McKinley believed in business

Editor’s note: This is part of a weekly series marking the 120th anniversary of Niles native William McKinley’s U.S. presidency.

President William McKinley stated many times in his campaign and presidential speeches of 1897 the business of America is business. The economy and jobs were key components of his campaign and his presidency.

In the 40 years since the Civil War, America would begin to develop into an industrial giant through two main industries — railroads and steel. The spread of railroads occurred since the May 10, 1869, completion of the Transcontinental Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, where tracks connected the East and West coasts.

By the start of 1898, there were almost 200,000 miles of track across the U.S. Telegraph wires were installed along the tracks for over a half million miles carrying 50 million messages via Western Union a year.

With the railroad industry booming steel output grew and so did jobs. Business was booming with the exception of the financial collapse or panic of 1893 as costs of labor were going up and strikes were occurring as the railroads slowed their expansion activities. Factories needed new markets and products to make for the growing population and a fairer way to sell their products into other nations.

McKinley would be the right leader at the right time to help save the economy and add much needed jobs to build the nation for the upcoming century with his push for import tariff fees and setting the gold standard.

Consumer goods that began during the McKinley era with familiar names include Coca-Cola, Quaker Oats, Juicy Fruit Gum, Cream of Wheat, Aunt Jemima pancakes, Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, Heinz ketchup and Kellogg’s.

Cincinnati’s Procter & Gamble began to promote its newest product, Ivory Soap, and Mr. James Buchanan Duke’s American Tobacco Co. introduced cigarettes in mass quantity with sales of 4 million cigarettes per year by 1898. New products such as disposable razors, carpet sweepers, mouse traps, encyclopedias, bicycles and clothing were sold throughout the country by a Chicago hardware salesman, Montgomery Ward, in his brand-new catalog.

And in Warren, a family named Packard began their automobile business to build the most prestigious luxury vehicles of the early 20th century.

McKinley’s first year as president would see the push to improve the economy as never before seen to steer the nation’s job’s engine away from the four years of recession he entered as president. McKinley would privately celebrate New Year’s Day 1898 at the Executive Mansion (White House) not knowing his main attention in the coming year would be war with Spain rather than jobs and the economy.

Mike Wilson is the Director of SCOPE Senior Services of Trumbull County and has traveled around the nation performing as William McKinley for the past 25 years.