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    William McKinley Superb Autograph Letter Signed: Wishing to listen to the 1896 convention that would nominate him for President, McKinley tells Mr. Vail of Bell Telephone to speak with the Sergeant at Arms of the Republican National Convention in St. Louis.

    Signed: "W McKinley", one page, 5.5" x 8.5". Canton, Ohio, June 2, 1896. To Hon. C.E. Byrnes [sic, T.E. Byrnes], Sgt at Arms, Natl Rep Con. In full: "Dear Mr. Byrnes, This will be handed to you by Mr W A Vail. He represents the Bell Tel & Telegraph Company. He wants to confer with you about facilities at the Convention. I commend him to you. Sincerely."

    Timothy E. Byrnes (1853-????), a lawyer and a member of the Executive Committee of the National Republican League from Minnesota, was appointed chief of the appointment division of the U.S. Treasury Department under fellow Minnesotan, Secretary of the Treasury William Windom, in 1889, serving until Windom's death in 1891. In 1896, the Republican National Committee appointed Byrnes Sergeant-at-Arms of the Republican National Convention.

    William A. Vail (1849-1904) was the younger brother of Theodore N. Vail (1845-1920), President of the Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company from 1878 until retiring in 1889. T.N. Vail returned as President in 1907, heading the company, now called American Telephone and Telegraph, until 1919.

    Bell Telephone & Telegraph installed a telephone system at the 1896 Republican National Convention which was held in a specially built auditorium in St. Louis, June 16-18, 1896. McKinley was nominated for President on the first ballot. As candidates for presidential nominations never appeared at nominating conventions (FDR was the first in 1932), McKinley remained at his Canton, Ohio, home and listened to the convention proceedings by telephone. Fellow Ohioans Rutherford B. Hayes and James A. Garfield had run their successful presidential campaigns from their homes and so did McKinley, greeting thousands of supporters who arrived by train. But he had an advantage. Through telegraph and telephone, including new long distance service, McKinley was in close touch with his campaign manager Mark Hanna, his managers in 38 states, and Republican headquarters in New York. He publicly praised the telephone numerous times: "It is bringing us all closer together." In the November 3, 1896, election, McKinley defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan, 271-176 electoral votes, 23-22 states. McKinley defeated Bryan again in 1900 and served as President from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.

    This fascinating letter is in extra fine condition. It reveals McKinley's plans to be able to hear the cheers of the convention that would nominate him for President, something no other President before him had ever experienced. It would be a unique addition to a presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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    Auction Info

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    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
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