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President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  562 ratings  ·  104 reviews
In this great American story, acclaimed historian Robert Merry resurrects the presidential reputation of William McKinley, which loses out to the brilliant and flamboyant Theodore Roosevelt who succeeded him after his assassination. He portrays McKinley as a chief executive of consequence whose low place in the presidential rankings does not reflect his enduring accomplish ...more
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Simon & Schuster
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May 22, 2019 rated it liked it
“Employing listless rhetoric and subtle persuasion, the president had got what he wanted.”

I picked up this book for a few reasons. I love history, I am an Ohio boy (as was McKinley), he was a member of the same fraternity I am (and briefly attended my undergrad school) and I spent an evening insanely intoxicated at his tomb in Canton as part of a fraternity ritual. So I should know more about the guy, right?
Although “President McKinley, Architect of the American Century” is an informative book,
Richard Derus
Aug 31, 2019 marked it as to-read
Shelves: borrowed, returned
Damn! As interesting as this book is, and as McKinley's presidency was, I can't finish it in the library's time allotted. Must be returned and, at a future time, rechecked. Blast!!
UPDATE 31 August 2019
Some fancy begging and a lot of whimpering later, I got this for one last renewal! YAY!!
Jill Hutchinson
It is unfortunate that usually the first thing that people think of when President William McKinley is mentioned is that he was assassinated in the beginning of his second term. But there was more to this President that should be remembered. even though he was not flamboyant, controversial, and sometimes came across as rather uninformed. It was during his Presidency that momentous events occurred and the country moved into a new era of economic growth and global stature. Few chief executives hav ...more
Alan Tomkins-Raney
4.5 Stars. This was a surprisingly captivating biography, well written and thoroughly interesting. Why McKinley is not better known or held in high regard as one of our best presidents is beyond my ken, unless it is because that era is more readily defined in the public eye by his bombastic successor, Theodore Roosevelt, who took Americans on a rollercoaster of a ride, politically speaking, for several years. McKinley, with his understated, congenial, incremental style of governing never sought ...more
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley, 2017
Robert W Merry has done justice to the 25th President of the United States with his new work President McKinley: The Art of Stealthy Leadership (Simon & Schuster, 2017).

William McKinley, a Union Civil War veteran, US Congressman, and Ohio Govenor, is often ranked in the top 20 of Presidents, generally ahead of his predecessor Grover Cleveland, but in the shadow of his second Vice-President the energetic and highly regarded, Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed the Presidency on September 14 1901 foll
Christopher S.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Robert Merry’s book, “President McKinley: Architect of the American Century” is a solid history of William McKinley’s life and presidency. The work is straightforward and workmanlike. It is, however, written in a stolid prose that lacks the narrative ability of better know popular historians like Carro, Chernow, McCullough, or Millard.

As one born and raised in Stark County, I learned a great deal that I did not know about my home town of Canton. Merry also did a fine job at describing the inters
May 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a good solid and well-researched biography on William McKinley, a President who is often overshadowed by his successor, Teddy Roosevelt.

Even though he is from Northeast Ohio, I knew very little about McKinley when I started this book. Although not always easy to read, I did learn a lot about this man and all he accomplished during his lifetime. Much of this information is interwoven throughout this book, so this is what I have pieced together:

McKinley was born on January 29, 1843 and whe
Jimmy Reagan
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In the world of presidential biography, how would you grade the biography of one of our lesser – known presidents? Without doubt, it requires more of the author. The two main characteristics of such a presidential biography must revolve around: a) skilled writing that draws you into the life of one you never realized was interesting, and b) enough depth to make you feel that you really know this person. Granted, the life of the president that headlines the biography is what it is, and the author ...more
Scott Klemm
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked up a copy of Robert W. Merry’s President McKinley expecting a straight forward biography. However, I encountered long sections where McKinley was barely mentioned. (Perhaps a more suitable title might have been The United States in the Era of William McKinley). The book is very detailed and meticulously researched. Of the book’s 608 pages, 82 are notes. Personally, I sometimes found it a bit tedious wading through detailed accounts of such issues as tariffs, the gold standard and bimeta ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Summary: A biography of McKinley's life, from Civil War hero to Canton attorney, congressman, governor, and to a presidency ended by an assassin's bullet, arguing he was a far more consequential president than usually credited.

