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Making of: August 19

Posted by Matt Ryan on

Our next adventure took us to the Buckeye State and the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum. Eight United States Presidents have come from Ohio, including Canton’s Civil War hero. McKinley’s life and presidency were cut short in Buffalo by Leon Czolgosz, marking the third time in less than 40 years that a commander-in-chief had been assassinated.  

You take a long straight road that takes you to the impressive memorial and statue. The layout is similar to the mall in Washington, D.C. You walk up 108 steps (which many local people use to get their daily exercise) before reaching the final resting spot for the 25th president. Before entering, the look you have behind you is eerily similar to what you see from Robert E. Lee’s old house at the Arlington National Cemetery. McKinley, First Lady Ida and their two young daughters are interred here. The former president and his wife are in two sarcophagi raised up about fifteen feet up in the air. For being over 100 years old, the memorial is in fantastic shape. It’s a really lovely tribute.

The official Presidential Library and Museum is operated by the Stark County Historical Society. Up on the second floor there is a large room dedicated to McKinley and his wife. This is where we conducted our two interviews with Chris Kenney, the director of education there, and Akron History Professor Gregory Wilson. Remember Shelby Foote from the Ken Burns masterpiece The Civil War? Wilson’s voice has a similar southern twang, which excited me greatly when I first heard it. He paints the early 20th Century political picture very well in our story and explains the anarchist movement, which Czolgosz was a part of. It’s a movement that had a short shelf life but left an indelible mark on our country’s history. 

Finally, he asks me when this documentary is airing. I tell him in less than a month. He raises his eyebrows and says ‘wow, that’s soon.’  #pressure

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