President McKinley Spoke at Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897

Nashville was decorated and adorned on every street to welcome President William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States and his party on their visit to the first Tennessee Centennial Exposition. Their special train arrived at 8 a.m. and Mr. McKinley and his fellow travelers were escorted to the Maxwell House by a squad of mounted ex-Confederate soldiers wearing the uniform of the “lost cause.”

President William McKinley, the 25th president of the United States

Great crowds thronged the streets and cheered them as they passed. After the party finished breakfast, Governor Bob Taylor of Tennessee and Governor Bucknell of Ohio, accompanied by their staffs, called upon the President and Mrs. McKinley. Afterward, the president of the Woman's Board of the Exposition visited with the President and first lady.

At 11 o'clock, Mr. President arrived at the Exposition grounds still escorted by the ex-Confederates and a troop of regular cavalry. The procession was greeted with cheers from the thousands of thrilled people who lined the streets.

Governor Taylor's address of welcome opened the exercises at the Exposition building. He was followed by the mayor of Nashville and the Governor of Ohio. After Gov. Bushnell concluded his oration, the President was introduced.

At the beginning of his address, he was widely applauded and enthusiastic cheers frequently interrupted him. After referring to the State's first Centennial, he said, among other things:

“Tennessee has sometimes been called the 'mother of Southwestern statesmen.' It furnished us the immortal Andrew Jackson, whose record in war and whose administration in peace as the head of the Great Republic shine on with advancing years. Time has only added luster to his name, increased the obligations of his countrymen and exalted him in their affections.

“The builders of the State, who had forced their way through the trackless forests of this splendid domain, brought with them the same high ideals and fearless devotion to home and country, founded on resistance to oppression, which have everywhere made illustrious the Anglo-American name. They came willing and anxious to fight for independence and liberty and in the war of the Revolution were ever loyal to the standard of Washington.

“Moved by the highest instincts of self-government and the loftiest motives of patriotism under the gallant old John Sevier at Battle of King's Mountain, your forefathers bravely vindicated their honor and gloriously won their independences. Tennesseans have always been volunteering, not drafted patriots.

“In 1846 when 2,400 soldiers were called for, 30,000 loyal Tennesseean offered their services and amid the trials and terrors of the great Civil War, under conditions of peculiar distress and embarrassment, her people divided on contending sides. But upon whichever side found, they fought fearlessly to death and gallant sacrifice. Now, happily there are no contending sides in this glorious commonwealth or in any part of our common country. The men who opposed each other in dreadful battle a third of a century ago, are once more and forever united together under one flag in a never-to-be-broken union.”

At the conclusion of Mr. McKinley's speech, a hickory cane, notably unadorned but sturdy and made from wood grown on the Hermitage property, was presented to the President on behalf of the Ladies' Hermitage Association.

The ceremonies being concluded, the President and party went to a luncheon at the West Side Club on the grounds in front of the Administration Building.