William McKinley: 25th President

review of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century by Robert W. Merry It was under the calm, steady leadership of William McKinley that the United States first became a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. That’s according to the biography “President McKinley: Architect of the American Century,” by Robert W. Merry. Clocking in at just under 500 pages, the book describes how McKinley took us to war against Spain to liberate Cuba. Along the way we sunk the Spanish fleet in the Philippines and turned that into a U.S. protectorate. But that turned bloody when native militants fought for their own independence and we wouldn’t grant it. We sent troops to put down the insurgency and to help the Filipinos establish their own U.S.-approved self-government. (What could possibly go wrong?) We also seized Guam and made Puerto Rico a territory.

In addition to the Spanish-American War and its aftermath, McKinley formulated an “open door policy” toward China, which called for equal trade with China among all countries. He also wanted to prevent other countries from carving up China. All this got very messy during what became known as the Boxer Rebellion, in which anti-colonial nationalists attacked Christians and foreign diplomats, including Americans. The United States joined in an eight-nation alliance to quell the rebellion, but as a result the ruling Qing Dynasty later collapsed. Oops.

McKinley also helped lay the groundwork for the construction of a shipping canal through Central America, by re-negotiating treaties with Great Britain and by setting up commissions to study the project. The canal was originally intended to go through Nicaragua, but McKinley also wanted a site in what became Panama to be considered.

Oh, and it was under McKinley that the United States annexed Hawaii. All this happened in McKinley’s first term.

Just like Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield, two of his recent predecessors, McKinley was a Republican from Ohio who had served in the Civil War. McKinley entered the war as an enlisted soldier and later became an officer, achieving the rank of Major. He fought in numerous engagements, including the Battle of Antietam. After the war McKinley was elected to Congress and focused on the issue of protective tariffs. After being gerrymandered out of office, he was elected governor of Ohio.

White House portrait of William McKinley by Harriet Anderson Stubbs Murphy (Public domain)

When he ran successfully for president in 1896 against Democrat William Jennings Bryan, McKinley did not travel the country to deliver speeches but rather conducted a “front porch campaign” in which various constituencies came to Ohio to visit him. It was a method of campaigning that had been previously employed by Indiana’s Benjamin Harrison, but McKinley was better at it, staging each front porch visit for maximum effect. The architect of his campaign, political ally Mark Hanna, distributed large volumes of campaign literature.

At the time the two biggest domestic issues were protective tariffs, and what to do about silver vs. gold as it related to the nation’s money supply. On the tariff issue, McKinley wanted to maintain protective rates but wanted the flexibility to negotiate reciprocity agreements with individual nations. On the metals issue, McKinley wanted gold but at the same time did not want to to shut out the silver advocates, who represented powerful constituencies. As his term in office went on and the nation’s economy improved, McKinley was able to soften his stance on tariffs and eventually sign legislation establishing a gold standard for the nation’s money supply once and for all.

Another domestic issue at the time was the problem of corporate monopolies, or trusts. A recent Supreme Court decision had struck down a law, and McKinley subsequently did very little to rein in trusts, saying federal legislation would likely be unconstitutional. It also appears that McKinley did very little if anything about civil rights, certainly nothing that was documented in any detail in the book.

Two future presidents played prominent roles during McKinley’s presidency. Theodore Roosevelt was McKinley’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy, but he resigned that post when the Spanish-American War broke out. Roosevelt founded the Rough Riders and fought in Cuba, then ran for governor of New York and won, before getting himself on the ticket in 1900 as the Republican vice presidential nominee. According to the book, McKinley did not want Roosevelt on the ticket but felt there was nothing he could do to stop him. McKinley also appointed William Howard Taft, who had been a circuit court judge, to be the civilian governor of the Philippines. In addition, future president Herbert Hoover was a mining engineer deployed to China.

Sadly, President McKinley was the victim of gun violence. He was shot twice at close range while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in September 1901, and he died a week later. The assassin was Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist.

