1843 William McKinley is born On this day in 1843, future President William McKinley is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley fought bravely as a Union infantryman in the Civil War and was awarded a battlefield commission by Union officer and fellow future President Rutherford B. Hayes. After the war, McKinley passed the bar and practiced law in Ohio. He served as a member of Congress from 1877 to 1890. His congressional career ended with his conception of the unpopular McKinley tariff, which set import tax rates at 50 percent, placing an undue burden on working-class Americans. Despite this setback, McKinley won back public support, becoming governor of Ohio in 1891 and running for the presidency in 1896. The next year, McKinley became America’s 25th president. He was joined in office by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. Early in his first term, McKinley faced down the declining yet truculent Spanish empire in a controversial war that gained territory for the United States. The Spanish-American War began on April 25, 1898, following an explosion on the American battleship USS Maine in Cuba the previous February that killed 266 American servicemen and ignited American accusations of sabotage on the part of Spain. Though the Spanish were never proven to be responsible for the explosion (and probably were not), American newspapers pounced on the episode to drum up support for U.S. intervention in Spain’s colonial affairs. Newspaper baron Randolph Hearst published exaggerated reports of Spain’s brutal repression of independence movements in its Caribbean and Pacific territories to win public support for the war. After only four months of fighting, the United States gained control of Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba and the Philippines. With the Spanish-American War, America embarked on an age of New Imperialism, during which the United States also annexed the kingdom of Hawaii. McKinley also left his imprint on the American economy through his initiation of the trust-busting era. He urged Congress to appoint the U.S. Industrial Commission of 1899-1902 to investigate corruption and greed in railroad-pricing policy, industrial monopolies and the impact of immigration on labor markets. Though McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901, did not live to see the results of the commission’s work, his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, zealously implemented the commission’s anti-trust recommendations during his term in the White House. McKinley’s commission ultimately contributed to the dismantling of the country’s largest trusts: the Standard Oil Company and J. P. Morgan’s Northern Securities Corporation. Ironically, it was labor concerns that inspired McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz. A former steel worker, Czolgosz (prononced cholgaush) participated in labor strikes and demonstrations in the late 1800s and witnessed violent police repression and the subsequent firing of his fellow workers. Influenced by American anarchists, he adopted the philosophy that the only way to end oppression of the working class was the complete dismantling of the government. His political beliefs turned to fanaticism, which prompted fellow radicals to officially distance themselves from him; they even declared him a government spy. The isolated Czolgosz idolized Gaetano Bresci, an anarchist who assassinated Italy’s King Umberto I on July 29,1900. The following year, on September 6, 1901, Czolgosz approached McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and shot the president twice at point-blank range. The mortally wounded president lingered for a week, finally succumbing to blood poisoning on September 14. Jurors pronounced Czolgosz guilty and sentenced him to death by electrocution on October 29, 1901. Unapologetic, his last words were I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people–the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime. McKinley became the third U.S. president to be assassinated, after Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield. 1936 U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects first members On January 29, 1936, the U.S. Baseball Hall of Fame elects its first members in Cooperstown, New York: Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Matthewson and Walter Johnson. The Hall of Fame actually had its beginnings in 1935, when plans were made to build a museum devoted to baseball and its 100-year history. A private organization based in Cooperstown called the Clark Foundation thought that establishing the Baseball Hall of Fame in their city would help to reinvigorate the area’s Depression-ravaged economy by attracting tourists. To help sell the idea, the foundation advanced the idea that U.S. Civil War hero Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown. The story proved to be phony, but baseball officials, eager to capitalize on the marketing and publicity potential of a museum to honor the game’s greats, gave their support to the project anyway. In preparation for the dedication of the Hall of Fame in 1939–thought by many to be the centennial of baseball–the Baseball Writers’ Association of America chose the five greatest superstars of the game as the first class to be inducted: Ty Cobb was the most productive hitter in history; Babe Ruth was both an ace pitcher and the greatest home-run hitter to play the game; Honus Wagner was a versatile star shortstop and batting champion; Christy Matthewson had more wins than any pitcher in National League history; and Walter Johnson was considered one of the most powerful pitchers to ever have taken the mound. Today, with approximately 350,000 visitors per year, the Hall of Fame continues to be the hub of all things baseball. It has elected 278 individuals, in all, including 225 players, 17 managers, 8 umpires and 28 executives and pioneers. 1861 Divided Kansas enters the Union The territory of Kansas is admitted into the Union as the 34th state, or the 28th state if the secession of eight Southern states over the previous six weeks is taken into account. Kansas, deeply divided over the issue of slavery, was granted statehood as a free state in a gesture of support for Kansas’ militant anti-slavery forces, which had been in armed conflict with pro-slavery groups since Kansas became a territory in 1854. Trouble in territorial Kansas began with the signing of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act by President Franklin Pierce. The act stipulated that settlers in the newly created territories of Nebraska and Kansas would decide by popular vote whether their territory would be free or slave. In early 1855, Kansas’ first election proved a violent affair, as more than 5,000 so-called Border Ruffians invaded the territory from western Missouri and forced the election of a pro-slavery legislature. To prevent further bloodshed, Andrew H. Reeder, appointed territorial governor by President Pierce, reluctantly approved the election. A few months later, the Kansas Free State forces were formed, armed by supporters in the North and featuring the leadership of militant abolitionist John Brown. During the next four years, raids, skirmishes, and massacres continued in “Bleeding Kansas,” as it became popularly known. The territory’s admittance into the Union in January 1861 only increased tension, but just three and a half months later the irrepressible differences in Kansas were swallowed up by the full-scale outbreak of the American Civil War. During the Civil War, Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.