Niles celebrates McKinley’s 170th

NILES – Tuesday would be President William McKinley’s 170th birthday.

But according to experts on his life, birthdays were not a big deal for the president, who hailed from Niles.

Saturday, the McKinley Birthplace and Resource Center, just a couple of doors down the street from the museum and library that bear his name, held a celebration in his honor.

Mike Wilson, who has portrayed McKinley in performances for 22 years, was on hand to greet guests who also got tours of the birthplace.

Wilson said McKinley would have celebrated his birthday with little fanfare, even in the White House.

”He would probably do very little,” Wilson said. ”Maybe a cigar with his friends in the executive mansion or spending time with his wife.”

McKinley was deeply devoted to his wife, Ida, who, within a series of years, was dealt the loss of two daughters and her mother, which McKinley Library Director Patrick Finan said led to a series of illness and probably a nervous breakdown.

She died five years after McKinley was assassinated at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo in September of 1901.

Finan agreed that McKinley would not do much celebrating of his birthday.

”It would’ve been simple,” Finan said.

McKinley had three brothers and five sisters and was the seventh of nine children, Finan said. As a child, there may have been cake and a few small trinkets, but not much else, Finan said.

Even if he was in the White House, McKinley would not treat his birthday differently than any other day, he said.

”It was just another day,” Finan said.

Wilson said after 22 years of portraying the president, he is still learning more about McKinley. He said what strikes him the most is his attachment to his wife, who he always took care of.

Wilson said there is a small clip of McKinley at the exposition that he has studied to help him with his presentation. He said there also You Tube videos about McKinley that help him as well.

”I’m always learning more about him and studying him,” Wilson said.