You Can Help in the "Search for Ida"

It is the goal of the National First Ladies’ Library to prompt local and regional residents to search for, discover, loan, locate or donate any items that were or might have been used by either the Saxton or Barber families, Ida Saxton or William McKinley.

The Library is looking for any old family papers, letters, or oral history related to/or from the Saxton family and Ida Saxton McKinley that would help us with our mission of preparing a biography of her life.  Most of her adult and all of her public life Mrs. McKinley lived with a disability that has been largely diagnosed as epilepsy consequently she did not often write letters. Other than her signature, any examples of her handwriting – particularly in later years - are rare. There is evidence, however, that she did write some letters, although these were usually short and personal - usually to Canton or regional Ohio friends.

Ultimately, the information gathered will be used for the publication of the first biography of Ida McKinley by Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a historian and board member of the NFLL, and the author of some ten books on First Ladies. His works  include biographies of two other Ohio First Ladies, Nellie Taft, and Florence Harding. The book will be published next May, on the centennial of Mrs. McKinley's death.

Research Begins and Intriguing Facts Come to Light!

“We view this project as a puzzle; we’ll discover clues of Ida’s life and put them together one piece at a time”, Mary Regula, NFLL president and Founding Chair.

Recent research has already uncovered several interesting pieces of information. On the former First Lady's record of death, for example, the cause is listed as "brain tumor." This would dovetail with what was the common and scarce medical research on epilepsy that had been done at the time of her death in 1907.

Another discovery recently made is that the current Saxton-McKinley House was NOT the home where the future First Lady was born, on June 8, 1847. According to Mary “Pina” Barber’s obituary, Mary was born in a house that sat on a lot adjoining the Saxton-McKinley house, which would place it either next to the house in what is now Rotary Park, or behind the house in what is currently the parking lot.  It is very possible that Ida and her sister were born in the same house.  However, one of Ida’s obituaries from 1907 indicates that Ida was born at 226 Market Avenue South, which according to today’s street numbering, puts her place of birth in the block where the Huntington Bank Building is now located.

*If you have any information which you are willing to share please contact either Carl Anthony at