An artist’s drawing depicting the assassination in 1901 of President William McKinley in Buffalo. (Public domain)

Here are some additional facts about our nation’s 25th President:

  • McKinley was the fifth president to die in office and the third to be assassinated.
  • His wife, Ida, had a number of chronic illnesses, both physical and psychological, that plagued her incessantly. At times her antics bordered on insanity, yet McKinley was devoted to her and constantly catered to her every demand.
  • The McKinleys had two children, both daughters, who both died in childhood.
  • After the election of 1896, Mark Hanna persuaded McKinley to name sitting U.S. Senator John Sherman of Ohio to the Secretary of State post, so that he could run for Sherman’s open Senate seat. It was a crazy plan, but it worked. Hanna became a Senator and subsequently ran McKinley’s successful re-election campaign in 1900.
  • Garret A. Hobart of New Jersey was McKinley’s first Vice President. But Hobart died in office, clearing the way for Theodore Roosevelt to run on the ticket in the election of 1900.
  • The election of 1900 was a rematch between McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. When McKinley won decisively, he considered that a confirmation from the American people that he was doing everything right.
  • Unlike his immediate predecessor, Grover Cleveland, who largely ignored the press, McKinley was open with the press. In the papers he received plenty of praise, and lots and lots of condemnation over his “imperialist” policies.
  • Oh, and one extra special fun fact: The wonderfully talented actor Michael Urie — who is currently appearing on Broadway in the lead role in Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song” — has a dog named President McKinley! It’s a Boston Terrier-Chihuahua mix, and, according to the New York Post, he puts “Kinley” in a backpack and they ride around town together on a bike!

As presidential biographies go, I found Robert W. Merry’s “President McKinley” to be insightful, with some very good analysis. As Merry freely admits, McKinley lacked creative thinking and was not the most charismatic of presidents. He did not have the force of personality of his immediate successor, Theodore Roosevelt. At the same time, to his credit, he did not make rash policy decisions or offer any bold pronouncements. (In other words, he did not tweet!) Yet Merry points out that despite McKinley’s lack of charisma, he usually achieved his goals in his own way, by listening respectfully to others, considering all sides of an issue before making a decision, and then using “incrementalism” to get what he wanted. But when it came to an aggressive foreign policy, were McKinley’s decisions good or bad? George Washington had famously warned our nation to avoid foreign entanglements, a policy that stood fast for the better part of a century. It’s therefore a bit shocking, in a way, to read how McKinley would point the United States on a much different path. He set the stage for the United States to take a leadership role in the enormous conflicts that would soon envelop the globe in two world wars. It’s what would later become, in what Merry calls in the subtitle to his book, “The American Century.”

Christmas Eve in New York City

I was out and about on Christmas Eve. First stop was Gramercy Park — which is open to the public for ONE HOUR ONLY every year on Christmas Eve, for Christmas carols! I have been intending to go every year for many years, but this was the first time I got around to it! And probably the last, as well, because it was crowded, dark and cold! But at least I can say I have been inside Gramercy Park!

Next stop was Grand Central Terminal, on the way to Radio City Music Hall, for the Christmas Spectacular, which I attended with friends Jay and Franklyn.

Stop and listen to Keith Richards play the guitar …

Keith Richards is 75 today. Think about that for a moment. Keith Richards is 75 YEARS OLD!!! Who coulda thunk, out of all the rock stars in the history of rock ’n’ roll, that KEITH RICHARDS would still be kicking it in 2018. And he’s still recording and playing live! The Rolling Stones are set to tour next year. It’s fucking hot if you ask me.

In honor of the occasion, here’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” from Side A of Sticky Fingers. Turn this up. You don’t have to play the whole song if you don’t want to. Just listen to the opening riff:


I scrolled down below the video to read some of the posted comments on YouTube. Here are some of the more colorful messages that people posted:

“I don’t listen to this song often. But when I do, so do my neghibors.”

“That guitar is so dirty. That guitar has been up all night drinking whiskey, smoking Marlboros, and there are two young ladies in a state of dishabille lying on the bed; and that guitar is about to go out to work and replace the transmission on a 59 Chevy Impala. That is how dirty that guitar is.”

