Today In Western History: January 29

January 29 —

President William McKinley
President William McKinley

On this day in 1843, William McKinley, who will become the 25th American president and the first to ride in an auto-mobile, is born in Niles, Ohio.   McKinley was only 17 when the Civil War started in 1860, and he immediately enlisted as a private in the Union Army.  When the war ended in 1865,  he left the military having risen to the rank of brevet major of volunteers.  He went to law school and then opened his own office.  He won a seat in Congress at 34, and his attractive personality, exem-plary character, and quick intelligence enabled him to rise rapidly.  McKinley served in the White House from 1897 to 1901, a time when the American automotive industry was in its infancy.

During his presidency, McKinley was the man in the White house during the sinking of the U. S. battleship Maine  in Havana and the war with Spain that followed it.  McKinley, (who died from an assassin’s bullet in September 1901) took a drive in a Stanley Steamer, a steam-engine-powered auto built in the late 1890s by brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company produced a number of steam-powered vehicles before going out of business in the early 1920s, after being unable to compete with the rise of less expensive gas-powered cars.


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