Weakened by Cigars
General Breaking Down of the President Attributed
Washington, Sept. 16.—The failure
of President McKinley’s heart at the critical time of his illness
was not unexpected here. Personal friends of the president knew
for years that his heart had been gradually weakened by the excessive
smoking of strong, black cigars. During May, 1899, he was compelled
to go to Hot Springs, Va., to rid himself of nervousness, insomnia
and fluttering of the heart caused by excessive smoking.
The president also had a severe attack
of rheumatism. The doctors attributed his general breaking down
largely to smoking, and on their advice he curtailed his allowance
Always a lover of a good cigar, President
McKinley had thousands of them presented to him by admiring friends.
After the war with Spain army officers and others in the new possessions
sent him boxes of the heavy native cigars. a [sic] smoker as was
Gen. Grant, and seldom was seen without a cigar in his mouth. When
the door of the cabinet room was opened to admit a visitor a blue
haze of tobacco smoke puffed out and President McKinley could be
seen adding to its volume. From early morning until he retired the
president smoked almost continuously.
He did not like mild cigars, and insisted
upon having the heavy black ones. At one time during that year he
smoked from seven to ten of the strongest cigars each day. The tobacco
was of the Vuelta Abajo variety and the cigars of the perfecto size.
The prodigious supply doubtless tempted
the president to smoke more than he otherwise would. He excused
himself by saying it gave him relief from neuralgia.
In February and May of 1899 he noticed
that his health was breaking down. His condition was even worse
than during the war, when the strain upon him was terrific. He could
not sleep, was extremely nervous and had a mild attack of “tobacco
At Hot Springs, Va., he endeavored
to break himself of the habit, but was only partly successful. He
found it impossible to resist the temptation when he saw others
smoking. On the advice of Dr. Rixey he curtailed his allowance to
four cigars a day, but recently even this limit was frequently exceeded.
During times when the president was
laboring under a great mental strain he invariably sought relief
by lighting a cigar.
The doctors said he had no organic
weakness of the heart, but insisted that he stop smoking. He liked
to put a cigar in his mouth and hold it there. Two thus chewed but
not smoked were found in his pockets at Buffalo.
The probabilities are that the attack
of grip from which the president suffered last December and January
had much to do with weakening his heart. His intimate friends lay
most of the trouble with his heart to the grip.