Barack Obama signed White House vignette, measures
5″ x 7″. Price $375.
At the 1896 Republican Convention, in time of depression, the wealthy Cleveland businessman Marcus Alonzo Hanna ensured the nomination of his friend William McKinley as “the advance agent of prosperity.” The Democrats, advocating the “free and unlimited coinage of both silver and gold”–which would have mildly inflated the currency–nominated William Jennings Bryan.
While Hanna used large contributions from eastern Republicans frightened by Bryan’s views on silver, McKinley met delegations on his front porch in Canton, Ohio. He won by the largest majority of popular votes since 1872.
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. His attractive personality, exemplary character, and quick intelligence enabled him to rise rapidly. He was appointed to the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Robert M. La Follette, Sr., who served with him, recalled that he generally “represented the newer view,” and “on the great new questions .. was generally on the side of the public and against private interests.”
The First Democrat elected after the Civil War, Grover Cleveland was the only President to leave the White House and return for a second term four years later.
One of nine children of a Presbyterian minister, Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837. He was raised in upstate New York. As a lawyer in Buffalo, he became notable for his single-minded concentration upon whatever task faced him.
At 44, he emerged into a political prominence that carried him to the White House in three years. Running as a reformer, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1881, and later, Governor of New York.
Cleveland won the Presidency with the combined support of Democrats and reform Republicans, the “Mugwumps,” who disliked the record of his opponent James G. Blaine of Maine.
A bachelor, Cleveland was ill at ease at first with all the comforts of the White House. “I must go to dinner,” he wrote a friend, “but I wish it was to eat a pickled herring a Swiss cheese and a chop at Louis’ instead of the French stuff I shall find.” In June 1886 Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom; he was the only President married in the White House.
Cleveland vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he wrote: “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . ”