McKinley Presidential Library & Museum – Canton, Ohio - Atlas Obscura

McKinley Presidential Library & Museum

Mausoleums, astronomy, and animatronic dinosaurs at this memorial to an assassinated American president. 


This unique presidential library was built on the grounds of the William McKinley National Memorial, which contains the remains of the assassinated 25th President of the United States. The complex contains not only the domed mausoleum and presidential archives, but also a planetarium, science museum, and history museum, complete with animatronic dinosaurs and McKinleys, respectively.

Born in nearby Niles, Ohio, William McKinley served as an officer in the Ohio Infantry during the Civil War. After the war he studied law and established a law practice in Canton. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1877 to 1891, and then was elected Governor of Ohio in 1892. He would go on to win the Presidency in 1896 (and again in 1900) through his “Front Porch Campaigns.” His presidency was defined primarily by forays into imperialism, such as the Spanish-American War and military involvement in the Boxer Rebellion in China.

After his second inauguration, he went on a six-week tour of the country, concluding at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. After giving a speech there on September 6, 1901, he was standing in a receiving line when anarchist Leon Czolgosz approached him and shot him twice. President McKinley died eight days later. Work on the memorial began swiftly, and the building was officially dedicated on September 30, 1907. Both President McKinley and his First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley rest in state in sarcophagi in the mausoleum’s rotunda, along with their two daughters who died in childhood.

The museum exhibits onsite continue displays and artifacts pertaining not only to the former President and First Ladyincluding animatronic models of the couplebut also a section covering the history of Stark County (where the facility is located), complete with recreations of various 19th-century “main street” businesses and a large model railroad. A planetarium and a science museum are also onsite, featuring information on the natural history of the area as well as fossils of a mastodon, a saber-toothed cat, a mososaur, and the heads of a triceratops and a dunkleosteus. Guests can also compete against robots in various physical challenges. An animatronic allosaurus named Alice greets visitors to the science museum.

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