Could William McKinley have survived his assassination attempt

Assassination of William McKinley - Assassination of William McKinley

1901 Assassination of the 25th President of the United States
Assassination of William McKinley
Leon Czolgosz shoots President McKinley with a revolver hidden under a rag. Detail from a washing drawing by T. Dart Walker.
place Temple of Music, on the grounds of the Pan American Exhibition, Buffalo, New York
Coordinates 42 ° 56'19 "N 78 ° 52'25" W /. 42.9386859 ° N 78.8735908 ° W. / 42.9386859; -78.8735908 Coordinates: 42 ° 56'19 "N 78 ° 52'25" W. /. 42.9386859 ° N 78.8735908 ° W. / 42.9386859; -78.8735908
date September 6, 1901; 119 years ago 04:07 PM (1901-09-06)
aim William McKinley
weapons .32 caliber Iver Johnson revolver
Deaths 1 (McKinley; died September 14, 1901 from the consequences of an initial injury and a subsequent infection)
Injured 0
Perpetrator Leon Czolgosz
motive Promoting anarchism (propaganda de facto)

William McKinley, the 25th President of the United States, was shot dead on September 6, 1901, six months after his second term, on the grounds of the Pan American Exhibition at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York. He shook hands with the public when anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot him twice in the stomach. McKinley died on September 14th from gangrene caused by the wounds. He was the third American president to be assassinated, after Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and James A. Garfield in 1881.

McKinley enjoyed meeting the public and hesitated to accept the security that was available to his office. The President's Secretary George B. Cortelyou feared an assassination attempt would take place during a visit to the Temple of Music and took it off the schedule twice, but McKinley restored it each time.

Czolgosz had lost his job during the economic panic of 1893 and had turned to anarchism, a political philosophy adhered to by the recent assassins of foreign leaders. He viewed McKinley as a symbol of oppression and believed that it was his duty as an anarchist to kill him. He was unable to get close to the President during a previous visit, but shot him twice when McKinley shook his hand on the temple reception desk. A bullet brushed McKinley; the other entered his stomach and was never found.

McKinley initially appeared to be recovering, but deteriorated on September 13 when his wounds became gangrenous and he died early the next morning. He was succeeded by its Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. Czolgosz was sentenced to death in the electric chair, and Congress passed laws to officially put the secret service in charge of protecting the president.


In September 1901, William McKinley was at the height of his power as president. He was elected in 1896 during the severe economic crisis that followed the panic of 1893 and had defeated his Democratic rival, William Jennings Bryan. McKinley led the nation to both a return to prosperity and victory in the Spanish-American War in 1898 by taking possession of Spanish colonies such as Puerto Rico and the Philippines. According to historian Eric Rauchway, he was handily re-elected in a 1900 rematch against Bryan. "It looked like the McKinley administration would remain peacefully unbroken for another four years, a government committed to prosperity."

McKinley's original Vice President Garret Hobart had died in 1899, and McKinley left the choice of a campaigner to the 1900 Republican National Convention. In the run-up to the convention, New York Republican political leader Senator Thomas C. Platt saw the opportunity to politically eradicate his state's governor, former Deputy Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, by calling on his appointment to the Vice President urged. Roosevelt accepted the nomination and was chosen on McKinley's ticket.

Leon Czolgosz was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1873 to Polish immigrants. The Czolgosz family moved several times when Paul Czolgosz, Leon's father, looked for work across the Midwest. As an adult, Leon Czolgosz worked in a factory in Cleveland until he lost his job in a labor dispute in 1893. After that, he worked erratically and attended political and religious gatherings to understand the reasons for the economic turmoil of the 1893 panic. He was interested in anarchism. By 1901 this movement was feared in the United States - New York's highest court had ruled that identifying as an anarchist in front of an audience was a violation of the peace. Anarchists had taken a toll in Europe by murdering or murdering half a dozen officials and members of royal houses and had been blamed for the Haymarket bombing in Chicago in 1886.

