Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: Typewriter and Phonographic World
Source type: magazine
Document type: article
Document title: “How President McKinley Started His Great Buffalo Speech”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 18
Issue number: 2
Pagination: 138-39

“How President McKinley Started His Great Buffalo Speech.” Typewriter and Phonographic World Oct. 1901 v18n2: pp. 138-39.
full text
William McKinley (last public address).
Named persons
George B. Cortelyou; Ida McKinley; William McKinley.


How President McKinley Started His Great Buffalo Speech

     President McKinley’s great speech at Buffalo grew from three phrases thought out by him one evening in Canton while smoking his after-dinner cigar. This was three weeks before he was to leave Canton for Buffalo on the visit which terminated with his death.
     The President and Secretary Cortelyou were sitting together in the President’s office in his house. It was seven o’clock and the lights had not yet been lighted. The President sat quietly smoking, looking at the ceiling and watching the smoke curl upward. Mr. Cortelyou sat across the desk from him, glancing over some papers. Neither had said a word for ten minutes when suddenly the President took his cigar from his lips and said, apropos of nothing at all apparently:
     “Expositions are the timekeepers of progress.”
     Mr. Cortelyou made a note of the epigram on a bit of paper, but said nothing. The President smoked a few minutes and then said:
     “Amity is better than animosity.” [138][139]
     Mr. Cortelyou made another note. Mr. McKinley lapsed back into his thoughtful mood. He puffed at his cigar for a time and then again broke the silence:
     “Reciprocity is better than retaliation.”
     The President finished his cigar, walked over and looked out of the window, returned and sat down at his desk again, and then took up routine business with the secretary. There was not a word between the President and the secretary about the three phrases, but after the work was finished and the President had gone in to see if Mrs. McKinley were comfortable, Mr. Cortelyou went upstairs and had one of the stenographers typewrite the three phrases, one at the top of the paper, one in the middle, and one at the bottom. Next morning, before breakfast, Mr. Cortelyou took the sheet of paper and put it on top of everything else on the President’s desk. When Mr. McKinley came in he picked up the paper, read over the epigrams and then, turning to Mr. Cortelyou, said with a smile:
     “We have begun the Buffalo speech, I see.”
     The President expanded the three ideas into the Buffalo speech. He did not use “Amity is better than animosity,” or “Reciprocity is better than retaliation” in those exact words, but that notable epigram, “Expositions are the timekeepers of progress” went safely through all the revisions and attracted immediate attention in the speech.
     The President dictated little of the speech. He wrote it out by paragraphs, taking fully two weeks to do it. He used a pad on his knee on the porch, and also wrote some of it while he was in Mrs. McKinley’s room. When he had it to his liking he dictated it from his rough draft. Then he went over it two or three times and polished it until it became the perfect piece of composition it was when he delivered it.—N. Y. World.



top of page