“When you hear this song in a movie, you KNOW shits about to go down!”

“Went for heart surgery two years ago. The background music in the OR was classic Stones. I knew everything would be fine and, if by any bad luck I were to die, well that’s the way I wanted to leave this world anyway.”

Happy Birthday, Keith!

Warhol retrospective at the Whitney

Last Monday (vacation day from work) I went to the Andy Warhol exhibit at the Whitney, and it was really fantastic. I took an hour-long guided tour.

Click any of the pictures below to make them bigger:

The title of the exhibit is “Andy Warhol — From A to B and Back Again.” Many of the works are large, colorful and vibrant — ranging from the famous Campbell’s Soup cans to images of Marilyn, Elvis and Jackie Kennedy. There’s also a ginormous portrait of Chairman Mao, large skulls, various self-portraits, and a whole room of flower paintings on walls covered in cow wallpaper. There are various film and video installations, including a film of Warhol himself eating a fast food hamburger. Sadly for me, the “Sticky Fingers” and “Love You Live” album covers Warhol designed for the Rolling Stones are not part of the exhibit.

The artist’s sexual orientation features prominently in many of the works on display. At the very beginning of her talk, the leader of the guided tour said that Warhol was gay, and she went on to point out the gay themes in many of the images, beginning with some early drawings of several of Warhol’s male friends playing with jewelry. Also included in the show are several portraits of New York City’s underground drag and trans community, including Marsha P. Johnson, who was a veteran of the Stonewall uprising.

Warhol got his start doing commercial illustrations for newspaper advertisements, and among these early works are various paintings of women’s shoes. Warhol dedicated the shoe paintings to various celebrities, both male and female, including Mae West and Truman Capote. Another is dedicated to the trans pioneer Christine Jorgensen, the U.S. Army veteran who traveled to Denmark in the 1950s for gender confirmation surgery.

Later in Warhol’s career, the AIDS crisis was of immense concern to New Yorkers (and gay New Yorkers in particular), and a theme of activism vs. Catholicism is evoked in one of Warhol’s last works, The Last Supper, which features a camouflage pattern over the religious iconography.

This all takes place on the fourth and fifth floors of the Whitney. On the first floor, there is a whole room of nothing but Warhol’s celebrity portraits — which include Liza Minnelli (my favorite), Mick Jagger, the Shah of Iran, Deborah Harry, Truman Capote, Halston, and just about everyone else you can think of who was famous back then.

The show runs through the end of March. If you live in New York City or are visiting, it’s not to be missed. I will definitely go back myself to see this again.

Benjamin Harrison

“I want it understood that I am the grandson of nobody. I believe every man should stand on his own merits,” said Benjamin Harrison when he was just 22 years old and about to embark upon a public life. And what a life it turned out to be. As the 23rd President of the United States — he served a single term between Grover Cleveland’s two nonconsecutive terms — Benjamin Harrison was tremendously productive, working closely with Congress to shepherd an immense amount of legislation, including the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the McKinley Tariff Act, legislation that established federal protection for forests, and much more. He strengthened the U.S. Navy and improved shipping for the trans-Atlantic passage of mail. Benjamin Harrison also skillfully faced a number of foreign policy crises, including disputes with Italy, Chile and Great Britain, all of which required wisdom, tact and steady resolve.

biography of Benjamin Harrison


When Benjamin Harrison came into office there was a federal budget surplus, which was considered a big problem. At that time there was still no federal income tax. Instead the government raised revenue mostly through tariffs. Many Democrats wanted the tariffs reduced or eliminated altogether, but Harrison wanted them kept in place to protect American industry. He wanted the protective tariffs coupled with reciprocal trade agreements. He believed the federal government should spend money on veterans benefits, infrastructure and education, particularly schooling for blacks in the South. He was open to debate on currency but vigorously opposed the unlimited coinage of silver money, which would later cost him votes, especially in the West.

