Can you imagine?

I just can’t imagine the President being able to do this sort of thing today. I think the Secret Service would be scrambling!

Scott Miller, The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century. New York: Random House. 2011.

P 92-93: ‘ “Nothing could be simpler and more methodical than President McKinley’s daily life in the White House since he came to Washington,” wrote a correspondent for McClure’s Magazine. The pace was relaxed and stately, his schedule full of holes. McKinley began his official day at the very civilized hour of ten o’clock and would knock off around four or five for some fresh air. In between, there was ample reason to think he wasn’t overly taxed. It was not uncommon for visitors to see newlywed couples, accompanied by their congressmen, waiting outside the president’s office for a brief exchange of pleasantries. If the bride were charming enough, she would receive the red carnation from McKinley’s lapel.

Each day, he found time to read a tower of newspapers that might include five or six of the New York dailies, a couple of Washington and Chicago papers, and half a dozen from other cities, all in addition to regularly reading the Canton Repository from his hometown. After lunch, McKinley would sometimes pause to cheer as the office staff played baseball on the south lawn. A pet parrot provided a musical accompaniment to his days when the two would take turns whistling “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Evenings were usually quiet affairs, spent at home with Ida or a small gathering of close friends. Weather permitting, he often slipped out for a constitutional down Pennsylvania or Connecticut avenues. By today’s standards, these sojourns were unthinkably casual affairs. The leader of the nation would simply pack up a newspaper, pull on his dark frock coat, and stride out the front door of the executive mansion in his quick-paced, erect manner, nosing at store windows for gifts for Ida, and, if he wandered too far from home, taking a streetcar back. Other times, McKinley would ride in a carriage with Ida or a white house guest and explore Washington, favorite routes being the “Soldiers’ Home” ground, the National Park, and Arlington. Children quickly learned his habits, and would wait on the sidewalk, shouting “Hello, Major!” as he passed, addressing McKinley by his Civil War rank. He would happily respond with a friendly wave, “How do you do, boys?” or “How do you do, girls?” Workmen would doff their caps.’

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