Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Ida McKinley’

McKinley Museum Spotlights Stark County

Near the foot of the McKinley Monument, Stark County Historical Society has gathered interesting information and memorabilia regarding the surrounding area. as well as the life of William McKinley.  The bust of McKinley greets visitors outside the building.

As you enter the lobby of the McKinley Museum in Canton, Ohio, a sign with a quote caught my eye. It was a word of advice to young people from President William McKinley:

“Young men and women, what your education will be and do for you depends upon yourselves.”                                                            

Within these walls is quite an extensive history of the Stark County area including leading enterprises, such as Belden Brick, Dueber-Hampden Watch Company, Erie Canal, Hoover Vacuum, Pennsylvania Railroad,  and Timken Company just to name a few. Henry Timken founded Timken Roller Bearing Company in 1902 and his entrepeneur vision was grounded in this type of thinking:

“If you have an idea which you think is right, push it to a finish. But above all, don’t set your name to anything you will ever have cause to be ashamed of.”

McKinley Museum had many interesting exhibits throughout, too numerable to mention. Here are a few things that caught my eye on a recent visit.

One fascinating display showed a clock tower made by Dueber-Hampden Watch Co with a sign “Accurate to the Second.”  That was way back in 1889! By 1890 the company was producing 600 watches a day in Canton, Ohio and had over a thousand employees. They used 14 karat gold  in their watch cases and had 17 jewel movement, quite advanced for their time. This company was sold to a Russian company in 1927 and twenty-one former employees went to Russia to teach them their craft.  One report is that their machinery is still being used in China today.

The Hoover Vacuum provided a display that attracted lines of children. While seated in a chair, they pressed a button which created enough suction to lift them well off the floor. The Power of the Hoover! It is very fitting to be highlighted here as the first upright vacuum was invented by a department store janitor, James Spangler, in Canton back in 1906. He just happened to show it to his cousin, Susan Hoover, who in turn shared it with her husband.  “Boss” Hoover bought the patent from Spangler, hired him as Superintendent, and slowly began the switch from maker of leather-goods to vacuum manufacturer.  The slogan: “It it Sweeps…as it Cleans” brought the Hoover Vacuum to the forefront.

This was the original hand-sewn 45 star American flag that hung on the front porch of McKinley’s home during the 1896 presidential campaign.  During his famous “Front Porch Campaign”, McKinley made himself available to the public every Sunday afternoon on the front porch of his home. Usually he was seated in his rocking chair from which he talked to 750,000 people who stopped by. Some say he shook hands with up to a million men from that front porch scene. This campaign appealed to the average voter, who found themselves drawn to a candidate that stayed true to his roots.

Rooms were redesigned to look very much like the ones of long ago with their Victorian furnishings. A touch of some form of music was often in evidence as that would have been one of their main means of entertainment. In the parlor, you had an opportunity to listen to talking figures of William and Ida McKinley. Notice that he does have on his symbol, the red carnation.These plastic figures are activated by sensors when you enter the room.

The Hazlett Theater is a fine spot to give your feet a rest and watch some old films from days gone by. Here you hear about the campaigns of William McKinley and get to have an inside video tour of the Memorial.

There weren’t enough hours in the day, so sadly missed the show at the Hoover Price Planetarium where visitors view the solar system and beyond. They say it is like traveling to space without leaving the ground.  Unfortunately, didn’t make it to Discover World either where dinosaurs and early American Indians welcome visitors to Natural History Island, Ecology Island and the new spot, Fascination Station.  Looks like a return visit is in order.

The McKinley Museum  is located in downtown Canton, Ohio just off I-77. Take Exit 105 for OH 172, then turn right on 7th Street NW. Take the first left onto McKinley Monument Drive where the Museum is located to the left when facing the memorial. Enjoy a little piece of Ohio history.


McKinley’s Victorian Style Home First Ladies Historic Site

Could the sound of footsteps on the spiral staircase at the Saxton McKinley House be those of Ida McKinley? Once in a while the footsteps echo late at night, and the light step is attributed to Ida. That seems quite possible as this was her family home where she lived for twenty-eight years.

Beautiful gardens connect the Education and Research Center to the Ida Saxton McKinley House, both part of the First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton, Ohio. Visitors were greeted by a  young lady dressed in a replica of Julia Tyler’s gown. She was very knowledgeable regarding the history of the house and the family.

To add a little mystery, there are conflicting stories as to how Ida and William McKinley met each other.  Some said Ida was a cashier in the bank where William transacted business for the law firm he joined when moving to Canton. Another story said that both Ida and William were Sunday School teachers at different churches, and passed each other on the way to church.  Or perhaps they met during a picnic at Myers Lake Park. However they met, William indulged her every whim and was seldom far from her side, which turned out to be a major political asset.

The Saxton McKinley House was originally built in 1840 by Ida’s maternal grandfather, George DeWalt. Her other grandfather, John Saxton, was founder of the Canton Repository newspaper. Her affluent background made it possible to lead an extravagant lifestyle. Almost everything inside the house today is a reproduction, but based very carefully on the Victorian style used in the original 1800’s house – after extensive research at the Smithsonian. Fortunately, there are still original walls and woodwork throughout much of the home.

In the Formal Parlor you get a glimpse of a music box purchased on Ida’s trip to Switzerland as well as the piano topped with Victorian sheet music, which she enjoyed playing. The Library held William McKinley’s chair and a large collection of Ida’s fans, which numbered over 250. On the third floor, William had his office across the hall from Ida’s room so he could be close to her.  Their second child, Ida, died at six months of age and two years later Katie, their three year old, contracted typhoid fever and passed away. Consumed by her grief, Ida’s headaches became more severe, accompanied by seizures and tremors.

