Before he was President: William McKinley
William McKinley, 1897-1901
In 1861 McKinley had to drop out of college due to illness and
shortage of money. He took a job at the post office and then a job
as a teacher making $25.00 a month. However, he would go back to
college after the Civil War and complete a law degree.
In June of 1861 he joined the Army. He was given a $400.00 signing
bonus (over a year’s salary for him) and $13.00 a month as a
From 1869 to 1871 he was making $1,000.00 per year as a prosecuting
attorney in Canton, Ohio. According to the Census he lived with his
parents in 1870; he would move out in 1871 when he married Ida
Saxton, who worked as the head teller at her father’s bank.
McKinley once borrowed $2,000.00 with a bank loan in order to
campaign for Congress.
In 1892 he was elected Governor of Ohio, where his salary was
increased to $8,000.00 per year.
During a short hiatus from Congress he served as the Chairman of the
Ohio Republican Convention. He was quoted as saying “I came to
Congress with $10,000.00 in assets and a law firm worth $10,000.00.
Now I have neither.” (Apostle of Protectionism, page 79) During this
time he turned down several high paying work offers in order to
continue his work in politics, something he was passionate about.
(William McKinley, Kevin Phillips, page 38)
Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909
An early business venture of Theodore Roosevelt's was that of a
rancher. He started his own ranch in the Dakota Badlands and called
it Elk Horn. He had a few employees, but did the same work that was
required of them. Unfortunately, the ranching did not work out for
Roosevelt, but during this time he also acquired a tough guy
reputation. One story recounts he tracked down the thieves that
stole horses from his ranch. He and two of his employees snuck up on
the three thieves, caught them, and then, forced them to march for
one week to the nearest sheriff. Another story tells of a bar fight
he was in when a drunk patron armed with two pistols called
Roosevelt "4 Eyes" because of the glasses he wore. However, before
the drunk bully could lift up his hands Roosevelt knocked him out
William Howard Taft, 1909-1913
As a child William Taft was active in athletics, especially
swimming. His weight would continue to be an issue for him his
entire life. After graduating from Yale Taft wanted to go to law
school, but he needed money. So he took a job that his brother
Charles offered to him as a court reporter. Charles owned the "Times
Star" newspaper in Cincinnati. He did such a good job at reporting
that another newspaper lured him to their business and paid him $25
a week to continue reporting from the courts. Later on in his career
as a lawyer he began dating Nellie Herron. She had visited the White
House when she was a little girl and determined that when she grew
up she would become a First Lady. She later married Taft who of
course went on to become the President.