Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated President of the United State on September 14, 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley. This marked the moment that Teddy Roosevelt was placed on the world stage and the nation in general was to learn much more about this very unique man.
This article tells of the events at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, why President McKinley was in Buffalo in September 1901 … where V.P. Theodore Roosevelt was at this crucial and fatal time and some of the historic site you can visit today related to the McKinley assassination and Roosevelt inauguration.
President McKinley’s assassination took place at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. In 1901, Buffalo hosted the Pan-American Exposition, which highlighted the cultures and achievements of Western Hemisphere nations.
Buffalo New York and Alternating Current Electricity
Buffalo, New York was a fitting site for such an event which also showcased new technology. Buffalo is located a short 20 miles from Niagara Falls and was one of the first American cities to enjoy electricity. The first hydroelectric generating station was built at Niagara Falls in 1881. The enormous energy derived from the water falls was ideal for generating electricity. In 1893 Westinghouse was brought in to design a plant at the falls that would generate alternating current. Three years later a large scale power system was opened.
Theodore Roosevelt in 1901
Theodore Roosevelt, the governor of New York, had been elected vice president in 1900 on William McKinley’s Republican ticket. This was McKinley’s campaign for a second term. At the turn of the century and prior, the office of the Vice-President was thought to be a steppingstone to oblivion. In other words, the office held no real power and it’s function was primarily social in nature. In Roosevelt’s case, some of his detractors welcomed his ascension to the Vice-Presidency thinking that this would silence the well known ex-Rough Rider and maverick politician.
As governor of New York, Roosevelt was in line for a shot at the presidency however William McKinley was an incumbent president and the Republicans were satisfied with him.
Teddy Roosevelt could have remained governor of New York until only 1902 therefore the V.P. position could take him to 1904 at which time he might ascend to the higher office. In reality, his detractors believed he would never be chosen as a 1904 Republican candidate.
Theodore Roosevelt really did not want to be vice president, but he was a confirmed political realist with presidential ambitions. His supporters liked the idea of he being Vice-President and presiding over the Senate and the national stage it offered.
All of this of course changed in a very short time. Elected Vice-President in 1900, Roosevelt would, much to the chagrin of his detractors and to the joy of his close supporters, become President of the United States in 1901.
The Day of the Assassination
It’s interesting to note that President McKinley had planned to attend the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo during May 1901 but changed the date to September. McKinley was known to enjoy meeting the public. Unfortunately he was not big on security. For a President that could be a fatal combination.
While shaking hands with the public McKinley was shot by an anarchist from the Cleveland Ohio area. Later it would be known that the anarchist had lost his job during the Panic of 1893 and turned to anarchism.
President William McKinley was shot on September 6, 1901. He would eventually die of his wounds on September 14th. Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt was on vacation at t in Vermont at the time of the shooting. Upon hearing the news Roosevelt and others in McKinley’s cabinet headed to Buffalo. President McKinley appeared to be recovering and was conversational. Roosevelt then left Buffalo for a trip to the Adirondack’s thinking that McKinley would recover in time.
As mentioned above, President McKinley died on September 14, 1901 from complications from the gunshots. The gunshots did damage to vital organs and infection set in. It was also determined at autopsy that the President was suffering from a degenerative heart muscle. Doctors at that time did not have the infection fighting tools they have today. In addition, it’s questionable whether the wounds were at first properly treated and traced which could have allowed the infections to spread.
While McKinley was fading fast Roosevelt was once again racing back to Buffalo from the Adirondack’s.
Theordore Roosevelt Takes the Oath of Office
On September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office as the 26th president of the United States in Buffalo, NY. The inauguration took place at the Ansley-Wilcox House located at 641 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.
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Visit Theodore Roosevelt’s Inauguration Site
Today the Wilcox Mansion is a National Historic Site and open to the public.This is an excellent historic site and is a must see when in Buffalo New York.
Now a museum, exhibits inside the Wilcox Mansion cover the assassination, the Theodore Roosevelt inauguration, the Pan-American Exhibition and life at the turn of the century. A tour of the mansion museum begins with a film and a tour of the bottom floor. On the tour you’ll be asked to take yourself back to 1901 America and experience what it would have been like leading up to president McKinley’s assassination. More exhibits are on the second floor including some touch screen interactive items.
The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site is easy to reach being fairly close to I-190. There is also plenty of free parking. For more information including directions and hours of operation see website http://www.nps.gov/thri/index.htm
(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos and images in the public domain)