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September 2016



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U.S. Census Bureau History: The Life and Death of President William McKinley


William McKinley delivering last speech

President William McKinley delivers his last speech before approximately
50,000 Pan-American Exposition attendees on September 5, 1901.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On September 6, 1901, anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot president William McKinley while he greeted visitors to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. Initially, doctors predicted McKinley would fully recover. Unbeknownst to his medical team, gangrenous infection was spreading throughout the president's body. On September 13, McKinley's health suddenly declined. The most popular American president since Abraham Lincoln died the next day.

William McKinley was born in Niles, OH, in 1843. Following the Civil War, he studied law, passed the bar in Warren, OH, and opened a law office in Canton, OH. Mentored by his friend Rutherford B. Hayes, McKinley won the Stark County, OH, prosecuting attorney's election in 1869, followed by a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1876, and Ohio's gubernatorial election in 1891. In 1896, the Republican Party nominated McKinley as their presidential candidate. He defeated Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan to win the 1896 and 1900 elections.

McKinley was at the height of his popularity at the beginning of the 20th century thanks to victory in the Spanish-American War, territorial expansion (that included the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii) and his administration's business and labor friendly policies. When the White House announced that McKinley would speak at the Pan-American Exposition on September 5, 1901, more than 50,000 attended.

On September 6, thousands queued for an opportunity to personally greet the president at the exposition's Temple of Music. McKinley dismissed concerns for his safety and looked forward to greeting the crowds following the warm reception he received a day earlier. As the president greeted as many as 50 fairgoers per minute, no one noticed Leon Czolgosz withdraw a handkerchief-wrapped pistol from his pocket. Standing feet from the president, Czolgosz fired two shots. McKinley lurched forward with a wound to his abdomen.

Fairgoers wrestled Czolgosz to the floor as McKinley's security detail rushed him to the exposition's hospital. A button deflected one shot, but the second injured the president's stomach, colon, kidney, and pancreas. Surgeons closed McKinley's wounds and transferred him to the home of exposition president John G. Milburn. McKinley's health appeared to improve soon after the attack, but there was little doctors could do to halt the spread of infection. The president's health suddenly declined on September 13 and he succumbed to septic shock on September 14, 1901. Federal District Judge John R. Hazel administered the oath of office to Theodore Roosevelt that afternoon.

Two days after the president's death, a grand jury indicted Leon Czolgosz for the president's murder and his trial began September 23. After deliberating just 30 minutes, the jury convicted Czolgosz and unanimously recommended the death penalty on September 24. Officials at Auburn State Prison in Auburn, NY, carried out the unrepentant assassin's sentence on October 29, 1901.

You can learn more about the life and death of President William McKinley using data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and other federal agencies. For example:

