William McKinley's Childhood and Education:
McKinley was born on January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio. He attended public school and in 1852 enrolled in the Poland Seminary. When he was 17, he enrolled in Allegheny College in Pennsylvania but soon dropped out due to illness. He never returned to college because of financial difficulties and instead taught for awhile. After the Civil War he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1867.
Father: William McKinley, Sr. - Pig iron manufacturer.
Mother: Nancy Allison McKinley.
Siblings: Four sisters and three brothers.
Wife: Ida Saxton.
Children: Two daughters who both died as infants.
William McKinley's Career Before the Presidency:
McKinley served from 1861 until 1865 in the Twenty-third Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He saw action at Antietam where he was promoted to second lieutenant for valor. He eventually rose the level of brevet major. After the war he began practicing law. In 1887 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served until 1883 and again from 1885-91. In 1892, he was elected to be Governor of Ohio where he served until he became president.
Becoming the President:
In 1896, William McKinley was nominated to run for president for the Republican Party with Garret Hobart as his running mate. He was opposed by William Jennings Bryan who during his acceptance to the nomination gave his famous "Cross of Gold" speech where he spoke against the gold standard. The main issue of the campaign was what should back the U.S. currency, silver or gold. In the end, McKinley won with 51% of the popular vote and 271 out of 447 electoral votes.
Election of 1900:
McKinley easily won the nomination for president again in 1900 and was again opposed by William Jennings Bryan. Theodore Roosevelt was his Vice President. The main issue of the campaign was America's growing imperialism which the Democrats spoke against. McKinley won with 292 out of 447 electoral votes
Events and Accomplishments of William McKinley’s Presidency:
During McKinley's time in office, Hawaii was annexed. This would be the first step towards statehood for the island territory. In 1898, the Spanish-American War began with the Maine incident. On February 15, the U.S. battleship Maine which was stationed in Havana harbor in Cuba exploded and sank. 266 of the crew were killed. The cause of the explosion is not known to this day. However, the press led by newspapers such as that published by William Randolph Hearst wrote as though Spanish mines had destroyed the ship. "Remember the Maine!" became the rallying cry.
On April 25, 1898, war was declared against Spain. Commodore George Dewey destroyed Spain's Pacific fleet while Admiral William Sampson destroyed the Atlantic fleet. U.S. troops then captured Manila and took possession of the Philippines. In Cuba, Santiago was captured. The U.S. also captured Puerto Rico before Spain asked for peace. On December 10, 1898, the Paris Peace Treaty was created which had Spain give up its claim to Cuba and give Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine Islands in exchange for $20 million.
In 1899, Secretary of State John Hay created the Open Door policy where the U.S. asked for China to make it so that all nations would be able to trade equally in China. However, in June 1900 the Boxer Rebellion occurred in China which targeted Western missionaries and foreign communities. The Americans joined forces with Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and Japan to stop the rebellion.
One final important act during McKinley's time in office was the Gold Standard Act where by the U.S. was officially placed on the gold standard.
McKinley was shot two times by anarchist Leon Czolgosz while the president was visiting the Pan-American Exhibit in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901. He died on September 14, 1901. Czolgosz stated that he shot McKinley because he was an enemy of working people. He was convicted of the murder and electrocuted on October 29, 1901.
McKinley's time in office was important because the U.S. officially became a world colonial power. Further, America officially placed its money on the gold standard.