Source: Buffalo Evening News
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Waited on McKinley at Last Dinner”
City of publication: Buffalo, New York
Date of publication: 6 September 1921
Volume number: 76
Issue number: 125
|“Waited on McKinley at Last Dinner.” Buffalo Evening News 6 Sept. 1921 v76n125: sect. 2, p. 24.|
|Harry Winer; William McKinley (at Pan-American Exposition); Pan-American Exposition (President’s Day: luncheon).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Charles Evans Hughes; William McKinley; William Joel Stone; William Howard Taft; Charles S. Whitman; Harry Winer [misspelled once below]; George H. Woolley.|
Three paragraphs in the newspaper (an online scanned document) are blurry, rendering selected words difficult or impossible to read. The accuracy of the transcription (below) with respect to the menu items results from corroborating information found in other newspaper articles on this same topic.
The article is accompanied on the same page with a photograph of the banquet menu card and of Harry Winer. The latter has a caption beneath it that reads: “Harry Winer, Buffalo caterer, who, 20 years ago, personally served President McKinley at last banquet given in his honor in the Hotel Iroquois, and face of elaborate menu card used at event.”
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 exposition here.
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 society.
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 occasion.
“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
“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
“‘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 Whitman.
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.