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Friday, January 29, 2016

William McKinley Portraits

A McKinley-Roosevelt reelection campaign poster dated July 12, 1900.
Today, January 29th, is the birthday of yet another American President--William McKinley Jr. born on this date in 1843. Our twenty-fifth president would have been 173 years old today. He was first elected in 1896, beginning his term on March 4th, 1897. He was reelected in 1900, along with his vice-presidential running mate, Theodore Roosevelt. The colorful broadside above boast of the successful for handling of the Spanish-American War, while contrasting Democratic rule (left) with Republican rule (right). The contrasts include a "Run on the banks" with a "Run to the banks." Almost exactly six months after his reelection the colorful campaign poster (above) was replaced with the devastating headlines (below). President William McKinley became the third American President to be assassinated.

From this time on, the Secret Service was in charge of presidential security.
As presidential portraits go, those of President William McKinley are a relatively lackluster lot painted by equally lackluster artists. His official White House portrait (below, left) portrays the president in a black suit over a dark brown background giving it the effect of a disembodied head and hands. Painted by the little-known Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy in 1902, after McKinley's death, the portrait is sometimes confused with a somewhat better painting by August Benziger (below, right), dating from 1897 now in the National Portrait Gallery. The President sat for this portrait over a period of several mornings, eventually deciding to dictate his correspondence while Benziger sketched away. Over the course of several sittings, the painter experienced the personality of the President, which is said to have come through in the final work.

    Official White House Portrait                                      National Portrait Gallery                
The National portrait gallery also possesses another portrait of McKinley, this one by Adolpho Muller-Ury (below, right)from 1901, which features the president in a standing, near-profile pose. One of the better portraits of McKinley is by an unknown artist (below, left) which pictures him sitting by his desk.

Both portraits were likely painted after the President's death.
There's nothing like an assassination to bring out the hungry portrait artists.
With the assassination of her husband Mrs. McKinley (below) lost much of her will to live. Although she managed to withstand the days between the shooting and the president's death, she could not bring herself to attend his funeral. Her health eroded as she withdrew to the safety of her home in Canton, Ohio. There, she was cared for by her younger sister. Ida Saxton McKinley survived the president by less than six years, dying on May 26, 1907. She was buried next to him and their two daughters in Canton's McKinley Memorial Mausoleum.

The Official White House portrait (right) with an undated portrait (left).
Another McKinley presidential portrait (now discontinued)

President McKinley's sculptural portrait on the
streets of Rapid City, South Dakota, 2008,
by Lee Leuning & Sherri Treeby.
He must have forgotten his cell phone.


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