American Presidents





Chester Arthur American Presidents Teacher Guide


Biography of William McKinley
August 23, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level


Note to Teachers: Students are asked to use a time line as part of the activities presented in this Teacher Guide. Teachers can receive an American Presidents time line by joining C-SPAN in the Classroom, a free service for teachers.


Before Viewing American Presidents
Part 1

Draw a time line on the board. Begin the time line with the year 1861, the year the Civil War began. Mark the end of the time line with the year 1901. Test the students ability to read the time line by asking them the various questions:

  • How many years does the time line cover?
  • How many centuries does the time line encompass?
  • What is "the turn of the century"? Where is the turn of the century on the time line?
  • Does the time line show the year 1843?
  • If you extended the time line, where would the year 1843 lie?

Tell students that the time line covers the span of the adult life of William McKinley, the 25th president, who was born in Ohio in 1843. How old was President McKinley when the Civil War started?

Make some predictions:

  • Did William McKinley serve in the Civil War? If so, for what side?
  • What were some stops on his path to the presidency?
  • What obstacles may have been in his way?

Part 2
Have students complete some preliminary research about William McKinley's life in Ohio and service in the Civil War by using C-SPAN's web site. Look particularly at a posted letter written by William McKinley during the Civil War.

Instruct students to answer the following questions: Did he marry? Have children? Did he serve in other public office? What historical events did he witness? What impact might they have had on him? What technological changes were impacting the times? How?

Part 3
Because William McKinley lived in a time when film and voice recordings were becoming more common, students will work toward a culminating project in which they will stage and create voice or video recordings of an event significant to the president's life.

Ask students: how does hearing a voice recording or seeing film footage of a president affect your understanding of his life and presidency? How does technology impact the study of history? One hundred years from now, how will a study of today's president compare to our study of President McKinley?


While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Answer the questions while viewing C-SPAN's American Presidents program on William McKinley.

1. What events marked the early life of William McKinley?

2. What were his dominant personality and character traits?

3. How did he rise to leadership in Ohio?

4. What policies was he known for as Governor of Ohio?

5. Who were some of William McKinley's friends? What was the impact of the friendship(s)?

6. Who were some of William McKinley's enemies? What were the causes and effects of the animosity?

7. Describe the election of 1896. How did William McKinley become his party's nominee? Who did William McKinley defeat in the 1896 election? How?

8. Describe the national political climate during William McKinley's presidency.

9. Describe some of the scientific inventions that marked the period of his presidency.

10. Describe his relationship with his wife.

11. William McKinley was known for his advocacy of which economic policy? Who agreed with him? Who disagreed with him? Why?

12. What international crisis dominated his presidency? How was it resolved? What was America's emerging role in the world?

13. How was he treated by the press?

14. How did the election of 1900 differ from that of 1896?

15. How did the country react to his death?


After Viewing American Presidents
Part 1

Review and analyze the information students have gathered. Discuss the following questions so students may start to organize their information for the culminating activity:

  • How was William McKinley a typical man of the 1890's?
  • How did William McKinley's leadership of the country mirror America's emerging role as a leader of the world?
  • How has the country evolved in the last 100 years? How had the presidency evolved?
  • Compare the qualities valued in a president at the turn of the 19th century to those valued today. What has changed? Why?

Part 2
Have students work in groups to complete the following project.

Multimedia Project: Presidents at the Turn of the Centuries
Identify a significant, specific comparison between the life or presidency of William McKinley and the life and presidency of either Bill Clinton or George Bush.

Create a voice or video recording capturing a moment in William McKinley's life or presidency that illustrates the comparison. Obtain a voice or video recording from the life or presidency of the modern president that illustrates the comparison. Prepare a short multimedia presentation that explains and defends your comparison.

As an additional activity, students may wish to add a third president and century, John Adams (1797-1801) to their comparison.


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