William McKinley and His America

By H. Wayne Morgan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 11
The Front-Porch Campaign

AN AIR OF EXPECTANCY compounded the heat of early June in Canton. Visitors noted the tension and though the town tried to proceed about its business as usual, it seemed braced for a storm. At a certain house on North Market Street, with a neat fence, with flowers pouring over the sides of garden urns, the vigil of newspapermen took on fresh importance as the day approached that would decide the occupant's fate. Major McKinley seemed unruffled. He chatted easily over the fence with neighbors, entertained his wife and friends as usual, and had a ready smile for the people who greeted him on the street during his occasional forays into town.

Windows up and down the street were laden with wares boasting Canton's favorite son. Flags and portraits, silver tea sets and spoons, glasses, canes, fans, and handkerchiefs bore his picture. His bust could be bought in tin, marble, terra-cotta, or Parian ceramic, and bunting was ready for instant use when the great moment came.

The scene was much the same some six hundred miles away in St. Louis, where the eleventh national Republican convention was to meet on June 16, 1896. The casual stranger might have thought that the city was named McKinleyville, so lavishly did the Major's followers show their loyalty. Hotels were full of delegates, alternates, party workers, visitors, and curiosity seekers. In their strolls through the flag-decked city they could buy almost anything they wanted with McKinley's name or picture on it. Hotels boasted McKinley bars and a McKinley drink concocted of bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar drew an unusually large following. Arriving guests and delegates passed under McKinley arches on their way to hotels, saw his picture as they mounted the stairs to their rooms, and waved to each other with canes boasting replicas of his features done in tin.1

The McKinley machine was ready to carry its chief to a first-ballot victory. Many of the men who gathered to begin the show were McKinley followers. Charles W. Fairbanks was temporary chairman, Joseph B. Foraker chaired the

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