Two American presidents were assassinated in the 19th century - Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and James A. Garfield in 1881. Despite this story, McKinley didn't like the security guards getting between him and the people. In his hometown of Canton, Ohio, he often went to church or the business district unprotected and in Washington drove his wife in a carriage with no guard.

Visit of the President

Plans and Arrivals

McKinley gave a brief speech at his second inauguration on March 4, 1901. After McKinley had long advocated protective tariffs and believed that the Dingley Tariff, which was passed in his first year in office, had helped the nation prosper, McKinley planned to negotiate reciprocal trade deals with other countries. This would open foreign markets to US manufacturers who, thanks to the tariff, had dominated the domestic market and wanted to expand. During a long journey planned for the months following his inauguration, he intended to make key speeches for the plan, culminating in a visit and address at the Pan American Exhibition in Buffalo on June 13th.

McKinley, his wife Ida, and their official party left Washington on April 29 to take a tour of the nation by train that was to end in Buffalo for a speech on "President's Day". He met delightful receptions in the Far West that had never seen a president. In California, the first lady became seriously ill and was believed to be dying for a while. She recovered in San Francisco, but her husband canceled the rest of the tour and the McKinleys returned to Washington. The speech at the exhibition was postponed to September 5 after McKinley spent a few weeks in Washington and two months in Canton. He used his time at his Ohio home working on the Buffalo speech and overseeing improvements to his home. He wanted to stay in Canton until October.

Czolgosz had lived on his parents' farm near Cleveland from 1898 and worked little - possibly having suffered a nervous breakdown. He is known to have participated in a May 1901 speech given by anarchist Emma Goldman in Cleveland: he approached her before giving the speech and asked her to recommend books on anarchism; she obliges. The conversation in which Goldman did not advocate violence but expressed understanding for those who were driven to it was a great influence on Czolgosz; he later stated that her words burned in his head. He visited her at her Chicago home in July when she was going to Buffalo with her daughter to see Mass, and the two anarchists drove to the train station together. Goldman expressed concern about another radical that Czolgosz (who used the pseudonym Fred Nieman) was following her; soon afterwards he apparently left Chicago. William Arntz, a worker in a Canton park, said he saw a man resembling Czolgosz in mid-1901 when the President stayed at home and sometimes visited the park. The man was carrying two guns, and when Arntz reminded him that firearms were not allowed outside the park's shooting range, he reacted dismissively. Arntz looked for the police, but the man was never found.

Later that summer, Czolgosz moved to Buffalo, although his reasons for doing so are unknown. Writer and journalist Scott Miller speculated that he might have chosen Buffalo because of its large Polish population. He got into the suburb of West Seneca and spent much of his time reading. Czolgosz then went to Cleveland, although it is uncertain what he did there; He may have picked up on anarchist literature or raised more money. After Cleveland, Czolgosz went to Chicago, where he wrote a newspaper mention of President McKinley's upcoming visit to Buffalo. He returned to Buffalo not yet sure what he was going to do. At first he just wanted to be close to the man who for him embodied injustice. On Tuesday, September 3rd, he made his decision. Czolgosz later told the police:

It was in my heart, there was no escape for me. I couldn't have conquered it if my life had been at stake. Thousands of people were in town on Tuesday. I heard it was President's Day. All these people seemed to bow to the great ruler. I decided to kill this ruler.

On September 3, Czolgosz went to Walbridge's hardware store on Buffalo's Main Street and bought an Iver Johnson .32 caliber revolver. He did not yet have a clear plan for the President's assassination. The next day, William and Ida McKinley arrived in Buffalo by train. The cannon that greeted the President when he arrived in town had been placed too close to the platform and the explosions blew up several windows on the train, unsettling the first lady. About a dozen people on the platform who believed the damage was caused by a bomb shouted "Anarchists!" When William McKinley stepped off the train to officially greet him, Czolgosz pushed forward through the crowd, but found the President too well guarded to give a try in his life.

