Waited on McKinley at Last Dinner
Harry Winer, caterer, 12 Spruce street
[sic], is reminiscent today.
Just 20 years ago, September 6, 1901,
President McKinley was assassinated while attending the Pan-American
Winer was the President’s waiter at
the last banquet given in his honor on the night before he was shot,
in the New York State building, now the home of the Buffalo Historical
It was not the first time that Winer
had served McKinley. For a whole week one summer in the late ’90s,
he waited on the table of the nation’s next chief executive while
the latter was attending the Republican national convention in Saint
Louis. Winer was then employed at the Hotel Planter, in that city,
where McKinley dined daily during the convention as the guest of
the late Governor Stone of Missouri.
The story of President McKinley’[s]
last banquet can best be told in Winer’s own words:
“I had come to Buffalo, my home town,
from Saint Louis the year before and had found work in the Hotel
Iroquois. When it was learned we were to serve the banquet in honor
of the President on his arrival here, George H. Woolley, then manager
of the Iroquois, asked all the employes [sic] if any of them
knew the waiter who had served McKinley at Saint Louis, for if possible
he wanted to have that same waiter attend the President on this
“You bet I spoke up and the honor
was conferred upon me.
“The President recognized me at once,
and seemed pleased with the ar[r]angement.
Banquet Gorgeous Affair.
“I remember it as though it were
but yesterday, that last banquet. It was a gorgeous affair. The
President sat at a table with the representatives of 13 nations.
It was I who escorted him to his seat at the table.
“Back of him was a closed door, draped
with the flags of the nations represented at the banquet. When the
President moved towards his seat, he noticed this door and said
to me, ‘My boy, what is on the other side of that door?’
“‘That leads to the pool, Sir,’ I
answered. ‘Shall I open it?’
“‘No, do not take the trouble; I was
just curious,’ the President replied.
“The next day, after the shooting,
I learned that Czolgosz, the President’s assassin, had been hiding
behind the closed door that self-same moment, waiting for some one
to open it that he might gain access to the room where the President
was. He shot the President next day, about 2:30 o’clock in the afternoon,
in the Temple of Music.
“McKinley was in fine spirits—in fact,
I had never seen him so jovial and carefree—on the night of the
banquet, little knowing that in less than 24 hours hence he would
be hovering between life and death from an assassin’s bullet.
“Back in those good old days the 18th
amendment was as undreamed of as a system of wireless freight transportation
and the champagne and wine flowed freely at the President’s table.
“But he touched none of it, waving
it all by, his cigar as well, with a terse comment that he never
drank or smoked.
Gets Cigar and Menu.
“I have his cigar as well as his
menu card. When he got up to leave the table, I asked him [?] he
was not going to take them.
“‘No, my boy,’ he replied. ‘You may
have them yourself if you care for them.’
“Did I care for them! Does a fish
swim? I have them today, and a fortune could not induce me to part
with that bit of embossed cardboard which had been handled by our
nation’s martyr. The 20-year-old cigar is an enormous one, much
larger and longer than the kind made today. I am keeping it in the
little black box, just as it laid before the President’s plate.”
The menu card to which Mr. Wiler refers
[is] a cardboard folder about 6 by 8 inches in size. On it in colors
is President McKinley’s picture, an engraving of the New York State
building, where the banquet was held, and the American flag and
coat of arms. A bit of red, white and blue ribbon gives the finishing
touches to the [book?].
On the front page Mr. Woolley, then
manager of the Hotel Iroquois, [has] written: “Harry Winer is the
waiter that had the honor to wait on President McKinley. This menu
was [used] by President McKinley at the luncheon given in his honor
at the New York State building on the Pan-American grounds, September
5, 1901.” This is followed by Mr. Woolley’s signature.
The menu served was as follows:
Canape, a la Russe with Old English
sherry, vintage of 1878; strained gumbo en gelee, pate of crab meat
a la creme with haut sauternes; sweetbreads glace, aux petits pois
and two brands of champagne; breast of spring turkey, farcie, with
browned sweet potatoes and asparagus francaise; pudding nesselrode,
sauce marasquin; petits fours, fruits, roquefort and brie; coffee,
cigars, and appollinaris [sic].
Besides McKinley and Governor Stone,
Mr. Winer during his career as a hotel waiter has served several
other noted men, including President Taft and Governors Hughes and
Mr. Winer has been a caterer for [?]
years. He began his career as a waiter in the Arlington hotel, [opposite?]
the New York Central railroad station. From there he went to St.
Louis, where for seven years he was employed as waiter at the Planters’
hotel. He returned to Buffalo in 1900 and for 10 years worked at
the Iroquois hotel. Since leaving there he has been in the catering
business for himself.