William McKinley

Photo of William McKinley
William McKinley

Canton (OH) Repository

Quick Facts

William McKinley was President of the United States from 1896 until 1901, the fifth and last Civil War veteran to occupy the office. He began his military career in June 1861 as a private in the 23rd Ohio Infantry and after commendable service, ended it a brevet major. He became a lawyer after the war and settled in Canton, Ohio where he married and assumed a variety of community leadership roles.

He also became active in Republican Party circles which led to his election as Stark County prosecutor in 1869. He was elected to Congress in 1877 and again in 1885, and then served two terms as Governor of Ohio (1891 to 1895). He campaigned for and won the presidency in 1896 on a platform of hard money and high tariffs. In foreign affairs, disagreements with Spain over the treatment of revolutionaries and civilians in Cuba came to a head in on February 15, 1898, when the U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana Harbor under mysterious circumstances.

The United States blamed Spanish agents for the attack and Congress authorized, over McKinley's objections, a blockade of Cuba. This precipitated a declaration of war by Spain on April 23, 1898. Spanish forces in the Caribbean and Pacific were quickly overwhelmed in a ten week war and in the subsequent negotiations; the United States acquired its first overseas colonies: Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

McKinley was reelected President in 1900 but was shot by an anarchist in Buffalo New York on September 5, 1901 and died of his wounds eight days later.

President's Park (White House)

Last updated: October 17, 2021