My home state of Ohio holds the distinction of producing the most presidents, and many would also say, the most mediocre presidents. In many rankings of presidents, William McKinley is included in this number.  He is often portrayed as the colorless pawn of Cleveland indus
Judy Baker
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, history
Merry's biography, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century, was my first foray away from recommendations by Stephen Floyd. I had initially considered reading Lewis Gould's The Presidency of William McKinley (the other recommendations requiring more of a time commitment than I desired), but was so very bored with the book about Benjamin Harrison of the same series, that when I saw this book at Ollie's for $4, I took a chance...and am glad I did. Merry researched well and included mu ...more
Mark O'brien
Feb 03, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a long slog of a book, with way too many extraneous passages, but it reveals a lot about life in America in the 1880s-90s and McKinley’s beliefs and activities.

While he was not a transformative figure, he was a significant factor player in his era.

In our age of Twitter it’s especially interesting to look back at McKinley and politics in the late 1800s. When he ran for the presidency, he actually sat –- on the porch of his home because he knew he couldn’t match the oratorical firepower o
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Merry adopts the theory that McKinley was a forerunner of Eisenhower, the type of executive who seems merely to hover in the background but in fact is directing events precisely where he wants them to go. Whether he proves this theory is another matter.

Merry provides a biography of McKinley's full life, not just his 4.5 years in the White House. It should be clear to all that McKinley was an admirable man, worthy of being honored and emulated. He had a strong sense of civic duty; he served his c
There are some presidential biographies you have to stick with, despite having the same points hammered home too often, because the historical record isn't so wide. Robert W. Merry's biography of William McKinley is one of them, which has fostered in me new interest in McKinley to one day seek out the significantly earlier In the Days of McKinley by Margaret Leech, which Merry mentions, and which is available at the Ventura College Library, local to me.

But others may not have that opportunity, s
Joe Stack
Nov 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this biography even though at times I felt I was getting more details than I wanted or expected. I found this biography to be engaging and highly readable, well worth one's time, especially for anyone interested in leadership. We're use to presidents who command attention, who are very outgoing, even bold or flamboyant and ego-driven, in how they lead and confront congress and their opposition. It is pleasant to read about a man who lead behind the scenes, a hidden hand type of leaders ...more
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Debbie Jacob
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This, the latest biography on McKinley, was certainly well worth the wait. Robert W. Merry does an admirable job of capturing McKinley, the person, as well as McKinley, the politician, making them both understandable and engaging for readers. After reading at least one biography on every US President this year, I can safely say that McKinley turned out to be one of the most interesting and one of the least known presidents. This is extraordinary considering the way he shaped US foreign, imperia ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
The author kind of hamstrings the reader in his early assessment of President McKinley by declaring him as not being creative or visionary. So for about half the book the reader labors over segments about tariffs or bi-metallism. Yawn. To be sure, McKinley is a completely honest, god fearing man, but more importantly for this book, and the reader, a consummate politician. McKinley moves up the political ladder in Ohio, makes a number of connections, and through good old Mid-Western hard work, be ...more
Terry Tucker
Jan 13, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
On the Fence

There are 488 reading pages followed by pictures, acknowledgements and notes. The book is rich in detail and links key persons and detail to many events throughout McKinley’s life. At times it’s a tedious slog that requires breaks to refresh yourself. The one criticism I have is that the authors seems to be overly ebullient of McKinley and does not address his failings or weaknesses. At times I had begun to wonder if McKinley had only occasionally had gotten his ankles wet. All in al
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: president-bio
This was a good book because it put’s McKinley’s policies into context, particularly how his handling of the territories won during the Spanish American war. How do rule a colony as a colony and still be a democracy. While usually don’t feel it is appropriate to discuss in vivid detail events occurring outside the presidency, the author tactfully discussed the ongoing, and challenging insurgent situation in the Philippines. I guess the biggest complement I could give a Pres bio, which I do with ...more
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: u-s-presidents
For me, Robert W. Merry’s biography of President McKinley is about as perfect as a biography as one can read. I’ve read a lot of them. I’ve read many that were too short, too long, too detailed, too unbalanced, and there were many that I struggled to stay awake while trying to finish. This book seemed perfectly proportioned. I never found myself mentally drifting. The only drawback that I can state is that I wanted more. But shouldn’t that always be the case with a great book?

