Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2009

William McKinley

25th President, 1897-1901

Quick — which President is on the $500 bill? William McKinley, obviously. (And yes, they did make $500 bills for a while.)

McKinley was a savvy politician who listened carefully to the public. Though he opposed it at first, McKinley brought the country to war with Spain in 1898 as Pulitzer and Hearst's "yellow journalism" juiced the nation's appetite for a fight. America's claim to Puerto Rico and Guantánamo Bay count among the war's legacies.

McKinley was shot by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1901. Alerted to the assassination attempt by McKinley's aides, Thomas Edison sent a brand-new X-ray machine to Buffalo after a bullet couldn't be found inside McKinley's body. But doctors, thinking McKinley was improving, never used it. He died of gangrene eight days after he was hit and was replaced in office by his far more memorable Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt.

By Randy James