Posted by: Ed Darrell | September 15, 2009

President William McKinley, d. September 14, 1901

On the Threshold, illustration from Harpers Weekly, September 14, 1901
“On the Threshold,” illustration from Harper’s Weekly, September 14, 1901

Teachers should be mining the “On This Day” feature at the New York Times, which usually features an historic cartoon or illustration from an antique Harper’s Weekly.  It is a favorite feature, to me.

Yesterday, it featured the illustration from Harper’s upon the death of President William McKinley, on September 14, 1901.

At the Threshold

Artist: William Allen Rogers

his post-dated cartoon was published as President William McKinley lay dying from an assassin’s bullet.  He had been shot on September 6, 1901, by anarchist Leon Czolgosz (pronounced chol-gosh) at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.  The president died on September 14.  Here, McKinley is led to the Hall of Martyrs by grief-stricken personifications of the North and South.  Between pillars topped by busts of the two previously slain presidents, Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield, the angel of death prepares to place a laurel wreath of honor upon McKinley’s head.  (Images related to Garfield’s assassination also showed a reconciled North and South.)

There is much more at the Times site.

Robert Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln, was present when McKinley was shot.  Accounts I have read but not confirmed say that Robert Lincoln had been invited to attend Ford’s Theatre with his father and mother, the night his father was shot.  As a member of President James Garfield’s cabinet, Robert Lincoln had been awaiting Garfield’s arrival at Union Station in Washington, D.C., when Garfield was shot.

And as a visitor in Buffalo, Robert Lincoln had as a matter of respect lined up to shake President William McKinley’s hand.

Astounding if true.  Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated.  Robert Lincoln was present for two of them, and close to the first assassination.  Where can we confirm or deny that story?

McKinley’s death catapulted the do-gooder, Theodore Roosevelt, into the presidency, probably to the great chagrin of corrupt Republican politicians who had hoped that by getting him nominated to the vice presidency they could get him out of New York politics.

The rest is history.

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