Tuesday, January 1, 2019
President William McKinley arrived in Buffalo, New York, on the evening of September 4, 1901, intent on deflection history with a speech. The Ohio politician's shiny and luxurious presidential train crawled into the city's Terrace Station at six-thirty that evening, and the presidential party moved quickly toward waiting carriages near the north gate of the Pan-American Exposition, and attention-grabbing extravaganza that opened its doors on May 20. It featured exhibits, spectacles, musical performances, athletic events, and more — most notably, displays of the latest technological wonders, including an X-ray machine and the startling advent of alternating current, allowing the efficient transmission of electricity through lone-distance power lines. This promising advance brought enough power to Buffalo from Niagara Falls turbines, twenty-five miles away, to illuminate the entire exposition grounds in a a nighttime display of electrical wizardry.
This was just the kind of marvel to capture the imagination of a nation on the move, pushing into the twentieth century as it had pushed westward across North America during the previous hundred years — with resolve, confidence, and disregard for accompanying hazards. Now, under McKinley, America was developing and harnessing technology like no other nation, generating unparalleled industrial expansion and wealth, moving beyond its continental confines and into the world. It wasn't surprising that Americans would flock to the Buffalo exposition — an estimated eight million or mover over six months — to bask in their country's promise, or the Exposition leaders would designate a special day to honor the president. Neither was it surprising that McKinley would choose that day to summon support for a major policy departure for American — and for himself. The Pan-American Exposition represented a fitting convergence of the man, the event, and the era.
-Robert W. Merry, from the Introduction to President McKinley: Architect of the American Century