We read a fair amo
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am very glad I read this book. I gained a lot of knowledge about this time. It also was, for me, a reasonable length of book right now (488 pages). Whether I should be embarrassed or not, I have recently read some thick books and was ready for something that I could start and finish in a week. (My notes say it took me 10 days, but I only read 30 or so pages before setting it down for three days to finish a few other books.). I read all of my books in hard cover. Some of my recent reads have be ...more
Robert Gebhardt
McKinley is probably the most underrated presidency thus far (n.b., I wrote "presidency", not "president", which I still think is Garfield), especially as regards international expansion (colonialism?). Cuba, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Guam, the Philippines and Samoa were all added/conquered during his presidency. Not to mention the meddling with China along with the Europeans and Japanese. To his credit, he disavowed colonialism, and actually tried to promote independence and elections in Cuba and th ...more
Gary Bowman
Feb 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a timely and important book. Numerous newspaper editorialists have compared McKinley to Donald Trump, for a variety of reasons. But this book makes clear--without referring to the current era--that McKinley was no Trump. One of the most interesting parts of the book was McKinley's Civil War experiences. McKinley enlisted as a private in the local volunteer unit--Company E, 23d Ohio Voluntary Infantry Regiment (the regiment was commanded by William Rosecrans, a West Point graduate, who la ...more
Reader Variety
Having just read Chernow's new Grant biography, I thought that Merry's work on McKinley was more balanced (vs. Chernow's fawning examination of Grant), although like Chernow, Merry was prone to attempting to defend his subject and elevate him in the presidential rankings. Merry's epilogue seemed a fair summary - a lot happened during the McKinley presidency, and the argument is over how many of those events should be credited to McKinley.

Some interesting points:

- McKinley's introduction to eleva
David Montgomery
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting and readable biography of a forgotten president. Interesting as a bio of McKinley, an understated personality who kept getting the better of flashier politicians who perpetually underestimated the Civil War major.

But to me the best part of this book was as a way to use history as a lens on our own time. Reading recent history, one can be struck by how similar everything seems to the present day — not invaluable, but also adding limited perspective.

In contrast, more remote history
Andy Miller
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The thesis of the biography is that William McKinley is an underrated President, part of the reason being that his successor Theodore Roosevelt refused to give McKinley and credit for his accomplishments and that historians ,fascinated by Roosevelt's personality, followed suit.
Robert Merry, the author, is convincing. He lists towering political figures of the times who underestimated McKinley only to be outmanuevered by him. He details the economic issues of the time and how McKinley's commitmen
Bill Lucey
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
How much do we know about President William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States?

Other than he was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Polish-American and an anarchist at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo New York on September 6, 1901 (he died on the 14th), giving way to the flamboyant Rough Rider (and former New York Governor) Teddy Roosevelt, many are at a loss on what exactly the Canton, Ohio native accomplished.

Washington journalist, Robert W. Merry, in “Pres
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
More reviews and book-ish content @ Club Book Mobile & Andrea RBK

President McKinley: Architect of the American Century by Robert W. Merry was a thorough exploration of the life and times of William McKinley. You should I picked this one up because I once was assigned to do a report on President McKinley in fifth grade. Me being me, I took the opportunity to write a 30 page play that involved most of my class. I wanted to revisit his story as an adult which is an interesting angle. This book does
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I see why people are saying this book is too detailed, but found Merry's explanations of historical events very illuminating. For example, I had read about the gold versus silver debate during this time period in several other books and never really understood it. Merry explained how it was primarily a West versus East issue where pro silver westerners felt the pro gold Easterners were controlling all the money.

He also lays out McKinley's presidency in great depth and what the case is for a ree
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Robert W. Merry (born 1946) is an American journalist, publishing executive, commentator, and author. He is the editor of The American Conservative.

Robert W. Merry was born in 1946 in Tacoma, WA. He served three years in the U.S. Army, including two years as a counterintelligence special agent in West Germany. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in journalism in

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