Education / News / Politics

Buffalo features rich presidential history


Dr. Kenneth Mernitz, associate professor of history at SUNY Buffalo State, appeared on the Buffalo Review Feb. 20 to discuss presidential history in western New York.

Max Wagner

(Buffalo N.Y.) – Presidents’ day is the annual holiday, which takes place every 3rd Monday in February honoring the birthday of George Washington.

Buffalo is a city filled with presidential history including a memorial at the location where William McKinley was assassinated, the site where Theodore Roosevelt was sworn into office and it’s the birthplace of the career of Grover Cleveland who was both the 22nd and 24th president.

Dr. Kenneth Mernitz, an associate professor of history at SUNY Buffalo State, appeared on the Buffalo Review to discuss presidential history in western New York.

Mernitz discussed Millard Fillmore, the 13th president of the U.S., who died and is laid to rest in Buffalo in the historic Forest Lawn Cemetery.

“What he (Fillmore) is known for is signing on to the Compromise of 1850, which deals with the states in the Southwest, the territory from Mexico to the United States after the Mexican-American War in 1848,” said Mernitz.

Fillmore became president on July 9, 1850 after the death of President Zachary Taylor due to the stomach flu.

Fillmore signed on to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which allowed slave owners to come north of the Mason-Dixon line to track and capture fugitive slaves.

“We (in Buffalo) are at the heart of the abolitionist network in terms of people who were leading slaves out of the South. You have Rochester and Syracuse, which were extremely well known for Abolitionism,” said Mernitz, when describing the disdain Buffalonians felt toward Fillmore at the time.

According to Mernitz, Buffalo is also home to other presidential history, including an old Unitarian church where Abraham Lincoln once met with Fillmore.

Mernitz also discussed the state of the presidency in modern times, including how President Donald Trump has compared himself to Andrew Jackson.

“It’s certainly a fascinating time, President Trump has been an iconic and extraordinary individual. Someone who on purpose is a disruptor and someone who has a dedicated following who signed on to him reforming the practices that we have gotten into,” said Mernitz.

Mernitz said Trump and Jackson are similar in that both were the disruptors, speaking to people through their actions and not caring about established traditions.

Presidents’ day is Monday Feb. 20.


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