To ease her migraine headaches, her hair was cut because the weight of the braids was considered a possible cause. Medication for her seizures often made her listless. These two problems made it necessary for Ida to sit as much as possible and this petite lady with a 20″ waist, 18″ when corseted, attempted to hide her afflictions as much as possible.  If she had an attack out in public, William would put a handkerchief over her face so people would not glimpse her facial contortions during seizures.

Also on the third floor was the beautiful ballroom for entertaining. Today the walls of that ballroom display short stories and pictures regarding the life of each First Lady. Many interesting facts were given about various First Ladies, for example,  Francis Cleveland happened to be America’s youngest First Lady. Grover Cleveland was a friend of the family’s and actually bought Francis her baby carriage.

The McKinleys only lived at the Saxton McKinley House for a short time  between 1878-1895, while William was serving in the US House of Representatives and then as Governor of Ohio. During his presidential campaign, they moved to a more modest home, which more closely matched William’s background.

Often we hear stories about our presidents, so it was refreshing to hear stories about their First Ladies and catch a glimpse at their lifestyle.  A friend wrote about Ida Saxton McKinley, “Her greatest charm was her perfect sincerity and thoughtfulness for others.  No day passed over her head without her doing something for someone.”  What a great tribute to this special First Lady!

The Saxton McKinley House is located  off I-77 in Canton, Ohio right next door to the First Ladies Library at 205 Market Street South. All tours of the facility are guided and admission, which includes  both the Library and the House, is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and $5 for children. 

National First Ladies’ Library Chronicles Hostesses at the White House

First Ladies have always played important roles during their husband’s presidency from hostess at the White House to diplomat.  At this time Ohio’s First Ladies are the featured presentation at the National First Ladies’ Library Education and Research Center in downtown Canton, Ohio. The title, From Frontierswoman to Flapper, describes the transition during their life times from colonial living to the beginning of the Jazz Age.  The present day home of the library, an 1895 City National Bank Building, has beautiful original marble floors and walls , thus giving an elegant feeling to the library.

The visit began with a video introducing the First Ladies of Ohio.  While Ohio lays claim to eight presidents, only seven first ladies called the state home.  That still puts Ohio at the top of the list for First Ladies from any one state. Following the video, an excellent tour guide explained the numerous items on display, which led to many interesting stories about the First Ladies and their husbands. Each first lady had her own special interests and talents, making her a unique individual. These are a few interesting stories about the Ohio First Ladies that caught my attention during a recent visit.

Anna Harrison (1775-1864) first enjoyed being hostess at the Governor’s Mansion where she entertained  prominent figures such as Vice President Aaron Burr and Tecumseh.  Anna was too ill to travel when her husband went for his presidential inauguration. However, one month later, William Henry Harrison died at the White House so Anna never made the journey to Washington D.C.

Lucy Hayes (1831-1889) enjoyed entertaining as she liked being surrounded by people.  Her receptions and dinners were always admired, and her china dinner plates each contained a different scene. Lucy was actually the first First Lady with a college diploma.  After she spent time with her husband when he was wounded in the Civil War, she traveled to various camps where she visited, and attended to, wounded soldiers.

Lucretia Garfield (1832-1918)  stayed by her husband after he was shot by an assassin through the eighty days that he wasted away.  Perhaps she was one of those early promoters of women’s rights as Garfield needed constant attention from his doctors during this time. The male doctors were paid $10,000 while the female doctor was only paid $5,000. Lucretia was adamant about having that changed so the female doctor also received $10,000.

Caroline Harrison (1832-1892) was a star pupil of the German artist, Paul Putzki, and her designs painted on china were on display at the library. Although she was not very well, she enjoyed growing exotic plants and flowers. Her husband never left her side during her bout with tuberculosis and she died in the White House.

Ida McKinley (1847-1907) suffered from blinding headaches and epileptic seizures after the death of her daughter. Therefore, the only way she could fulfill her role as First Lady was often seated in a chair holding a bouquet of flowers to hide her trembling hands.  One of her beautiful garnet gowns with black lace and beading on the collar was featured at the library. When she was able, crocheting was one of her forms of relaxation and many crocheted slippers were given as gifts.

Helen Taft (1861-1943) was the first First Lady to donate her gown to the Smithsonian Institute. One of the most beautiful gowns at the library was Helen’s soft pink dress trimmed with lace and a velvet bow.  A beautiful embroidered fan featuring a cherry blossom tree was only one of her collection of fans, but a definite favorite. Because of Helen’s admiration for the Japanese cherry trees, three thousand trees were donated to the United States by the mayor of Tokyo.

Florence Harding (1861-1924) did not have many positive experiences in her life and had a very unhappy marriage suffering the many affairs of a wayward husband – some even claim she poisoned him. The piano was her source of comfort as she had studied piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. She wrote many notes about her unhappy life and this one had a definite piece of advice to married women:

The Happy Wife is not the woman who marries the best man on earth,                     But one who is philosophical enough to make the best of what she has got.

National First Ladies’ Library has many events for the community and the surrounding area all year long.  During the summer they sponsored a Summer Reading Program for K-5 discussing these books this year:  First Garden, Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers, and Through Georgia’s Eyes. Their Victorian theater shows documentaries on the First Ladies,  presents author talks and shares many interesting movies and performances.

The First Lady in her Hostess role helps determine how successful her husband’s presidency is going to be. If you would like to learn more about the First Ladies, visit them downtown Canton Ohio. These beautiful doors will open to welcome you!

National First Ladies’ Library Education and Research Center is located in downtown Canton, Ohio just off I-77 at 205 Market Street South.  All tours of the facility are guided, and price is reasonable at $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children under 18. This admission price also includes entrance into the Ida Saxton McKinley House next door, which we will visit at another time.

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