A day at the fair; Excursion to Niagara Falls

McKinley's trip to Buffalo was part of a planned ten-day absence from Canton that began September 4, 1901 and included a visit to Cleveland at a Republic Great Army camp. He was a veteran member of the Union. The McKinleys lived in Buffalo in Milburn House, the great house of the President of the Exhibition, John G. Milburn. On Saturday, September 7th, they were to travel to Cleveland and stay first with a friend of the president, Myron Herrick, businessman and future governor of Ohio, and then with McKinley's close friend and adviser, Ohio Senator Mark Hanna . Upon arrival in Buffalo, the presidential party was driven through the exhibition grounds on its way to Milburn House and paused for a moment at the exhibition at the Triumphal Bridge to allow visitors to see the attractions of the exhibition.

During his stay in Buffalo, McKinley had two days of events: on Thursday, September 5th, he was supposed to give his address and then visit the fair. The next day, he was to visit Niagara Falls and, on his return to Buffalo, meet the public at the temple of music on the exhibition grounds. One reason for bringing McKinley to the show repeatedly was to increase the revenue from the gate. The popular president's visit was heavily promoted. The public reception at the Temple of Music was disliked by its personal secretary, George B. Cortelyou, who for the President's Safety Concern, tried twice to remove it from the program. McKinley restored it every time; He wanted to support the fair (he agreed to the topic of hemispheric collaboration), enjoyed meeting people and was not afraid of possible assassins. When Cortelyou asked McKinley one last time to remove the event from the schedule, the president replied, "Why should I? Nobody would want to hurt me." Cortelyou warned McKinley that many would be disappointed as the president would not have time to shake hands with everyone who would line up to meet him. McKinley replied, "Well, you'll know I tried anyway." Failing to persuade the president to change his schedule, Cortelyou wired the Buffalo authorities asking them to put in extra security.

On Thursday morning, September 5, the fair gates opened at 6:00 a.m. so that the crowd could enter early and look for good places to witness the President's speech. The Esplanade, the large room near the Triumphal Bridge where the President was supposed to speak, was full of visitors to the fair. The crowd poured into the nearby courtyard of the fountain. Of the 116,000 trade fair visitors that day, around 50,000 are said to have attended McKinley's speech. The stretch between Milburn House and the place of speech was full of spectators; McKinley's progress in the carriage to Mass with his wife was accompanied by loud cheers. He rose to a booth overlooking the esplanade and, after a brief introduction from Milburn, began to speak.

William McKinley (center left with white shirt front) gives his final speech.

In his last speech, McKinley called for an end to American isolationism. He proposed trade deals that would allow US manufacturers to enter new markets. "The era of exclusivity is over. The expansion of our trade is the pressing problem. Trade wars are unprofitable." The crowd greeted his speech with loud applause; In the end, the President escorted Ida McKinley back to her car when she was due to return to Milburn House while seeing the sights at the fair.

The "last photograph" of President McKinley, taken September 5, 1901, the day before he was assassinated, in the Government House. Left to right: Mrs. John Miller Horton, Chairwoman of the Women's Board Entertainment Committee; John G. Milburn; Manuel de Azpíroz, the Mexican ambassador; the president; George B. Cortelyou, the President's Secretary; Colonel John H. Bingham of the Governing Council.

McKinley toured the pavilions of other nations in the Western Hemisphere, drawing crowds and applause everywhere. He hosted a lunch at the New York State Building and attended an invitation-only reception at the Government Building. He was heavily guarded by soldiers and police officers, but still tried to communicate with the public, encouraged those who tried to run to him by noticing them, and bowed to a group of noisy young popcorn sellers. He took an unscheduled coffee break in the Porto Rican Building before returning to Milburn House in the late afternoon.

Despite a warning from Cortelyou to the organizers that she might not be present due to her fragile health, Ida McKinley had been present in her honor on the exhibition's Board of Lady Managers, and after dinner the President and First Lady returned to the show Fairgrounds back He paused at the Triumphal Bridge to watch the fair, which was lit by electricity as the sun went down. They took the boat to the rescue station to see the fireworks before returning to Milburn House.

