Campaign poster showing William McKinley holding U.S. flag and standing on gold coin “sound money”, held up by group of men, in front of ships “commerce” and factories “civilization”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Things you learn looking for documents: The U.S. National Archives now manages the presidential libraries and museums — except for one: The William McKinley Memorial Library and Museum.
President William McKinley Memorial Library and Museum, in Niles, Ohio. McKinley was born in Niles. Photo from the LIbrary’s website.
To be more accurate and fair, National Archives manages the documents for the presidential libraries starting with Herbert Hoover, though there are usually special arrangements with each of the libraries.
Separately, the Ladies of Mount Vernon Association manages the research facilities at Mount Vernon, Virginia, (and the rest of the grounds) associated with George Washington, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, is operated by a separate foundation, too. The Teddy Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University in North Dakota stands apart from the National Archives system, too (much TR material can be found at Harvard, too).
The idea of a specific library to hold papers from a president’s term is a mid-20th century idea. Franklin Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover were the first, with the idea coming about the same time. Private foundations built and operated them until after the Nixon library, and since then Congress authorized the National Archives to get into the act and coordinate the work, and then made the links official, for libraries from here on out.
For presidents prior to Hoover, papers generally became the property of the outgoing president. Collection was spotty. The idea of library dedicated to one president is such a good one, though, that private groups have gone back to set them up for Washington and Lincoln.
Modern texts don’t show well the high regard McKinley had from Americans before he was assassinated. Within a few years after his death, the people of Ohio and his birthplace, in Niles, got Congress to approve a memorial. Eventually the local library moved into the memorial building.
The National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Association was incorporated by a special Act of Congress on March 4, 1911. The purpose of the Association was to erect a suitable structure marking the birthplace of President William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States. The result was the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial.
McKinley was born in the city of Niles, Ohio on January 29, 1843. The city donated the site for the Memorial which consisted of an entire city square. The architects were McKim, Mead & White of New York and the erection of the Memorial was done by John H. Parker Company, also of New York. Groundbreaking began in 1915 with the corner stone being laid on November 20, 1915.
The building was dedicated on October 5, 1917.
The cost was more than half a million dollars, all of which was donated by the American public.
The 232 foot by 136 foot by 38 foot monument is constructed of Georgian marble with two lateral wings–
one wing houses the public library called the McKinley Memorial Library, and the other wing houses the
McKinley Museum and an auditorium. The Museum contains artifacts of the life and presidency of McKinley.
In the center of the Memorial is a Court of Honor supported by 28 imposing columns. It features a heroic statue of McKinley sculptured by John Massey-Rhind. Surrounding the statue are busts and tablets dedicated to the members of McKinley’s cabinet and other prominent men who were closely associated with him. These bronze busts, mounted on marble pedestals, weigh between 800 and 1100 pounds each.
As a presidential library, the McKinley Memorial Library in Niles is unique. While it does not offer the vast research resources of the National Archives, it does offer a memorial from the people of Ohio and the U.S., a more down-home look at reverence for presidents and the keeping of the history of our heroes.
The memorial to President McKinley in Niles. Photo from the McKinley Memorial Library and Museum.
The “official” list of other presidential libraries and museums in the National Archives’ network, listed at the American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara: