican nomination for president in 1896. He went on to victory in the general election over William Jennings Bryan.

The highlights of McKinley's first term were a boom in United States prosperity and the Spanish-American War, which brought Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guam, and the Philippines under U.S. influence.

In 1900, McKinley again defeated Bryan in a rematch of their campaign four years earlier.

In Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901, a day after his last public address, McKinley was receiving handshakes from well-wishers when he was shot by an assassin. He underwent two operations and seemed to be improving, when he suddenly took a turn for the worse and died on September 14. His vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, then assumed the office of president.

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