Kurt's Historic Sites

McKinley dome

William McKinley

Interment Location Visited Sequence in Graves I Have Visited
Canton, OH June 19, 2005 20th President visited

William McKinley's Grave
Photographed June 19, 2005.

The ten-year-old lad in the orange shirt in this photograph is me, climbing 108 steps to the summit of the hill upon which rests the McKinley National Memorial. Per an informational sign at the knoll’s base, William McKinley suggested the land be used for a soldiers and sailors monument dedicated to those from Stark County, Ohio, who served. Instead — when McKinley became the fifth U.S. president to die in office and the third by unnatural means — it became the site of his tomb.

Sculptor Charles Henry Niehaus crafted the statue of President McKinley that stands halfway up the hill’s staircase. His creation depicts the chief executive as he looked at the Pan-American Exposition on September 5, 1901 when he delivered what ended up being his final speech. In the address, McKinley spoke of the importance of “expansion of […] trade and commerce” among sovereign nations that participated in the fair. Foreign policy dominated McKinley’s four-plus years in the White House. Efforts were split between fostering better relations with foreign powers and colonizing small nations and islands, both in the name of putting the United States in a more dominant position on the world stage.

Photographed June 19, 2005.
Photographed June 19, 2005.

William and Ida McKinley’s caskets are encased within sarcophagi carved of blackish green granite with golden embellishments. A crowd gathered on September 30, 1907 to dedicate the tomb at the end of its two year construction period. However, it was not until October 10th that the former first couple’s bodies were removed from their temporary shelter at the nearby West Lawn Cemetery and entombed in their permanent resting place. Their two young daughters are interred within the tomb as well.

Apropos to William McKinley’s imperialist policies and his tenure as a wartime president, Harold Van Buren Magonigle designed the memorial so that the tomb would sit in the hilt of a cross-handled sword. The blade portion of the composition originally consisted of a series of tiered reflecting pools. The bodies of water were filled in with soil and grass in 1951, but the sword effect still remains. The William McKinley Presidential Library & Museum sits south of the tomb and is operated by the Stark County Historical Society as opposed to the National Archives and Records Administration like most modern presidential libraries are.

Photographed June 19, 2005.

Fast Facts

Born: January 29, 1843 in Niles, Ohio

Spouse: Ida Saxton McKinley (m. 1871-1901)

Highest Military Rank: Brevet Major — U.S. Army

Political Affiliation: Republican Party

House Tenure: 1877-1884, 1885-1891

Gubernatorial Tenure: 1892-1896

Presidential Tenure: 1897-1901

Vice Presidents: Garret Hobart (1897-1899); Theodore Roosevelt (1901)

Died: September 14, 1901 in Buffalo, New York

Cause of Death: Gangrene in Gunshot Wound

Age: 58

Last Words: “It is God’s way. His will be done, not ours. We are all going… Oh, dear.”

Interment: McKinley National Memorial, Canton, Ohio

"Now and then in our popular elections, we may have been swayed by passion or moved from our moorings by the demagogue, but the American people are never fooled but once on a subject. For when once deceived they never follow the deceiver the second time. I have known, and so have you, times in our history when the majority of our people were made to believe that certain policies  would serve their best interests, and when it transpired that they did not, they swiftly turned upon the party which deceived  them and hurled it out of power. And they will do it again. The  judgment of the people is swift and terrible against those who  mislead and delude them."
- William McKinley
September 26, 1896 in a campaign speech delivered in Canton, Ohio, to the Traveling Men's Republican Club of Peoria, Illinois


Sources Consulted and Further Reading

McKinley, William. “Speech in Buffalo, New York,” September 5, 1901. Transcript. From University of Virginia, Miller Center. https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/presidential-speeches/september-5-1901-speech-buffalo-new-york.

Parker, LeRoy. “The Trial of the Anarchist Murderer Czolgosz.” Yale Law Journal 11, no. 2 (1901): 80-94. https://www.jstor.org/stable/783764.

Picone, Louis L. The President is Dead! The Extraordinary Stories of the Presidential Deaths, Final Days, Burials, and Beyond. Rev. ed. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2020.

Smith, Joseph P. McKinley, the People’s Choice. Canton, OH: Repository Press, 1896. https://archive.org/details/mckinleypeoplesc00smit/page/272/mode/2up.

“William McKinley Tomb.” National Park Service. Accessed January 8, 2022. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/mckinley_tomb.html.

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