The United States Secret Service accompany the president and first family everywhere they go. You won’t see the first family without a Secret Service agent nearby. Their mission is to protect the family against any possible threats. But you might be surprised the secret service hasn’t always existed. It only took a few assassinations for government officials to finally realize that the president and his family should probably be protected.

If only they realized that sooner.

Protecting… money?

The United States Secret Service is one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country. Originating back to the end of the American Civil War on July 5, 1865, you would think it was established because of President Lincoln’s assassination. Well, you’re wrong.

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The Secret Service was originally founded to combat the then-widespread counterfeiting of US currency. Who knew? In 1894, the agency was asked to begin protecting President Grover Cleveland, but only on a part-time basis.

Unfortunately, it only took another assassination to quickly change this.

President McKinley down

President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, just six months after his election. He was the third sitting US president to be assassinated (after Lincoln and James Garfield). Before then, members of Congress were skeptical to formally establish a national law enforcement agency. However, after McKinley’s assassination, Congress decided they couldn’t wait anymore. The president needed to be protected.

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“McKinley’s assassination came at a critical time in US history,” said Cary Federman, associate professor in the Department of Justice Studies at Montclair University. “Up until then, there was great hostility toward centralized power. However, after McKinley was killed, the incident became a factor in establishing the role of the Secret Service in protecting the president.”

Why is McKinley’s assassination important?

When you hear the word “assassination,” you immediately think of Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. But, they weren’t the only presidents assassinated. McKinley’s assassination was crucial because at the turn of the 20th century, the United States was becoming a nation of imperial power.

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So, after the nation’s leader was brutally assassinated at the peak of the country’s power, Congress finally formalized the Secret Service’s role in protecting the president and the first family at all times.

The more you know.