Chapter XXXI [excerpt]
One day I saw on the
Auditorium register the name “Carl Browne.” It recalled visions
of tramping armies of ragged and hungry men. Carl Browne was the
name of the chief lieutenant of the famous “General” Coxey, who,
in 1894, led legions of the unemployed to Washington, fired with
the belief that the Government should give them work or bread. After
the Coxey movement fell to pieces Browne had become a socialistic
I learned that it was the same Carl
Browne who was now paying three dollars a day for a room, without
meals, at the leading hotel of Chicago. And he was paying this out
of money contributed to the cause of Socialism. For the present,
however, he had turned aside from Socialism to woo the muse of art.
He had painted a picture of the assassination of President McKinley.
“You ought to see the picture,” the
hotel clerk told me. “It’s a wonder. He’s not in his room now, and
if you won’t tell anyone, I’ll let you look at it.”
I promised. The clerk took me up to
the room and unlocked the door. The painting was certainly unusual.
“The people look like wooden images, don’t they?” asked the clerk.
“There stands McKinley, with his hand out, as if he were saying,
‘Come on, now, and assassinate me. Here I am.’ And those angels
who are swooping down to take the President’s soul away are like
witches in a nightmare.”
A half hour later Mr. Browne himself,
bewhiskered and tired-looking, was showing me his picture, and I
was looking at it as though I had never seen it before. “And just
think,” he said, “I never took an art lesson, though I have painted
signs. This whole work was inspired.”
“Then you must believe in inspiration
pretty strongly,” I remarked.
“Sure,” he said. “Why, the whole Coxey
army was inspired, you know. The spirit of Christ was with us. Each
of us had a small piece of Christ’s soul, and that kept us marching
Mr. Browne was on the way to Columbus,
Ohio, where he hoped the Legislature would appropriate about a hundred
thousand dollars to buy his masterpiece. He showed me an indorsement
[sic] from an art critic in Iowa, which read: “Mr. Browne’s painting
is truly a wonderful work. It must be seen to be appreciated.”
I never heard that the Ohio Legislature
bought the picture, but I did hear, some time afterward, that Mr.
Browne was exhibiting his picture and himself in a dime museum.
A few days after this I met and talked
with Lieutenant James McKinley. He told me he had served as a private
soldier in the Spanish War. He was now a staff officer in the regular
army. It made me feel more respect for him, and for the memory of
his uncle, to learn that the Presidential power had not sooner been
used to make him an officer.
Some weeks later I had an experience
which made me feel still more respect for the McKinley clan. I found
a family of that name on the West Side of town. They were related
to the Presidential family. None of them had ever held any public
office, yet they all spoke highly of their famous dead relative.
They were now living in poverty. They earnestly asked me not to
publish anything about them. It was this request that made me feel
sure that they were related to the family of the President.