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William McKinley Facts

Twenty-Fifth (25th) President of the United States

Years Served as President: 1897-1901

Vice President: Garret Hobart, Theodore Roosevelt

Party: Republican

Age at Inauguration: 54

William McKinley

Home State: Ohio

Date of Birth: January 29, 1843

Died: September 14, 1901

Married: Ida Saxton

Children: Katherine, Ida

Nickname: Major, Idol of Ohio

What is William McKinley known for?

William McKinley served as president during the Spanish-American War of 1898. During the war, the United States gained possession of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam. The country became known as a world power.

McKinley is also known for being one of four U.S. presidents to be assassinated while in office.

Naval battle in the Spanish-American War
Naval battle in the Spanish-American War

Early Life

William McKinley was born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio. Growing up, he loved being outdoors and swimming, fishing, and riding horses.

He was a good student and eventually attended Allegheny College. During the Panic of 1857, however, McKinley’s family lost everything. McKinley left college to help his family financially. He became a teacher.

Although he was just 18 when the Civil War broke out, McKinley joined the Union army. He earned the rank of major by the end of the war.

He returned to Ohio after the war and studied law. He later opened a law practice in Canton, Ohio.

practicing lawyer

Family Life

In 1871, McKinley married Ida Saxton, the daughter of a banker in Canton. The couple had two daughters, but neither survived past early childhood.

After the death of her mother and two daughters, Ida became very sick. She remained in poor health for the rest of her life, with McKinley caring for her.

During his presidency, he spent most evenings playing cards with Ida.

Political Career

Around the time McKinley met Ida, he began his political career as a member of the Republican Party. He quickly became popular in Ohio politics and was elected to Congress in 1876.

He served in Congress for nearly 14 years and became known for his views on economic protectionism. He favored high tariffs on imported goods.


As a result, prices in Ohio started to rise, and voters did not elect McKinley for another term.

However, he ran for governor the following year and won. McKinley served two terms as Ohio’s governor.

In 1896, McKinley won the Republican presidential nomination. His opponent, William Jennings Bryan, had radical policies that many people did not agree with.

In comparison to Bryan, McKinley was considered the protector of America’s finances. He won the popular vote by about 600,000 votes. It was the largest victory in 25 years.


During his presidency, McKinley was best known for foreign affairs.

He led the United States in the brief Spanish-American War, which ended with the U.S. gaining control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. It also led to Cuba gaining its independence.

where is Guam

He also established an “Open Door” policy that supports U.S. interests in China. This gave the U.S. a strong position in world markets, and the economy improved.

At this point, McKinley was very popular. When his vice president died, he replaced him with Theodore Roosevelt, who was also well-liked by the public.

His opponent in the next election was again William Jennings Bryan, and McKinley again defeated him easily.

Theodore Roosevelt laughing
Theodore Roosevelt


After re-election, McKinley took a tour of the western states. Everywhere he traveled, he was greeted by cheering crowds. His tour concluded in Buffalo, New York.

On September 5, he gave a speech to a crowd of 50,000 at the Pan-American Exposition.

The next day, McKinley was standing in a receiving line at the exposition, greeting and talking with attendees. He was, however, shot twice in the chest by Leon Czolgosz, a Detroit mill worker who claimed McKinley was “the enemy of the people.”

Leon Czolgosz mug shot
Leon Czolgosz

After McKinley was shot, the crowd attacked the assassin and began to beat him. McKinley reportedly yelled, “Boys, don’t let them hurt him!”

He was rushed to a hospital but died eight days later of gangrene.

Theodore Roosevelt, McKinley’s vice president, then stepped in as president.


Fun Facts About William McKinley

William McKinley was the fifth president from Ohio in just 28 years.

Seal Of Ohio

A devout Christian, McKinley originally wanted to be a Methodist minister. He didn’t like swearing and always prayed before making big decisions.

At the start of the Civil War, William McKinley served under Rutherford B. Hayes, another future president.

McKinley wore a signature pink carnation on his lapel. He often gave it to friends and acquaintances as a gesture of affection.

Theodore Roosevelt once said McKinley had “no more backbone than a chocolate éclair.”

war ambulance

McKinley was the first president to ride in a car. He was even transported to the hospital in an ambulance after being shot.

His face is on the discontinued $500 bill.

US Presidents

Obama in Oval Office
President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012.

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