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Honoring President McKinley then and now

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

Last week in this space we learned about President William McKinley’s brave act during the Civil War — delivering much needed food and supplies to the troops at Antietam more than 150 years ago.

Today, we are able to bear witness to McKinley’s bravery in the Civil War by visiting the monument to McKinley at Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland. The monument marks the spot where McKinley risked his life to feed hungry troops.

After surviving four years in the Civil War, McKinley went on to serve as a U.S. congressman, as governor of Ohio and as president of the United States. Only six months into his second term as president, McKinley was assassinated. The president was shot Sept. 6, 1901, while shaking hands at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y. He died eight days later on Sept. 14, 1901, at the age of 58. His assassin was Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. His mugshot is on display at the McKinley Birthplace Home in Niles.

To honor our martyred president, many memorials and statues were dedicated. Two months after his assassination, the first monument would be dedicated Nov. 15, 1901, in Tower, Minn. Eight months after his assassination, the first statue was dedicated May 30, 1902, in Muskegon, Mich. McKinley’s presidency would be overshadowed by his successor, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. However, at the time, the public mourned the loss of a president whom they favored. This loss is evident in the many statues, monuments and historic markers that can be found across the country.

We are fortunate to be able to witness tributes to McKinley right here in Niles, where the president was born.

A 9-foot bronze statue of McKinley greets students, teachers and visitors at Niles McKinley High School. This statue, by Italian-American sculptor Gaetano Trentanove, was donated in 1960 by Doris Duke, heiress and art collector. A 12-foot marble statue of McKinley, sculpted by J. Massey Rhind, is housed in the center Court of Honor at the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial. The memorial is an architectural work of art, designed by McKim, Mead and White, and dedicated Oct. 5, 1917.

To help celebrate the centennial of the memorial, the McKinley Memorial Library is hosting A McKinley Art Contest and Show. We are inviting everyone to enter this contest that honors McKinley by pairing art with history. This is the final week to enter the contest. Entries must be original artwork either directly or indirectly related to McKinley. If you have been reading this series of articles, you will know there are many topics from which to choose, including the Civil War, “The Wizard of Oz,” the gold standard, many presidential firsts, including campaigning using the telephone and an inauguration captured by a video camera, and two state symbols that honor McKinley — the scarlet carnation and the state flag.

Artwork can be drawings, paintings, collages or photographs as long as entries are 2-dimensional and no larger than 30 inches in any direction. The contest is free to enter, and there are cash prizes for both youth and adult entries. The art show is being sponsored by Chemical Bank.

I encourage everyone to visit the art show Sept. 1-23 at the Art Outreach Gallery in the Eastwood Mall.

For more information, please call the library at 330-652-1704.

Michelle Alleman is library director at the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles.

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