Czolgosz, gun in his pocket, had arrived at the mess early and was fairly close to the podium before McKinley arrived. He considered shooting the President during his speech, but felt that he could not be sure of achieving his goal. He was also jostled by the crowd. Czolgosz hadn't made up his mind when McKinley finished his speech and disappeared behind security guards. Even so, he tried to follow McKinley when the President began his tour of the mess but was pushed back by officers. Czolgosz saw no more chance of getting close to the president that day and returned to his rented room above a salon for $ 2 a week.

On the morning of September 6, 1901, McKinley dressed formally as usual and then left Milburn House to stroll the neighborhood. The President would have slipped away almost unguarded; When the police and soldiers saw him leaving, they rushed after him. Czolgosz also got up early to register for the public reception at the Music Temple. He reached the exhibition gates at 8:30 a.m. in time to see the President drop by in his carriage on the way to the train station to visit Niagara Falls. The McKinleys took the train to Lewiston, where they switched to trolleys to see the Niagara Gorge. When the group reached the Niagara Falls community, they got into carriages to see the sights. The group rode halfway across the Honeymoon Bridge overlooking the falls, although McKinley was careful not to enter Canada for protocol reasons. It was a hot day and Ida McKinley felt sick from the heat; She was driven to the International Hotel to wait for her husband to tour Goat Island before having lunch with his wife. After smoking a cigar on the porch, the President drove his wife to the train that was now waiting nearby and saw her take a seat there before visiting the hydroelectric power station at the falls. The train then returned to Buffalo so McKinley could attend the reception at the Temple of Music. Ida McKinley had originally planned to escort her husband to the auditorium, but since she had not fully recovered, she decided to return to Milburn House to rest. Since the time allotted for the reception had been reduced to ten minutes, the President had not expected to be separated from his wife for long. Since it was only 3:30 p.m., McKinley stopped at the mission building to freshen up before heading to the Temple of Music.

Execution and death of McKinley

In the temple of music

When the organizers of the fair had the opportunity to hold a public reception for President McKinley, they decided to place him in the Temple of Music - Louis L. Babcock, Grand Marshal of the exhibition, found the building ideal for the purpose. The large auditorium was near the esplanade in the heart of the mess hall and had doors on each of its four sides. In addition to rows of chairs on the floor of the hall, there were spacious galleries. Babcock spent the morning of September 6th making some physical arrangements for the reception. The floor seating was removed to create a wide aisle that led to McKinley from the east doors through which the public was allowed. As soon as the public shook hands with McKinley, they continued to leave the building. An American flag was draped behind the President to protect him from behind and to decorate him - several potted plants were placed around his place to create an attractive scene. In addition to its usefulness for other purposes, the ornate building was one of the architectural features of the fair.

Considerable precautions had been taken for the President's safety. Exhibition police were stationed at the doors; Buffalo Police detectives were guarding the corridor. In addition to McKinley's usual secret service agent George Foster, Cortelyou had used two other agents for the Buffalo trip for security reasons. Babcock was made nervous by a joke over lunch in an exhibition restaurant that the president might be shot during the reception. He had arranged for a dozen uniformed artillerymen to visit the reception to use them as decorations. Instead, he left them standing in the corridor with orders to shut down any suspicious-looking person who might approach the president. These men were not trained in policing and were used to overcrowd the area from the president and to block the view of detectives and the secret service. At such events, Foster was usually to the left and behind McKinley. Milburn wanted to stand to McKinley's left to introduce the president to everyone he knew in line, and instead Foster and another agent faced McKinley.

