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Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site

Colleen Kulikowski March 28, 2016

Americans of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to visit Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site in Buffalo, New York, the site of one of the country’s most important events of the 20th century.

It was 1901. The Spanish-American War had ended recently. The Western Hemisphere was a burgeoning region intent on making its mark on the world.

Millions descended upon Buffalo, New York, to commemorate the Pan-American Exposition, which not only intended to highlight the cultures and achievements of North, Central, and South America, but also to celebrate their friendship, mutual interests, and technological ideas that would influence the world.

Buffalo was the perfect place for the Exposition: it was among the first cities in North America to have electricity; at that time, in 1901, it had electric street lights and trolley cars – even electricity in some of its public buildings.

September 6, 1901

President William McKinley and his wife Ida were originally scheduled to be at the opening ceremonies in May. However, Mrs. McKinley fell ill right before and, in a decision that would change the course of American history, the McKinleys had to reschedule their visit for September.

On September 4, they arrived in Buffalo for the Exposition. Two days later, President McKinley visited Niagara Falls before returning to the Exposition for an afternoon reception.

It was a typical late-summer Buffalo day, hot and humid, and the building was very warm. People with handkerchiefs to wipe their brows dotted the long line of people waiting to shake President McKinley’s hand, so the fact that Leon Czolgosz had a handkerchief wrapped around his right hand was no big deal – until he shot McKinley in the abdominal area twice from under the handkerchief when the President extended his hand in greeting.

Czolgosz was immediately taken to the ground by a group of nearby men and then into custody while McKinley awaited the electric-powered ambulance for the ride to the Exposition Hospital. Surgery was performed, after which he was later moved to the home of John Milburn, President of the Pan-American Exposition.

641 Delaware Avenue

Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, in Vermont at the time of the shooting, was quickly summoned to Buffalo. He arrived the next afternoon, and unexpectedly ran into a man named Ansley Wilcox, who invited him to stay at his home.

While at Wilcox’s home, Roosevelt met with the Cabinet, various senators and congressmen, and the press, reassuring the nation of McKinley’s promised recovery. He also visited President McKinley.

McKinley’s condition did improve, and Roosevelt left Buffalo thinking all would be fine. However, he left instructions with Wilcox in case he needed to be summoned back to Buffalo again.

Several days later, he was indeed needed, as McKinley’s condition had rapidly deteriorated. As Roosevelt made his way to Buffalo late on September 13, arriving in the early afternoon of September 14, President McKinley died.

Roosevelt was greeted at the train station by Ansley Wilcox, and, after paying his respects to President McKinley’s widow, Roosevelt arrived to the Wilcox home to be inaugurated. The ceremony took place in the library around 3:30 p.m.

Relive Those Fateful Days

Visit the restored dining room where Roosevelt dined at least a dozen times during those tragic days. Step back into the library – and back in time – and marvel at how 50 people crammed into a small room to witness such a historic event as an American President’s inauguration. Stand in the morning room, where Roosevelt wrote the emotional address to a mourning nation, his first proclamation as President.

Roosevelt went on to become one of the country’s most influential Presidents. The Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration Site is a must-visit for any American, especially those who are history buffs.

Visit www.trsite.org for news, events, tour information, and more.

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