A Humbug President’s Hubris: Take My Mountain Please!

President William McKinley, colorized by the owner and editor of civilwartalk.com. 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.” Young Warren Harding, who once served as Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor and heard the funny tale of McKinley as Governor. 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. William “Mack” McKinley. 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. McKinley’s tophat.(OHS) 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. On the Ohio state capital building plaza, a McKinley statue was erected on the spot where he publicly performed his daily devotion tableaux to Ida. “This was daily ritual with McKinley,” Harding recalled as the best inside joke among his contemporary Ohio legislators, “but some observant persons noticed that this pleasing little exchange of salutation occurred even on days when Mrs. McKinley was known to be in her home in Canton,” And yet, whenever they were separated from each other for even a day, McKinley was knotted with anxiety and worry about Ida, telephoning, telegraphing and then sometimes even penning a note before he went to sleep. That was McKinley. He had genuine humility. And he was a genuine humbug. Masterful showman, he gave the people what they wanted. He never bragged, he never boasted, he never yelled, he never demanded. He never failed

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Categories: The McKinleys

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