The political symbiosis of Rutherford B. Hayes & William McKinley.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley as a pair are undoubtedly peculiar. To the casual scholar of American history, Hayes's presidency is practically a footnote lost in the minutia of America's Gilded Age and Reconstruction period though presidential historians might find it noteworthy that he is one of only four presidents who attained office without winning the popular vote. Historians fail to appreciate Rutherford B. Hayes's handling of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and his commitment to end the military reconstruction of the South. William McKinley will be better known simply because he was assassinated and he has a mountain named after him. Historians have established McKinley's reputation as the sneering jingoist who saw opportunities to take land in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. On the other hand, McKinley was sympathetic to labor, globalization of the United States economy, and a refusal to back down from the argument that a segregated society is still a society that is enslaved. Apart from presidential historians, few people could tell you much about either of these two men--either their personal lives or their political careers. This study contends that Hayes and McKinley's historical and popular reputations do not begin to accurately portray their contributions to American society. Further, it is argued here that the personal and professional relationship between these two presidents is unlike any other in American history. Hayes served as a mentor, a role model and a father figure to McKinley, and McKinley was the son that Hayes never had. He was also a loyal supporter of Hayes, and even though they disagreed on some issues, these disagreements never seriously threatened the close personal and political bonds they shared.