Throughout the afternoon, crowds of people had filled the floor in front of the cordoned-off corridor and the galleries and wanted to see the President, even if they could not greet him. McKinley arrived on time, checked the arrangements, and went to his seat, with Milburn on his left and Cortelyou on his right. The pipe organ began playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" when McKinley ordered the doors to be opened to admit those who had been waiting to greet him. The police let her in and McKinley prepared to do his "favorite part of the job". As a seasoned politician, McKinley could shake hands at 50 people a minute and grab their hands first to quickly move them both past him and keep his fingers from being squeezed. Cortelyou watched the time anxiously; About the middle of the ten minutes he sent a message to Babcock to close the doors when the president's secretary raised his hand. When Babcock Cortelyou looked at his watch, he went to the doors. In the further course of the reception the organist played works by Johann Sebastian Bach. The procession of citizens shaking hands with their president was interrupted when 12-year-old Myrtle Ledger from Spring Brook, New York, accompanied by her mother, asked McKinley about the red carnation he always wore on his lapel. The president gave it to her and then went back to work without his trademark. The Secret Service men eyed a tall, dark man suspiciously, who looked restless as he walked towards the President, but breathed a sigh of relief as he shook hands with McKinley without incident and headed for the exit. The usual rule that those who turned to the President must do so with open and empty hands may not have been enforced due to the heat of the day as several people used handkerchiefs to wipe their brows. The man following the dark person had his right hand wrapped in one as if he were injured. When McKinley saw this, he grabbed his left hand instead. When the two men's hands touched at 4:07 p.m., Czolgosz shot McKinley twice in the stomach with a .32 Iver Johnson revolver hidden under his handkerchief.

When the crowd looked horrified and McKinley took a step forward, Czolgosz prepared for a third shot. He was stopped when James Parker, an American of African and Spanish descent from Georgia who had stood in line behind Czolgosz, slammed the assassin and grabbed the gun. A split second after Parker met Czolgosz, as did Buffalo detective John Geary and one of the artillerymen, Francis O'Brien. Czolgosz disappeared among a bunch of men, some of whom hit or beat him with rifle butts. He was heard saying, "I have done my duty." McKinley staggered backwards and to the right, but was prevented from falling by Cortelyou, Milburn, and Detective Geary. They led him over a fallen bunting to a chair. The president tried to convince Cortelyou that he was not seriously injured, but blood was visible when he tried to expose his injury. When McKinley saw Czolgosz beating him, he ordered him to stop. Czolgosz was dragged away, but not before he was searched by Agent Foster. When Czolgosz kept turning his head to watch the President search, Foster knocked him to the ground with one blow.

After stopping Czolgosz's beating, McKinley's next concern was for his wife, urging Cortelyou, "My wife - be careful, Cortelyou, as you tell her - oh, be careful." The crowd's initial reaction had been panic and an attempt to escape the hall, frustrated by others who stormed inside to see what had happened. As McKinley was taken to an electric ambulance on a stretcher, the crowd groaned at the president's ashen face. Foster drove with him on the way to the mess hospital. On the way there, McKinley felt himself in his clothes and came out with a metal object. "I think that's a bullet." McKinley had been shot twice; a ball had been deflected by a button and had only grazed it; the other had penetrated his stomach.


The McKinley ambulance arrived at Exposition Hospital at 4:25 p.m. Although it usually only dealt with the minor medical problems of trade fair visitors, the hospital had an operating room. At the time of the shooting, there wasn't a fully qualified doctor in the hospital, just nurses and interns. The best surgeon in town and the exhibition's medical director, Dr. Roswell Park, were in Niagara Falls performing delicate neck surgery. When he was interrupted during the trial on September 6th to learn that he was needed in Buffalo, he replied that he could not go for the President of the United States himself. Then he was told who had been shot. Park would save the life of a woman two weeks later who suffered injuries almost identical to McKinley's. The first doctor to arrive at the hospital was Dr. Herman Mynter, whom the President had briefly met the day before; The wounded McKinley (who had a good memory for faces) joked that when he met Mynter he did not expect to need his professional services. When McKinley was on the operating table, he said to Czolgosz, "He didn't know, poor chap, what he was doing. He couldn't know." Since Park was not available and the fading afternoon light was the main source of lighting in the operating room, another surgeon, Dr. Matthew D. Mann made the decision to operate immediately to try to remove the remaining bullet. Mynter had given McKinley an injection of morphine and strychnine to relieve his pain; Mann (a well-known gynecologist with no experience of abdominal wounds) administered ether to calm McKinley when the wounded man mumbled the Lord's Prayer.

