William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination on September 14, 1901. (He was standing in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition when he was shot; he died eight days later.)
Born in Niles, Ohio, in 1843, McKinley briefly attended Allegheny College, and was teaching in a country school when the Civil War broke out. Enlisting as a private in the Union Army, he was mustered out at the end of the war as a brevet major of volunteers. He studied law, opened an office in Canton, Ohio, and married Ida Saxton, daughter of a local banker.
At 34, McKinley won a seat in Congress. He spent 14 years in the House and in 1891 was elected Governor of Ohio, serving two terms. McKinley became US President in 1897. (White House) Following his assassination, “Steps were at once taken toward raising funds for the erection of a suitable memorial”.
In Ohio, “within a month from the date of its creation the committee was incorporated at Canton under the name The McKinley National Memorial Association.” Auxiliary associations were formed in nearly every State for the purpose of aiding the National body.
“The memorial is to be, in the highest sense, the sincere expression of all the people of the country of their love for President McKinley and of their admiration for the qualities expressed so eminently in his life and deeds.” (New York Tribune, September 14, 1902)
A fund was started in the Islands. “An engraved or lithographed memorial certificate will be furnished to each contributor. It is believed that the project of erecting a local memorial to Mr McKinley …”
“… if carried out by all classes of the Hawaiian population, and participated in by the school children, will tend to develop patriotism and go to strengthen the interest of our people in American Institutions and principles.”
“It is desirable that the names of all donors with their addresses and the amount of their contributions be accurately reported and recorded by the chairman of your committee, who will forward such record of contributions to the Treasurer, Mr. C. M. Cooke, and he will mail the above mentioned certificate to the donor.” (Dole; Hawaiian Star, November 22, 1901)
Ideas ranged as to the appropriate memorial, “The McKinley memorial fund (had) been started in Honolulu with four subscriptions of $1,000 each and half a dozen more aggregating $2,000, a total of $6,060 from ten subscribers. The money is to be used for the purchase of a large playground for children.” (San Francisco Call, March 6, 1902)
“A letter has been received by the executive committee from the Mothers and Teachers Club in reference to the McKinley Memorial. … Accompanying the letter was a petition to the effect that the McKinley Memorial take the form of a large park somewhere in Honolulu, to be known as McKinley Park.”
“Sculptor Rupert Schmidt is desirous of providing Honolulu with a McKinley monument. Other propositions in this line have been received and will be considered.” (Honolulu Republican, November 14, 1901)
“The committee in charge of the McKinley memorial fund In Hawaii has decided in favor of a public park and playground as the best form of memorial.” (San Francisco Call, January 7, 1902)
On Maui, where “few will refuse to contribute something … Naturally the people and the papers of Honolulu desire to see their town embellished with parks, pleasure grounds and public buildings, but the proposition to take advantage of the death of President McKinley to levy on all the Islands for that purpose smacks a little of selfish thrift.”
“However if the idea is to be practical, let it be so, but instead of a play garden in Honolulu, let the funds be devoted to the construction of a lighthouse for Kahului harbor, which would forever stand as a beacon and a memorial of the most practical and useful nature possible.” (Maui News, November 30, 1901)
Back on O‘ahu, “For making an actual beginning … of beautifying Honolulu, herewith something definite, practicable and not excessively costly is presented. It is the improvement of the presently disused public market building, including its transformation into a great assembly pavilion useful …”
“… and even much wanted for many purposes of the people at large the structure as remodeled to be perpetually dedicated to the memory of the martyred President William McKinley, under whose administration Hawai‘i was annexed to the great American Commonwealth.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, November 13, 1907) (Included was a memorial entrance arch.)
Rather, “The corner-stone of the new Honolulu High School which is to be the beneficiary of the McKinley Memorial fund and take the name of the McKinley High School was laid yesterday afternoon by the Alumni of the school assisted by a large assembly of friends and pupils of the Institution.”
“A very important incident of the function was the announcement by Judge Dole, who was one of the principal speakers, that the trustees of the McKinley Memorial Fund had voted to devote the memorial funds to the High School. The terms of the gift are contained in the following resolution, which Mr. Dole read:”
“‘Resolved, That the proposal of the Board of Education and the students of the Honolulu High School that the new building of the Honolulu High School be named the McKinley High School be accepted …’”
“‘… and in consideration thereof that a bronze statue of the late President McKinley, costing not more than $9,000 be erected on the grounds of such school and that the balance of the funds in the hands of this committee be assigned to three trustees …’”
“‘… $1,000 of such funds to be expended in books for the school library and the net Income of the balance of such trust funds to be devoted to the increase, and care of the library of such school and the care of the statue.’”(Evening Bulletin, March 6, 1908)
Later, “A very marked improvement has been attained in the architecture of buildings recently erected in Hawai‘i and the school-houses, constructed within the last few years, have kept pace with the movement. This is notably true of the imposing McKinley High School, a building which compares most favorably with any of its kind in the world.”
“The McKinley High School is located on Victoria street, occupying the grounds between Young and Beretania, and facing historical Thomas Square. The foyer entrance is very attractive and through either of two doors the visitor steps directly into the main hall.”
“A part of the McKinley Memorial Fund has been expended for an heroic size statue of President McKinley, which will stand in front of the building, a part in purchasing books for the library and the Trustees have invested the balance of the fund in bonds, the income to be utilized in acquiring additions to the school library from time to time.” (Thrum, 1908)
“The Bulletin extends its congratulations to those who have interested themselves in solving the problem of the memorial and the Territory, whose present and future citizenship will profit by the example of the man and the practical equipment for life’s, work which the community has given in his name.” (Evening Bulletin, March 6, 1908)
In September 1907, the McKinley Memorial in Canton, Ohio was finished; 9-states had contributed material for the memorial, a 50-foot wide, 77-foot tall domed structure. At the top of the dome is a red, white and blue skylight. The skylight has 45-stars in its design representing the 45-states in the Union at the time of his death.
President McKinley and his wife Ida rest in the monument on an altar in the center of the rotunda in a pair of marble sarcophagi. Their young daughters rest in the wall directly behind them. (McKinley Museum)