It was September, 1901. The Pan-American Exposition was still in full-swing, and the crowds were excitedly awaiting the arrival of President William McKinley. On September 5, the President took to the stage in front of 50,000 people and gave what would be his last words to the American people. He highlighted the importance of the Pan-American Exposition, bringing together those nations in the Western Hemisphere.
“At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was not a mile of steam railroad on the globe. Now there are enough miles to make its circuit many times. Then there was not a line of electric telegraph; now we have a vast mileage traversing all lands and all seas. God and man have linked the nations together. No nation can longer be indifferent to any other. And as we are brought more and more in touch with each other, the less occasion is there for misunderstandings, and the stronger the disposition, when we have differences, to adjust them in court of arbitration, which is the noblest form for the settlement of international disputes.” (Excerpt from President McKinley’s Pan-American Speech)
The following day, President McKinley was on the Exposition grounds to meet with the public. Shaking hands with them one-by-one, he came to a Leon Czolgosz who was hiding a gun under his handkerchief. When the President extended his hand, Czolgosz slapped it away and shot the President twice in the stomach. President McKinley held on until September 14, 1901, with his wife by his side, and passed away at 2:15 am.
Vice-president Theodore Roosevelt was vacationing with his family in the Adirondack Mountains. Although he had visited Buffalo shortly after the President was shot, the doctors were confident he would make a full-recovery and said that the Vice-president’s presence wasn’t necessary. Upon President McKinley’s death, a messenger was sent to Roosevelt to deliver the news. He quickly made his way to Buffalo, where he would become the 26th President of the United States, and one of America’s greatest legacies.
If you haven’t caught on by now, I love me a good historical site. There is nothing better than visiting a museum/monument/what have you and leaving feeling like you have done a good deed for your brain. Perhaps this is why touristy places like Madam Tussaud’s irk me to no end- I just don’t get it. For one, those types of attractions are more or less the same in every city around the world, but also you get absolutely nothing from the visit except for a stinging sensation when you pay for the over-priced ticket. (Oh, and maybe a few silly selfies.)
When I visited Buffalo, New York in May the Theodore Roosevelt Inauguration Site was recommended to me by the tourist board and I knew it was exactly the kind of place I’d love to spend the day with my family. Living across the ocean from my home country, I always feel like The Kid isn’t getting enough good ol’ American education. (Although to be honest, there is quite a bit of American history here in England.) By the time we had left she knew the names of two American presidents and could tell me about a significant event in American history that happened over a hundred years before she was born. Time well spent if I say so myself.
The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site
The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site features a guided tour that takes visitors through that fateful week when President McKinley was assassinated and his predecessor Vice-President Roosevelt took the oath of office. The location of the inauguration was the home of Ansley Wilcox. Wilcox was a good friend of Roosevelt and prominent Buffalo lawyer heavily involved in charity work. It was the library at the Wilcox home where Roosevelt had his inauguration ceremony.
The President also wrote his first proclamation as acting President at the desk in the room.
“By the President of the United States of America. A proclamation:
A terrible bereavement has befallen our people. The president of the United States has been struck down; a crime committed not only against the Chief Magistrate, but against every law-abiding and liberty-loving citizen.
President McKinley crowned a life of largest love for his fellow-men, of most earnest endeavor for their welfare, by a death of Christian fortitude; and both the way in which he lived his life and the way in which, in the supreme hour of trial, he met his death, will remain forever a precious heritage of our people.
It is meet that we as a nation express our abiding love and reverence for his life, our deep sorrow for his untimely death.
Now, therefore, I, Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States of America, do appoint Thursday next, September nineteenth, the day in which the body of the dead President will be laid in its last earthly resting-place, a day of mourning and prayer throughout the United States.
I earnestly recommend all the people to assemble on that day in their respective places of divine worship, there to bow down in submission to the will of Almighty God and to pay out of full hearts their homage of love and reverence to the great and good President whose death has smitten the nation with bitter grief.”
The President Roosevelt Inauguration Site allows visitors the opportunity to stand in the library where the inauguration took place, which has been carefully decorated and restored to look much like it did that day.
The guided tour also goes through the Wilcox dining room, a place where Roosevelt shared many meals with the Wilcox family. You also get a real sense of what an upper-class home at the turn of the 20th century in America would have looked like.
There are interactive exhibits before and after the tour, which I really enjoyed. My favorite section was the mock Oval Office where you could sit at the President’s desk and take a picture while you passed or vetoed some of Roosevelt’s most famous bills. There is a short ‘video’ that begins the tour which was unexpectedly enjoyable and had fantastic visuals. The site has definitely put in a lot of work to create informative displays that are also modern and inventive.
If you are around the Buffalo area, definitely take some time and stop-in at the Roosevelt Inaugural Site. It represents a momentous event in America’s history and has been meticulously set-up to give visitors an exciting and inspired experience.
Visiting the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site
The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site is open year-round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 12-5 on weekends. Visits are only possible through guided tours which are scheduled every hour on the half hour.
Admission Prices: Adults $10, Children 6-18 $5, 5 and under are free.
The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site is located at 641 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, NY, 14202
My tickets to the Roosevelt Inaugural Site were complimentary through Buffalo Niagara Tourism. All content, opinions, and thoughts on The Fly Away American are always my own.