The operating room in the exhibition hospital

For hundreds of years, gunshot wounds to the abdomen have meant death from burns or other infections, and doctors could do little more than relieve pain. Only seventeen years earlier, Dr. Emil Kocher, a Swiss surgeon, was the first to successfully operate on a patient who had received such a wound. To increase the lighting, sunlight was reflected on the wound by another doctor. Towards the end of the operation, a better light was manipulated. The hospital lacked basic surgical equipment such as retractors. With McKinley in a weakened condition, Mann could barely examine the wound to try to find the bullet. His job was made difficult by the fact that the president was obese. The surgeon made an incision in the President's skin and found and removed a small piece of cloth embedded in the flesh. He felt for damage to the digestive system with his fingers and hand - the stomach showed both an entry and an exit wound. Man sewed both holes in the organ but couldn't find the ball himself; He concluded that it had lodged in the president's back muscles. He later wrote: "A ball that no longer moves does little harm." A primitive x-ray machine was on display at the fair, but McKinley did not use it. Mann later stated that its use may have bothered the patient and done little good. He used black silk thread to sew the incision and wound without drainage and covered the area with a bandage. When the operation was over, Dr. Park from Niagara Falls on; He didn't want to interfere and at 5:20 a.m. McKinley was given another shot of pain medication and allowed to wake up. He was taken to Milburn House by electric ambulance. The first lady had not been told about the president's shooting; After the operation was complete, Presley M. Rixey gently told her what had happened. Ida McKinley took the news calmly; she wrote in her diary, “zu Niagra Went [ sic ] Cases this morning. Receiving my sweetheart in a public room upon our return when he was shot by a ... “Leech, in her biography of President McKinley, suggests that The First Lady could not write the word" anarchist ".

Obvious recovery; eventual death

Senator Mark Hanna (left), friend of President McKinley, arrives at Milburn House after the shooting

Within minutes of the recording, the news was being broadcast across the world via telegraph wire in time for the late US newspaper editions. Before the radio, thousands stood outside newspaper offices in cities across the country, waiting for the latest bulletin from Buffalo. Fears that McKinley would not survive the day of his shooting were allayed by reassuring bulletins that Cortelyou issued based on information from the doctors. Large, threatening crowds gathered in front of Buffalo Police Headquarters where Czolgosz was being taken. The word that he had admitted to being an anarchist led to attacks on others of this conviction: one was almost lynched in Pittsburgh.

At Milburn House, McKinley appeared to be recovering. On Saturday, September 7th, McKinley was relaxed and talkative. His wife was allowed to see him, as was Cortelyou; The President asked his secretary, "How did you like my speech?" and was happy about positive reactions. Meanwhile, Vice President Roosevelt (who had been in Vermont), much of the cabinet, and Senator Hanna rushed to Buffalo. Cortelyou continued to issue encouraging bulletins. The president was allowed few visitors and complained of loneliness. When the crisis seemed to be over, dignitaries began walking on September 9, confident that the president would recover. Roosevelt took a vacation in the Adirondack Mountains after expressing outrage that Czolgosz could only serve a few years for attempted murder under New York State law. The maximum sentence for attempted murder in New York at the time was ten years. Attorney General Philander Knox went to Washington to look for a means to get Czolgosz under federal law. Secretary of State John Hay had been murdered closely related to the two presidents: he had Lincoln's secretary and a close friend of James Garfield. He arrived on September 10th; Met at the Babcock train station with a report on the president's recovery, Hay replied that the president was going to die.

McKinley biographer H. Wayne Morgan wrote over the week after filming:

Everyone said his hearty condition would get him through. The doctors looked hopeful and even confident ... It is difficult to understand the joy with which they viewed their patient. He was nearly sixty years old, overweight, and the wound itself had not been thoroughly cleaned or traced. Precautions against infection, admittedly difficult in 1901, were treated negligently.