  • William McKinley was born in Niles, OH, on January 29, 1843. During the 1840 Census, the population of Ohio was 1,519,467. The 2010 Census found that Ohio was the nation's 7th largest state, with a population of 11,536,725.
  • In 1867, William McKinley settled in Canton, OH, where he married his wife Ida (Saxton) and practiced law. During the 1896 presidential campaign, McKinley famously greeted supporters and spoke to crowds from the front porch of his Canton home. Soon after McKinley's arrival in Canton, the 1870 Census found the city's population was 10,612. In 2010, it's population was 73,007.
  • Canton, OH, is home to the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum Link to a non-federal Web site. Visitors to the city may also enjoy stops at the National First Ladies' Library Link to a non-federal Web site, the First Ladies National Historic Site (home of William and Ida McKinley from 1878–1891), and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Link to a non-federal Web site.
  • William McKinley was the last veteran of the American Civil War to serve as U.S. president. Other Civil War veterans who served as president were Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison.
  • William and Ida McKinley had two daughters—Katherine and Ida. Ida died in infancy in 1873, and Katherine was 3 years old when she died from typhoid fever in 1875. According to vital records data collected during the 1870 Census, 20,370 people died of typhoid fever in 1870. In 1880, 22,854 reportedly died from "enteric fever," which included typhoid and paratyphoid fevers.
  • McKinley was the first presidential candidate to use the telephone during a campaign. During the June 1896 Republican National Convention in St. Louis, MO, he monitored speeches and votes from his Canton, OH, home. Six years later, the Census Bureau reported there were nearly 2.4 million telephones in the United States carrying 5 billion "messages or talks" over more than 4.9 million miles of wire.
  • Garret A. Hobart served as William McKinley's vice president from March 4, 1897, to November 21, 1899. When Hobart died in 1899, New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt became McKinley's vice-presidential candidate for the 1900 election. The McKinley-Roosevelt Republican ticket won the 1900 election against William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson with a popular vote of 7.2 million to 6.4 million.
  • During McKinley's first term as president, the United States fought and won the Spanish-American War (April–August 1898). Spain ceded Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States, and American troops occupied Cuba. As a result, the U.S. War Department instructed the Census Bureau to conduct its first censuses in Puerto Rico and Cuba in 1899. The 1900 Census included Hawaii for the first time and Public Act 467 (approved by the U.S. Philippine Commission on October 6, 1902) authorized the Census Bureau to take a Census of the Philippine Islands in 1903. The Census Bureau included Guam in the decennial census beginning in 1920.
  • President McKinley's second inauguration on March 4, 1901, was the first to be captured on film. The Library of Congress added the films produced by Thomas Edison's Edison Manufacturing Company to its National Film Registry in 2000.
  • Following his September 19 funeral, President McKinley was buried in Canton, OH. Over the next five years, the McKinley National Memorial Association raised funds and constructed a memorial for the assassinated president, which it dedicated on September 30, 1907. Set within Canton's Westlawn Cemetery, the McKinley National Memorial features a 96-foot-tall pink granite dome and a bronze statue of McKinley delivering his final speech on September 5, 1901. The memorial is the final resting place of President William McKinley, his wife Ida, and their two children.

McKinley and Roosevelt campaign card

Garret A. Hobart served as William McKinley's vice president from March 4, 1897 to November 21, 1899. When Hobart died in 1899, New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt
became McKinley's vice-presidential candidate for the 1900 election. The McKinley-Roosevelt Republican ticket won the 1900 election against William Jennings Bryan and
Adlai E. Stevenson with a popular vote of 7.2 million to 6.4 million.

Following McKinley's death on September 14, 1901, Federal District Judge John R. Hazel administered the oath of office to Theodore Roosevelt.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.




Electric Ambulance at the Pan American Exposition
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Driving McKinley


William McKinley was the first American president to ride in an automobile—a "Stanley Steamer" driven by Freelan Stanley in 1899.

McKinley was also the first president to ride in an electric motor vehicle—the ambulance that carried him to the Pan-American Exposition's hospital after he was shot on September 6, 1901.

Census data shows that between 1900 and 1909 (the year Theodore Roosevelt—McKinley's former vice president—left office), annual motor vehicle production grew from about 5,000 passenger vehicles to 130,986.

During the same period, states reported automobile registrations grew from approximately 8,000 to 312,000.

Photo courtesy of the State University of New York at Buffalo.












Francis Amasa Walker
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This Month in Census History


U.S. Marshals conducted the census from 1790 to 1870. In September 1870, two of these marshals added their name to the list of more than 200 who have given their lives in the service of our nation.

Assailants murdered Deputy U.S. Marshal C.R.V. Schefsky on September 7, 1870, while he enumerated households in the Bastrop, TX, area. Investigators believe Schefsky's murderer mistakenly assumed Schefsky carried tax money.

That same month, Assistant Deputy U.S. Marshal Herman J. Hillebrand injured his leg while conducting the census in Fayette County, TX. The injury proved fatal and he died September 19.*

*Five members of the Hillebrand Family, including Herman J. Hillebrand, are buried on private property in Fayette County, TX. The gravestone indicates Herman died September 19, 1870. Texas Lawmen, 1835–1899: The Good and the Bad, by Cliff Caldwell and Ron Delord, lists Hillebrand's date of death as September 22, 1870.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service.









Did You Know?


The Census Bureau broke ground for its new headquarters on September 16, 2003, in Suitland, MD. The new eight-story building replaced several smaller ones the agency first occupied in 1942. Geography Division employees were first to occupy the new headquarters in August 2006.




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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 17, 2019