January 12, 1897 [President McKinley at Home]

The Vitascope of President McKinley at his Ohio home is, I must say with all due respect, less than engaging. He's a stolid man, not in my opinion a particularly impressive American President—but he's shown himself forward-thinking, at least in terms of his willingness to display himself. During the campaign, Bryan jack-rabbited around the country delivering hundreds of speeches; but McKinley remained on his front porch, bringing voters to him, delivering speeches—while famed Republican orators like Roosevelt went on the campaign trail for him. Even before he was President, McKinley made himself a stationary subject to be viewed.

With cinema, however, McKinley has a new opportunity both to stay at home and to be seen. Literally passing through Edison's Vitascope, he can travel by proxy across the country, keeping all of us mindful of his bulk, becoming himself a performer, joining all those who have been captured with only minimal interference by the camera. His stroll outside his home is staged, but it is him strolling, marking a halfway-point between actuality and fiction.


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