According to McKinley biographer Margaret Leech, McKinley's apparent recovery was "merely his strong body's resistance to the burn that crept along the bullet trail through the stomach, pancreas, and kidney." Another X-ray machine was sent from New Jersey by its inventor, Thomas Edison. It wasn't used on the President; The sources differ in why this was so. Leech stated that the machine, which she says was procured by Cortelyou and accompanied by a trained operator, was not used on the orders of the doctors in charge of McKinley's case. Miller relates that doctors tried to test it on a man about McKinley's height, but it turned out to be a crucial part, much to Edison's embarrassment.

Milburn residence where McKinley died

McKinley had been given nutritious enemas; on September 11th, he took some broth by mouth. When it seemed fine for him, they allowed him toast, coffee, and chicken broth the next morning. His subsequent pain was diagnosed as a digestive disorder; He was given laxatives and most of the doctors left after their evening consultation. In the early morning of September 13th, McKinley suffered a breakdown. The urgent message to return to Buffalo was sent to Vice President Roosevelt, 12 miles from the nearest telegraph or phone in the Adirondack wilderness. A park ranger was sent to find him. Specialists were called; Although some doctors initially hoped McKinley could survive with a weakened heart, by the afternoon they knew the case was hopeless. Still unknown to doctors, fire grew on the walls of his stomach and toxins were released into his blood. McKinley drifted into and out of consciousness all day; When he was awake, he was the model patient. In the evening McKinley also knew he was dying: "It's useless, gentlemen. I think we should pray." His friends and family were admitted, and the first lady sobbed at him, "I want to go too. I want to go too." Her husband replied: "We all go, we all go. God's will is done, not ours" and put an arm around her with the last of his strength. He may also have sung part of his favorite hymn, "Closer, My God, To You," although other reports have them singing it softly. Ida McKinley was led away and her place was briefly taken by Senator Hanna. Morgan recounts their last meeting: "At some point that terrible evening, Mark Hanna had approached the bed, tears stood in his eyes, his hands and head trembled in disbelief that thirty years of friendship could end like this." When a preliminary, formal greeting did not receive a coherent response, Hanna shouted "over the years of friendship: 'William, William, don't you know me?'"

President McKinley died at 2:15 a.m. on Saturday, September 14, 1901. At the time of McKinley's death, Roosevelt was on his way back to Buffalo, speeding the carriage down the mountain roads to the nearest station, where a special train was waiting. When he got to this station at dawn, he learned of McKinley's death.


He, said William McKinley, suffered and lived from said sixth day of September in the aforesaid year to the fourteenth day of September in the aforesaid year in the aforesaid city and in the aforesaid county in the aforesaid city and in the aforesaid county; on the latter day he, the said William McKinley, died of the said fatal wound.

From the Erie County District Court Grand Jury indictment of first degree murder in the New York State versus Leon Czolgosz dated September 16, 1901.

An autopsy was performed later in the morning of McKinley's death; Mann led a team of 14 doctors. They found that the bullet went through the stomach, then the transverse colon, and disappeared through the peritoneum after entering a corner of the left kidney. There was also damage to the adrenal glands and pancreas. Mynter, who attended the autopsy, later stated his belief that the bullet lodged somewhere in the muscles of the back, although this is uncertain as it was never found. After four hours, Ida McKinley called for the autopsy to end. A death mask was taken and private services were held at Milburn House before the body was taken to Buffalo City and County Hall for the start of five days of national mourning. McKinley's body was ceremoniously taken from Buffalo to Washington and then to Canton. On the day of the funeral, September 19, when McKinley was last brought from his home on North Market Street, all activity in the nation was suspended for five minutes. The trains stopped and the telephone and telegraph services were discontinued. Leech declared: "The people bowed in homage to the missing president."

