Imperial William McKinley

McKinley can be seen as a presidency in transition. Legislators in the 1800s were mostly worried about how the nation was expanding in North America. However, under McKinley’s leadership, American interests extended abroad. The United States had not engaged in combat with a European power since the War of 1812 against Britain, when Congress declared war on Spain. In addition, the United States acquired Hawaii, seized control of other countries’ territories, and attempted to control global trade with China. According to some historians, President McKinley himself desired for American influence abroad to grow. Some counter that he was simply responding to the national mood of the day.


Ohioans produced six presidents, including McKinley. Among his eight siblings, he was the seventh. Historians recall his early years as enjoyable and loving. His dad ran a tiny iron mill. His mother instilled integrity and manners in her children. McKinley was a diligent learner. He did not have the funds to complete his studies at Pennsylvania’s Allegheny College, which he briefly enrolled. He joined for the Army and fought on the Union side in the Civil War a few years after graduating from that institution. He worked for Rutherford B. Hayes, who would go on to become president. Throughout their lives, the two remained close.


Ida, his wife, was a bright, vivacious young woman from a prosperous background. She had been employed at her father’s bank for a while. But Ida McKinley started to have health problems. Seizures attacked her. Then her mom passed away. Her youngest daughter passed away while still a baby a few months later. Ida McKinley held on to her older daughter, but the younger child quickly became ill with a fever and passed away as well. Ida and William McKinley never again were the same. Ida McKinley was ill for the duration of her life. She sewed most of the time on a little rocking rocker.


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