Year
1843
Month Day
January 29

Future president William McKinley is born

On January 29, 1843, William McKinley, who will become the 25th American president and the first to ride in an automobile, is born in Niles, Ohio. McKinley served in the White House from 1897 to 1901, a time when the American automotive industry was in its infancy. During his presidency, McKinley (who died from an assassin’s bullet in September 1901) took a drive in a Stanley Steamer, a steam-engine-powered auto built in the late 1890s by brothers Francis and Freelan Stanley. The Stanley Motor Carriage Company produced a number of steam-powered vehicles before going out of business in the early 1920s, after being unable to compete with the rise of less expensive gas-powered cars.

Theodore Roosevelt succeeded McKinley as president and during his administration the government owned a Stanley Steamer, although Roosevelt allegedly preferred horses to automobiles. William Taft, the 27th president, replaced the horses in the White House stables with a fleet of cars, including two gas-powered Pierce-Arrows and a White Model M Stanley Steamer. (In 1951, Congress officially eliminated horses and stables from the White House budget.) Warren Harding, the 29th commander-in-chief, was the first to ride to his inauguration in a car, a Packard, in 1921.

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