In addition to the damage caused by the bullet, the autopsy also found that the president had cardiomyopathy (the breakdown of fat in the heart muscle). This would have weakened his heart and made him less able to recover from such an injury, and it was believed that this was related to his overweight physique and lack of exercise. Modern scholars generally believe that McKinley died of pancreatic necrosis, a disease that is difficult to treat today and would have been utterly impossible for doctors of his day.

Czolgosz was tried in a Buffalo state court on September 23, 1901, nine days after the president's death, for the murder of McKinley. The prosecution's testimony lasted two days and consisted mostly of the doctors treating McKinley and various eyewitnesses at the shooting. Defense attorney Loran L. Lewis and his co-attorney did not call any witnesses, which Lewis traced back to Czolgosz's refusal to cooperate with them in his final argument. In his 27-minute speech to the jury, Lewis tried to praise President McKinley. Miller notes that the final argument was aimed at "defending the lawyer's place in the community rather than trying to spare his client the electric chair." After half an hour of deliberation (which a jury member later noted, it would in fact have been earlier if the evidence had not been examined), the jury sentenced Czolgosz; He was then sentenced to death and executed from an electric chair on October 29, 1901. Acid was placed in the coffin to dissolve his body before he was buried in the prison cemetery.

After McKinley's murder, newspaper offices across the country heavily criticized the lack of protection offered by American presidents. Though no legislative mandate was in place, the Secret Service (a unit of the Treasury) protected President Theodore Roosevelt full time until 1902. That did not settle the debate. Some congressmen recommended that the US Army protect the president. In 1906, Congress passed a law officially designating intelligence as the agency responsible for the security of the president.

The assassination site as it appears today

After the assassination there was a backlash against anarchists. Buffalo police announced shortly after the shooting that they believed Czolgosz did not act alone and several anarchists were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack. Czolgosz mentioned his contacts with Emma Goldman during interrogation; The authorities arrested her family to encourage her to report, which she did on September 10th. She spent almost three weeks in prison. She was released without charge, like all other detainees believed to have conspired with Czolgosz. Anarchist colonies and newspapers were attacked by guards; Although no one was killed, there was significant property damage. Fear of anarchists led to surveillance programs that were eventually consolidated as the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1908. Anti-anarchist laws passed after the assassination went dormant for several years before being used during and after World War I along with newly passed laws against non-citizens whose views were seen as a threat. Among those deported in December 1919 was Goldman, who was not a citizen of the United States.

Leech believed that when McKinley died, the nation was going through a transition:

The new president was in office. The republic was still alive. Yet for one room, Americans turned away from the challenge and the weirdness of the future. They remembered with enthusiasm and regret McKinley's firm, unquestioning belief, his kind, draped dignity; its accessibility and commitment to the people: the federal simplicity that would no longer be seen in Washington ... [After McKinley's death] old men came to the [White House] for state and political errands, but their precedence was given by denied The young men pushed their way forward. The nation felt a different leadership, nervous, aggressive, and strong. Under the command of a brave young captain, America set sail on the stormy voyage of the 20th century.


See also




  • Bumgarner, Jeffrey (2006). Federal Agents: The Growth of Law Enforcement in America . Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN.
  • Horner, William T. (2010). Ohio's Kingmaker: Mark Hanna, Man and Myth . Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press. ISBN.
  • Johns, A. Wesley (1970). The man who shot McKinley . South Brunswick, New Jersey: AS Barnes. ISBN.
  • Leech, Margaret (1959). In the days of McKinley . New York: Harper and Brothers. OCLC 456809.
  • McElroy, Richard L. (1996). William McKinley and Our America: A Picture Story (Softcover edition). Canton, Ohio: Stark County Historical Society. ISBN.
  • Miller, Scott (2011). The President and the Assassin . New York: Random House. ISBN.
  • Morgan, H. Wayne (2003). William McKinley and his America (revised edition). Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press. ISBN.
  • Olcott, Charles (1916). William McKinley . 2 . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved March 23, 2012.
  • Rauchway, Eric (2004). Murder of McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America . New York: Hill and Wang. ISBN.

Other sources

External links