William McKinley
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Canton, Ohio June 19, 2005 20th Visited

After he was assassinated in 1901, President
William McKinley was laid to rest temporarily
in a vault at West Lawn Cemetery in his
hometown of Canton, Ohio. The next few
years were spent planning and constructing
a permanent tomb for his family close by.
108 steps lead up from the parking lot
to the ninety-six-foot tall memorial,
which was completed in 1907.

Architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle
designed the grounds of the memorial in
the image of a sword, with the tomb
incorporated as part of its hilt. Inside
the building, President and Mrs. McKinley
are interred within dark green granite
sarcophagi. Their two daughters are
entombed in the structure's walls.

* Fast Facts * *

- First Lady: Ida Saxton McKinley

  - Spouse: Ida Saxton McKinley (m. 1871-1901)

- Political Party: Republican Party

- Term: 1897-1901

- Vice President: Garret Augustus Hobart (1897-1899)
   Theodore Roosevelt (1901)

- Born: January 29, 1843

- Died: September 14, 1901

- Age: 58

- Cause of Death: Gangrene caused by Gunshot Wound

- Last Words: "It is God's way. His will be done, not ours. We are all going... Oh, dear."

 Cemetery: McKinley National Memorial, Canton, Ohio

- GPS Coordinates: 40°48'26.5"N 81°23'35.5"W

* Background on William McKinley * *

* William McKinley was the last U.S. president to have served in the American Civil War. He earned significant praise for his actions during the Battle of Antietem on September 17, 1862 -- the single bloodiest day in U.S. history. Close to 23,000 Union and Confederate soldiers were wounded, killed, or went missing as General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia attempted to advance through Maryland. Nineteen-year-old Private McKinley of Ohio's 23rd Volunteer Infantry brought provisions and coffee to his Union comrades during the clash. By the time he was mustered out of service in 1865, McKinley had risen to the rank of major and earned the respect of his commanding officer, Brevet Major General Rutherford B. Hayes. The two remained close over the ensuing years, and in 1876 Hayes -- by then Ohio's governor and a presidential candidate -- supported McKinley's successful bid to serve as one of the state's congressmen. During his tenure in the House of Representatives, McKinley attached himself to the issue of tariffs. In 1890, while he was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, McKinley pushed a bill that placed these taxes on foreign goods. The bill's supporters hoped that the tariffs would protect U.S. products and encourage Americans to buy domestically-made goods. The McKinley Tariff was approved by both congressional chambers and President Benjamin Harrison, who signed it into law. The decreased competition inspired American companies to raise prices on their items, and impacted voters ousted Harrison from the White House in the 1892 presidential election.

* In 1896, McKinley ran for president against Democrat William Jennings Bryan. Bryan advocated for purchasing and coining silver to help alleviate the financial depression that had gripped the country since 1893. McKinley pressed to stay on the gold standard, partially because he believed backing the U.S. dollar with silver would disrupt trade with foreign nations that still used gold. Though Bryan had significant popular support, McKinley and his fundraiser, Mark Hanna, proved to be too shrewd to overcome. Once in office, McKinley applied his skills to influencing the fourth estate. Whereas Grover Cleveland loathed newspaper coverage, McKinley appreciated the press and wanted to use it to his advantage. The president set up the White House’s first press room, and administration officials fed hungry reporters information that was favorable to McKinley’s agenda. At this time, the press was transforming the U.S. on national and international levels. Many American newspapers published stories about Cubans who were attempting to overthrow Spanish imperial rule. The colonizers confined the revolutionaries to concentration camps, which prompted outcry in the U.S. With Cuba just ninety miles from Florida's coast, some Americans saw an opportunity to both provide humanitarian aid and enhance America's global influence. Though McKinley dreaded the prospect of war, he relented to pressure from Congress and newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst to send a battleship to Cuba to protect American citizens and business interests. On February 15, 1898, three weeks after the USS Maine sailed into Havana Harbor, the cruiser exploded. Newspapers owned by Hearst and rival Joseph Pulitzer printed sensationalized stories that pinned the blame for the 266 American deaths on the Spanish government. A four week inquiry conducted by a board from the U.S. Navy Department ruled that a mine had detonated beneath the Maine, which further stoked the public cries for war. On April 21st, President McKinley ordered a Cuban blockade, which was swiftly followed by declarations of war from both the Spanish and American governments. From the newly-formed Situation Room, McKinley received battle updates in real time. Spain was over-matched and surrendered after ten weeks. Cuba was set on the path to becoming an independent republic, and with McKinley presiding over the acquisition of the Spanish territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, the U.S. emerged as an imperial power.

* McKinley was elected to a second term in 1900, and he was poised to lead the U.S. into the twentieth century. May 1901 saw the launch of the Pan-American Exposition, a six month fair in Buffalo, New York, that promoted commercial relations with foreign countries and showcased technology that was projected to guide the coming years. McKinley appeared at the fair on September 5th and delivered an address to attendees. The following day, he greeted the public inside the expo’s Temple of Music. While most people waiting in line wished merely to meet the president and shake his hand, anarchist Leon Czolgosz was intent on assassinating him. With the revolver in his right hand concealed by a handkerchief, Czolgosz approached McKinley and fired two shots at his abdomen. The assailant was subdued with aid of James Parker, the man behind him in the queue. The wounded president was operated on at the exposition hospital, and then sent to recuperate at the home of the fair’s president, John Milburn. Though the Ohioan seemed to be mending and requested solid food, poisonous gangrene was manifesting inside his injured gut. His condition changed for the worse on September 13th, and he died early the next morning. Czolgosz was swiftly indicted and convicted for the murder, and he was executed via electrocution at Auburn Prison on October 29th.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

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Cash, James B. Unsung Heroes: Ohioans in the White House: A Modern Appraisal. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 1998. Reprinted. Wilmington, OH: Orange Frazer Press, 2000.

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LaFeber, Walter. "William McKinley." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 276-87. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

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"Life Portrait of William McKinley." C-SPAN video, 2:35:22. August 23, 1999. https://www.c-span.org/video/? 151617-1/life-portrait-william-mckinley.

Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo: May 1st to November 1st, 1901. Buffalo: Pan-American Exposition Company, 1900. https://archive.org/details/panamericanexpos03pana.

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"William McKinley Tomb." nps.gov. Accessed July 22, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/ohioeriecanal/mck.htm.

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