Author: Tom Murdoch
Today promises that the day of the oath will be like any other day. 120 years ago, Buffalo was at home another day of swearing like any other day when Theodore Roosevelt was 26 years old.minds President of the United States September 14, 1901.
A stranger to Buffalo, the then Governor Roosevelt, recently visited in February 1900 for a banquet and address to members of the Saturn Club.
In just six months as vice president, Roosevelt returned for a completely different reason: September 6, 1901: McKinley was shot while attending a Pan American exhibition. Roosevelt stayed at the home of his friend Ansley Wilcox, and while McKinley’s health was recovering, went on a family vacation to Adirondack. A few days later, a runner came to him and invited him to Buffalo as McKinley’s condition worsened.
September 14, 1901
Roosevelt traveled the night from his camp through a series of coaches and trains. McKinley passed the word to Roosevelt at North Creek Train Station at 2:15 a.m. when a telegram arrived as the train reached the final leg of its journey. Arriving at Buffalo at 1:30 p.m., still wearing his tent, Roosevelt was whipped into Wilcox’s house to clean his hat and shirt. He walked a long way to Delaware Avenue to offer his condolences to McKinley’s widow at Milburn House (also part of Canisyus High School). While many suspected that the ceremony would take place there, Roosevelt protested and returned to Wilcox’s house to take the oath.
At 3:30 p.m., Roosevelt, several civilian leaders, and all but two members of McKinley’s cabinet, all gathered at Wilcox Library. After some debate the journalists, though without their photographers, were admitted. District Judge John Hazel took the oath at 3:32 p.m. This was only the second time the swearing-in was held outside the capital.
For two long minutes, the people remained silent about the fallen president and probably remained silent with the task that Roosevelt had been waiting for. He declared a day of national mourning and brought stability, asking all cabinet members to remain in their seats and decided not to convene a special session of Congress.
Roosevelt – and Buffalo – Heritage
Close friend McKinley and Ohio Sen. Mark Hannah said with regret, “that damn cowboy is now president.” 120 years later, that Cowboy is still America’s youngest president and certainly among its consequences. Exit from many presidential norms, he expanded the authority of the office, perceived his role as a “rebellion of trust,” advocated the development of the Panama Canal, expanded conservation efforts, and was the first president to win 24/7 secret service protection.
On that fateful day, Buffalo added William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt to the legacy of its presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. The mournful swearing-in ceremony held at Buffalo was similar in words to today’s swearing-in ceremony, if not a more detailed ceremony. Buffalo remains just one of a handful of cities that have witnessed the peaceful transition of the presidency of the United States. In addition to the Saturn and Wilcox clubs, Buffalo is home to numerous sites of interest to the president, including the Forest Cemetery, the McKinley City Hall and Statue, the Statler, the county’s top county, and the neighboring Lincoln building.