Benjamin Harrison also faced setbacks while in office. He failed to get voting rights legislation through Congress, though he did try. The tariff protections were intended to benefit workers, but instead industry leaders cut wages, leading to labor unrest and even violence. Like so many other presidents, Benjamin Harrison faced difficult problems dealing with Indian affairs. The battle of Wounded Knee, in which hundreds of Lakota Sioux were massacred by U.S. troops in North Dakota, happened under his watch. He also signed anti-Chinese immigration legislation.

Many of the bills Harrison got passed were on strict party-line votes, and the Republicans suffered huge losses in the midterm elections in 1890. In Harrison’s failed re-election bid in the presidential election of 1892, it was a rematch with Cleveland. Just two weeks before Election Day, in October of that year, his wife, Caroline, died. After leaving office Benjamin Harrison returned to Indianapolis and resumed his law practice, earning large fees. He represented Venezuela in a lengthy and arduous boundary dispute with Great Britain. He continued to follow politics but declined to seek office again or to campaign much for fellow Republicans. He was not a huge fan of Cleveland or of his successor, William McKinley. Benjamin Harrison died in 1901 at age 67.

Here are some additional facts about Benjamin Harrison, our nation’s 23rd President:

  • He served as an officer in the Civil War and was considered a war hero. He led troops in several battles.
  • He was from Indianapolis, though he had been born in Ohio.
  • Physically, he was small.
  • In his personal life he was deeply religious.
  • Many of his writings were published as a book, called This Country of Ours.
  • His grandfather, William Henry Harrison, was elected President when Benjamin was still a boy. The elder Harrison had been a Whig, but Benjamin Harrison was a Republican. President William Henry Harrison, who had also been a military hero, died after about a month in office. The Harrison family went all the way back to the founding of our country. His great-grandfather, Benjamin Harrison V, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Before Benjamin Harrison became President he served one term in the U.S. Senate, but he was defeated for re-election after the districts in Indiana were gerrymandered. He had also run for governor of Indiana but lost.
  • Leading up to the 1888 presidential election, Harrison did not travel but rather conducted a “front porch” campaign, in which various groups came to Indianapolis to hear him speak.
  • He selected a political rival, James G. Blaine, as Secretary of State, who turned into a huge pain in the ass. Blaine was frequently absent for long stretches due to his health, and Harrison did much of the State Department’s diplomatic work himself.
  • Under Benjamin Harrison, federal spending topped $1 billion for the first time.
  • He traveled extensively as president.
  • Benjamin Harrison maintained a lifelong friendship with Mary “Mame” Dimmick, a niece of his wife. After his wife died and Harrison had left the presidency, he married this younger woman and they had a child together. His children with his first wife and their spouses loathed Mame.

To learn about the 23rd President, I read “Benjamin Harrison” by Charles W. Calhoun. This is another in the American Presidents series, and like all books in this series it was short, concise and informative. The meatiest and most detailed chapters of the book covered Benjamin Harrison’s presidency. I got confused by all the controversy over silver. And I would have liked to learn just a bit more about his service in the Civil War.

The 2018 dental meeting in New York City

The annual Greater New York Dental Meeting takes place the weekend immediately after Thanksgiving every year — which means those of us who work at Dental Tribune are quite busy. The event features educational classes and hands-on workshops for the thousands of dental professionals who attend from out of town, plus a four-day tradeshow for the latest products and technology. We publish four issues of our at-show newspaper, called “today” — two of which we put together “live” on site, which means home away from home this past week has been the Javits Center!

You can see all four issues of our daily at-show newspaper by clicking here. I took many of the pictures at the event, and I conducted a live interview with a company rep on site about a new product (link to my article here). Our post-show “meeting review” article and photo gallery is here. I am particularly pleased with the way the cover of Issue 3 turned out. If you click the image directly below it will open bigger:

Fred Michmershuizen personal website


This is such a big meeting that it’s “all hands on deck” for the four Dental Tribune editors, but we were short staffed this year because our group editor is out on maternity leave. After we finished our work for the paper, the three of us who were together for the work event attended the Tuesday night showing of “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway:

Fred Michmershuizen Dental Tribune