William McKinley Assassination


William McKinley, American President at the turn of the 20th century was tragically gunned down extending a kind hand to a would be assassin, anarchist Leon Czolgosz.

The stalking of President McKinley would begin on Presidents Day, September 5, 1901 when Czolgosz read in the paper of the Presidents upcoming visit to Buffalo, New York for the Pan-American Exposition world fair. He intended to follow McKinley throughout his visit until an opportunity presented itself. He would then take quick action to assassinate the President.

Czolgosz was initially inspired by anarchist Emma Goldman when he attended a speech given by her in 1898. He read every book and article about the anarchist movement he could find. But with an increasing appetite for radical, violent anarchism Czolgosz intended to fulfill his new vision to emulate Italian anarchist Gaetano Bresci's actions in Italy the previous year.

William McKinley assassin, anarchist Leon Czolgosz.
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Bresci assassinated King Umberto I, of Italy on July 29, 1900. Shooting him three times. Breski was arrested, found guilty and sentenced to a life of hard labor at Santo Stefano Prison on Ventotene Island. May 22, 1901 was found dead in his cell, believed to have committed suicide.

September 5, William McKinley and First Lady Ida McKinley rode a train to Niagara Falls and attended an evening fireworks display at the Expo. William McKinley delivered a very well received speech, the last of which would be heard again

In the late afternoon of September 6, 1901 President McKinley attended a public reception held in the Temple of Music at the Pan-American Exposition fair grounds. McKinley would be greeting a crowd of thousands of adoring citizens and McKinley insisted on shaking the hands of as many as humanly possible for the time.

The President was well guarded by secret service, police and security. But in a reception receiving line there was major concern for McKinley's wide exposure to such a massive crowd. Standing to either side of the President was Secretary Cortelyou and President of the Exposition John G. Milburn who assisted in introducing the President to the citizens waiting eagerly to shake the hand of their beloved and revered U.S. President. About ten minutes into the reception

Assassination of President William McKinley
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McKinley was approached by a man sporting what protectors and onlookers observed as a benign bandage over his right hand. The Unsuspecting McKinley offered a greeting to the man, which was slapped aside by 28 year old laborer and professed anarchist Leon Czolgosz. 

The assassin shot twice into the President's body with a gun he pulled from hiding beneath a handkerchief wrapped around his hand. The assassins weapon of choice, a snub nose 32 caliber Iver-Johnson revolver. Czolgosz attempted to fire a third shot at the President when he was knocked to the ground by a bystander. James B. Parker a large African American (Expo worker) pummeled Czolgosz, breaking his nose. He was secured immediately and arrested. When word spread of the shooting and the crowd understood the magnitude of events, cries roared to "Lynch him!" while he was dragged away by authorities.

Czolgosz was interrogated by District Attorney Thomas Penney and eventually confessed to shooting McKinley because "I done my duty." He believed McKinley was a symbol of all the injustices in the country.

Weak and bleeding profusely from the abdomen McKinley's only thoughts were of his wife Ida he Pleaded for the news to be relayed with great delicacy. McKinley was then rushed to the Exposition emergency room and treated for his wounds. A bullet that hit the right sternum and the other imbedded deep into the abdomen. Surgery was performed by Dr. Mathew Mann under difficult circumstances including operating with very little light as there was no electricity in the building. One bullet resting at the surface was extracted with little effort, however the bullet that penetrated the stomach could not be found and the President was sewed up leaving it inside. McKinley was later moved to Milburn's home to recover.

It was widely thought by all the Presidents care givers, McKinley was doing well and would make a complete and quick recovery. With such optimistic predictions for McKinley's full recovery, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt left on vacation to the remote Adirondacks with his wife Edith and children. Theodore Roosevelt was hundreds of miles away and deep into the wilderness when McKinley unexpectedly took a turn for the worse on Friday, September 13th. Hand delivered telegrams were brought up the mountain to Roosevelt informing of the Presidents declining health.

The final telegram to reach Roosevelt read:

"THE PRESIDENT APPEARS TO BE DYING AND MEMBERS OF THE CABINET IN BUFFALO THINK YOU SHOULD LOSE NO TIME COMING". Wasting no time as requested, Roosevelt left the mountain cabin around midnight, Saturday morning. Forced to leave his family behind Roosevelt swiftly began the sixteen mile trek back down the mountain on horse and buggy through heavy mud, rain and darkness. Roosevelt was still hours away from reaching the train station at the bottom of the mountain, when Roosevelt's Presidential aspirations came to fruition.

Having done everything medically possible, McKinley died at 2:15 Saturday morning on September 14th of gangrene. As the shocking news spread over the wires a great sadness befell the entire country.

Roosevelt learned of McKinley's death upon arriving at the train station at 5:22 a.m. His secretary William Loeb, Jr. handed him a telegram sent by Secretary of State John Hay that read:

James Garfield funeral train
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THE PRESIDENT DIED AT TWO-FIFTEEN THIS MORNING. Roosevelt boarded the train, headed to the Milburn house in Buffalo to pay his respects to the President and meet with cabinet members. Roosevelt left the Milburn home to go to the home of personal friend Ansley Wilcox, where the emergency inauguration was being set up. A little more than 24 hours since McKinley's death, Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office and became the youngest President in United States history at the age of 42.

On September 15th, the Presidents funeral train traveled from Buffalo to Washington D.C., then Canton, Ohio where McKinley was buried at the Westlawn Cemetery.

September 23rd, Czolgosz's trial began at the Buffalo Supreme Court with Justice Truman C. White on the bench. The Assassination of James Garfield and the trial of his assassin Charles Guiteau was examined extensively for guidance. Determined to have a speedy trial and disallow the insanity plea to be offered as a defense, Prosecutors and the defense team introduced insanity experts to determine if Czolgosz was legally insane. The prosecution won the debate and proved Czolgosz to be of sound mind and he was found guilty three days later. The Jury deliberated for a mere 30 minutes, convicted him of first degree murder and he was sentenced to death.

Czolgosz was interviewed twice the night before his impending execution by Superintendent of State Prisons Collins, followed by his brother and brother-in-law. Czolgosz was adamant he did the planning and execution of the assassination all on his own and vehemently denounced the church, insisting there be no service of any kind.

Czolgosz was taken to the chair and executed October 29, 1901. At his request a service was not performed and for security reasons Czolgosz remains were not given to the family for burial. He instead was buried on the Auburn, N.Y. prison grounds.

In the aftermath- Attorney General Knox vows to find a way to rid the U.S. of Anarchists, even if they all have to be rounded up and deported. Legislation began immediately in the ratification of Anarchists living within the United States and those seeking to enter the country from abroad. The Alien Immigration Act of 1903 was such major legislation in response. The Act disallowed known anarchists to enter the country and allowed for known anarchists living within the U.S. borders to be deported.




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