Before he was President: William McKinley

William McKinley, 1897-1901 teacher, soldier
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 private.

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 rancher
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 cold.

William Howard Taft, 1909-1913 legal clerk
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.

More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   Dolly Madison   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Henry Ford

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