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5 Fast Facts About William McKinley

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

William McKinley will forever be remembered as one of the U.S. presidents who unfortunately had his time in office cut short due to assassination. Despite dying only a few months into his second term, McKinley had already accomplished many things. Luckily, historians have not forgotten his contributions to the country and have ranked him as one of the top 20 presidents in history. From his service in the Civil war to his backing of strong tariffs, his life of public service stretched for decades and deserves a closer look.

Civil War Veteran

McKinley has the distinction of being the last president who served in the Civil War. Not only did he enlist, McKinley was a part of some of the most historic battles of the war. Once serving under future president Rutherford B. Hayes, he would go on to be a part of the Second Battle of Bull Run and Antietam. McKinley would serve through the end of the war and leave the army as a brevet major.

Governor of Ohio

After serving in the House of Representatives for over a decade, McKinley became Governor of Ohio in 1892. Following the path of his former general, Rutherford B. Hayes, McKinley was now making a name for himself. His contributions to the national party as governor greatly increased his national profile.


After years of working on a strong tariff platform as a congressman, McKinley would push his agenda as president. McKinley would support the Dingley Act that raised the rates charged for American products.

Spanish-American War

After the sinking of the USS Maine during the first part of the Spanish-American War, McKinley took over an active role in the daily operations. By confronting the Spanish army in the caribbean and in the Philippines, the U.S. gained freedom for the people of Cuba and gained control of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. It was also during this time period that the U.S. annexed the Republic of Hawaii. The conflict with Spain would be resolved on December 18, 1898 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

Tour of the nation

Just after his second inauguration, McKinley would tour the nation by railroad. This would be the first time that the president and first lady would visit California together. By giving speeches and shaking hands extensively in the south and the west coast, McKinley gained exposure to the rapidly expanding country.