It was President Warren G. Harding who liked to tell a story about his fellow Ohio Republican President William McKinley that revealed his predecessor’s character, about “the pose and love of the dramatic in McKinley that few people realized.”
While he was governor of Ohio, McKinley’s daily act of devotion to his wife Ida, who lived with a number of chronic disabilities, became so legendary that within a short time tourists to Columbus would gather precisely at noon or at three in the afternoon, just to witness for themselves the romantic spectacle of the era, heralded in newspapers from coast to coast.
McKinley would solemnly promenade from his office inside the state capital building twice a day onto the plaza, and slowly remove his tall, silk tophat, or sometimes his large handkerchief.
As onlookers began to murmur in wonder, the governor would then doff his tophat up (or flutter his kerchief) towards a semi-circular window of the residential hotel directly across the street.
Confined to her figurative Victorian fainting couch in their permanent residential suite there, Mrs. McKinley anticipated this act of Gilded Age chivalry, responding by briefly raising her handkerchief as a reassurance to him that all was well.
McKinley would bow deeply, his saintly humility preventing him from doing anything but smile gently to the soft applause of awe for such gallantry.