Why don't we care that McKinley was assassinated?

Having spent my weekend watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in the theater (thankfully not Ford’s) and the Kennedys miniseries on Netflix, I was reflecting on the fact that we almost completely skip over the fact that President William McKinley was also assassinated.

The Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations have been portrayed, reviewed, written about and debated seemingly daily since they occurred. Meanwhile, I’d suspect a vast majority of Americans couldn’t even name the other president who was assassinated. Heck, I was a political science major, took AP US History and am involved in politics here and there locally and I know next to nothing about it. Leon Czolgosz is not a top of mind topic of dinner conversation.

Kennedy was, besides all the Camelot mystique etc., in the time of TV. Lincoln was president at a turning point for the nation and led at an impactful time when the country was torn apart. McKinley was… neither of these, really. So… is that why we don’t seem to even bring it up?

Yes, President James A. Garfi… Oh.

I just finished reading two books of a trilogy on Theodore Roosevelt.

Honestly, I think it’s because McKinley as a President was boring. He was deeply conservative and his assassination didn’t arise from a climactic history (civil war for Lincoln/youthful and charismatic champion of the free world for Kennedy), nor did it have conspiracy theory status - the anarchist that shot him worked alone.

Secondly his death propelled Roosevelt into the presidency, who completely overshadowed his predecessor. Both Lincoln’s and Kennedy’s successors, while capable, were nowhere near as historically significant as Theodore the First.

McKiney was a decent, unassuming man who was a perfectly adequate office holder. No one gets too worked up over losing someone who was average, especially when his successor was one of the most colorful individuals ever to hold the office.

I think the fact that McKinley’s replacement was arguably the most popular president ever, but who probably never would have been elected on his own given the party system at the time, makes us a little uncomfortable with the topic. It’s not that we’re glad he got shot, but…

Nobody speaks of Czolgosz because nobody knows how to pronounce it.

Wow, who knew I’d stumble across the Teddy Roosevelt Admiration Society here?

I don’t remember him being on Firefly. :wink:

This thread might be better suited to GD, but here’s my take:

I suppose you could argue that the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations were motivated by societal forces that are still visible today (racial divisions, North vs. South, progressive vs. conservative). Leon Czolgosz, by contrast, was an anarchist; anarchism as a political movement is basically a historical footnote today. And, of course, Charles Guiteau assassinated Garfield largely because he had a tenuous grip on reality; this doesn’t really fit into a neat historical narrative that we can tell to schoolchildren either.

(I realize that most of what I’ve written above is pretty reductive, of course, but it does seem to make some sense.)

I suppose the best you could say is at least he wasn’t Spencer Perceval, the only British PM to be assassinated, who was killed by a disgruntled businessman. It was the 200th anniversary of his death a few weeks ago.

I saw the ‘memorial’ to his death in Parliament, which was little more than some dead flowers and a few laminated sheets of paper with the words ‘he gave his life for democracy’

Considering how he was known for being hostile to Catholic emancipation or widening the suffrage, I’m not too sure about that!

While I’m sure it was important at the time, McKinley’s death has become a footnote to history. While there were some accomplishments during his administration, he falls squarely in the category of ‘competent’ presidents, which since there are so many presidents isn’t someone we focus a lot of attention on. And has already been said, his successor so overshadowed him that it is no surprise he doesn’t get much coverage now. He did help win the Spanish-American War, but who really remembers what that was all about…

“It is a dreadful thing to come into the Presidency this way; but it would be a far worse thing to be morbid about it.” - TR to his friend Henry Cabot Lodge

For all you TR fans: http://www.atlantacutlery.com/p-2698-teddy-roosevelt-bobblehead.aspx

There are still a helluva lot of people alive today who remember the Kennedy assassination. In 100 years it probably won’t be much more than a footnote.

To me, the most interesting part of the affair is the bizarre disposition of Czolgosz’s body following his electrocution.

Plus, he served during that post-war/pre turn of the century period that was filled with forgettable presidents. Hayes, Arthur, Cleveland, Harrison… we don’t think often about any of those guys. Compared with the Revolution, westward expansion, the Civil War and the World Wars, issues like Reconstruction, silver standard, gerrymandering and trustbusting are, for the casual reader, pretty lame. Frankly, being assassinated is probably the only thing anybody other than true historians would remember about him at all. Even his war with Spain is rarely discussed. Remember the Maine? Not really.

Like totally. I’m a bit of a history buff but there was yet another presidential assassination in the 1860s. I don’t expect you to have heard of him but it was enormously important at the time.

Ha-ha. Maybe being elected in a year ending in “60” means your assasscination will be more historical.:smiley:

Huh. Hadn’t known about that. See the end of this section: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_czolgosz#Trial_and_execution

I am curious as to whether the OP skipped over Garfield himself intentionally, or whether “Meanwhile, I’d suspect a vast majority of Americans couldn’t even name the other president who was assassinated.” is unwitting irony. Garfield wasn’t memorable, either, nor was Chester A. Arthur who was his VP (although perhaps he should be remembered a little better as a machine politics crony nominated to balance the ticket, who unexpectedly backed reform once in office).

Garfield’s assassination is remembered mostly because Guiteau was such an utter whacko, and because, rightly or wrongly, you can accuse the medical profession of gross incompetence leading to Garfield’s death (Guiteau’s lawyer attempted that as a legal defense - that the wound shouldn’t have been fatal - the doctors said so themselves at first).

I am guessing you are not a regular at Cracked.com.

Here’s a decent book about the [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0809016389/]assassination of McKinley](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0809016389/). It not only talks about Czolgosz’ life, but also the effect on Progressivism the assassination had.