William McKinley Liked a Great Big Breakfast
Had Leon Czolgosz failed his mission to cross paths with William McKinley on September 6, 1901, there's a chance that America's 25th president could have been primarily remembered as one of our nation's greatest gourmands. Instead, the anarchist's first bullet met the commander-in-chief's chest and bounced off. The second tore apart his stomach and eight days later, McKinley died of gangrene and infection. He would never sit down to breakfast again and goodness, did that man love some breakfast. Big breakfasts, but not fancy breakfast. Meaty breakfasts. Starchy breakfasts. Just a tremendous quantity of breakfast. And he was not alone at the table.
First Lady Ida McKinley was a woman with a hearty appetite to match her husband's. The two regularly feasted on "army portions" of "plain food, in substantial quantities" per Poppy Cannon and Patricia Brooks' The Presidents' Cookbook. This usually consisted of hot breads, potatoes, steak or chops, fruit, coffee, and occasionally fish. Eggs inevitably made an appearance at the breakfast table, often fried or scrambled, but sometimes in the form of a fluffy, baked "McKinley omelet" that was rather akin to an egg casserole.
The McKinley presidency was not one of particular note (Time included him in a list of "Top 10 Forgettable Presidents"), but he was especially loved by his constituency. On the battlefield at Antietam, as a member of the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the during the Civil War, McKinley gave the best care he could to his suffering, starving, thirsty troops. At the risk of great personal danger, with shells flying around him, the US Army sergeant traveled the field to distribute food, coffee, and words of encouragement to his men. There was talk about awarding him the Medal of Honor, but the ever-humble Ohioan made sure to quiet that down before it became a roar.
McKinley was less than a year into his second term when he met his fate at the hands of Czolgosz, who was sentenced to death by electric chair on October 29, 1901. The president was succeeded by Teddy Roosevelt, who liked breakfast foods just fine, but was perhaps the biggest coffee hound the White House has ever seen.