William McKinley, (born January 29, 1843, Niles, Ohio, U.S.—died September 14, 1901, Buffalo, New York), 25th president of the United States (1897–1901). Under McKinley’s leadership, the United States went to war against Spain in 1898 and thereby acquired a global empire, which included Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
Following his inauguration in 1901, McKinley left Washington for a tour of the western states, to be concluded with a speech at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. Cheering crowds throughout the journey attested to McKinley’s immense popularity. More than 50,000 admirers attended his exposition speech, in which the leader who had been so closely identified with protectionism now sounded the call for commercial reciprocity among nations:
By sensible trade arrangements which will not interrupt our home production, we shall extend the outlets for our increasing surplus. A system which provides a mutual exchange of commodities is manifestly essential to the continued and healthful growth of our export trade. We must not repose in fancied security that we can forever sell everything and buy little or nothing. If such a thing were possible, it would not be best for us or for those with whom we deal. We should take from our customers such of their products as we can use without harm to our industries and labor.
The following day, September 6, 1901, while McKinley was shaking hands with a crowd of well-wishers at the exposition, Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, fired two shots into the president’s chest and abdomen. Rushed to a hospital in Buffalo, McKinley lingered for a week before dying in the early morning hours of September 14. He was succeeded by his vice president, the man Mark Hanna sneeringly referred to as “that damned cowboy,” Theodore Roosevelt.