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McKinley makes 94 speeches during fall of 1899

From Niles to the White House

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

As I study McKinley’s presidency as well as his speeches, I have learned during his first term that in the fall of each year, he would travel the most times and give the most addresses from late August into early November.

During the fall of 1899, 120 years ago, our native son born in Niles was extremely busy as he made 94 speeches as his train crisscrossed the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Michigan and Virginia.

It was the most McKinley traveled during his presidency as he mainly focused on the Midwest by visiting and making remarks for the returning soldiers of the recent war with Spain as well as touting the improving economy now that the war was over. Thanks to the passage of tariffs upon foreign goods and his commitment toward making gold as our nations’ monetary standard, jobs were again created and businesses began to flourish employing many who traveled across the oceans to seek jobs and new lives in America.

As McKinley traveled toward the west, he would stop in his hometown of Canton to give a speech to his local unit, the 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, upon their return from Cuba. “I do not forget, as I stand in this presence, surrounded by these brave boys, that this old county was prompt in responding to the call of the government for soldiers in this war with Spain. I have always been proud of the fact, for I noted it with great satisfaction, that Stark County furnished quite as many soldiers, according to its population, as any other county in the United States.” (applause) “You have won and earned the nation’s gratitude and praise. You did your full duty in front of Santiago; and no higher honor can be paid to the soldier of any country than to say of him that he did his whole duty.”

“I am glad to meet my fellow citizens here tonight. I am thankful to them for the good will which is manifested by their presence: and I shall go away from my city and my home strengthened for the great duties and responsibilities of the Executive office, and sustained and encouraged by the kindly expressions of my warm-hearted friends here. “(great applause)

Most of his speeches that year were pretty much the same, placing honor to the gallant soldiers returning home to the masses at train stations and during public events and then to extoll our economic success to manufacturer associations and business groups which his staff would plan into his schedule. His speech to the Bricklayers and Stonemasons Union convention in Chicago was quite important as he showed his support as our nation’s chief executive by promoting fair wages to the working man.

Mike Wilson has traveled around the nation performing as William McKinley for the past 28 years.

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