The Assassination of President McKinley
THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT McKINLEY.
On Friday, September 6, 1901, the
blackest Friday in American history, the American people were shocked
and stunned by the news that their beloved President, William McKinley,
had been shot down by a cowardly assassin, while attending the Pan-American
Exposition at Buffalo.
It was like a flash of lightning from
a clear sky. The people were stunned into momentary silence. The
sign of grief was on the face of every loyal American, and the hearts
of the people beat as one in sympathy for the stricken chief.
The horror of the tragic event grew
when it was learned that the assassin was an anarchist, and not
an insane man as was first supposed.
Then came the full realization that
the murderous bullet of the assassin was aimed not only at the foremost
citizen of the Republic, but that the Red Thing called Anarchy had
raised its blood-stained hand against government, against all peaceable
authority and law. It was a blow struck at all the institutions
of society that men hold dear and sacred.
With that wonderful self-control that
distinguishes the American people, loyal citizens restrained the
rising passion in their breasts, and their suppressed rage was further
held in check by the word of hope which followed that the President
was yet alive.
Alas! it was but a hope, destined
to linger but a few days.
The scene of the assassination was
the Temple of Music, at the Exposition grounds. The day previous
was President’s day at the Exposition, and President McKinley had
delivered what many believed to be the greatest 
speech of his life. Praises for his wisdom and statesmanship were
ringing around the world.
On the fateful day the President attended
the Exposition as a visitor, and in the afternoon held a reception
in the Temple of Music.
The reception to the President was
one to which the general public had been invited. President John
G. Milburn of the Exposition had introduced the President to the
great crowd in the Temple, and men, women and children came forward
for a personal greeting.
Among those in line was Leon Czolgosz,
whose right hand was wrapped in a handkerchief. Folded in the handkerchief
was a 32-caliber self-acting revolver holding five bullets.
A little girl was led up by her father
and the President shook hands with her. As she passed along to the
right the President looked after her smilingly and waved his hand
in a pleasant adieu.
Next in line came a boyish-featured
man about 26 years old, preceded by a short Italian who leaned backward
against the bandaged hand of his follower. The officers, who attended
the President, noted this man, their attention being first attracted
by the Italian, whose dark, shaggy brows and black mustache caused
the professional protectors to regard him with suspicion.
The man with the bandaged hand and
innocent face received no attention from the detectives beyond the
mental observation that his right hand was apparently injured, and
that he would present his left hand to the President.
The Italian stood before the palm
bower. He held the President’s right hand so long that the officers
stepped forward to break the clasp, and make room for the man with
the bandaged hand, who extended the left hand towards the President’s
THE FATAL SHOTS.
The President smiled and presented
his right hand in a position to meet the left of the approaching
man. Hardly a foot of space intervened between the bodies of the
two men. Before their hands met two pistol shots rang out, and the
President turned slightly to the left and reeled.
The bandage on the hand of the tall,
innocent looking young man had concealed a revolver. He had fired
through the bandage without removing any portion of the handkerchief.
The first bullet entered too high
for the purpose of the assassin, who had fired again as soon as
his finger could move the trigger.
On receiving the first shot President
McKinley lifted himself on his toes with something of a gasp. His
movement caused the second shot to enter just below the navel. With
the second shot the President doubled slightly forward and then
sank back. Secret Service Detective Geary caught the President in
his arms and President Milburn helped to support him.
ASKS IF HE IS SHOT.
When the President fell into the
arms of Detective Geary he coolly asked: “Am I shot?”
Geary unbuttoned the President’s vest,
and, seeing blood, replied: “I fear you are, Mr. President.”
It had all happened in an instant.
Almost before the noise of the second shot sounded a negro waiter,
James F. Parker, leaped upon the assassin, striking him a terrific
blow and crushing him to the floor. Soldiers of the United States
artillery detailed at the reception sprang upon them, and he was
surrounded by a squad of exposition police and secret service detectives.
Detective Gallagher seized Czolgosz’s hand, tore away the handkerchief
and took the revolver.
The artillerymen, seeing the revolver
in Gallagher’s hand, rushed at the assassin and handled him rather
roughly. Meanwhile Detective Ireland and the negro held the assassin,
endeavoring to shield him from the attacks of the infuriated artillerymen
and the blows of the policemen’s clubs.
Supported by Detective Geary and President
of the Exposition Milburn, and surrounded by Secretary George B.
Cortelyou and half a dozen exposition officials, the President was
assisted to a chair. His face was white, but he made no outcry.
When the second shot struck the President
he sank back with one hand holding his abdomen, the other fumbling
at his breast. His eyes were open and he was clearly conscious of
all that had transpired. He looked up into President Milburn’s face
and gasped: “Cortelyou,” the name of his private secretary. The
President’s secretary bent over him. “Cortelyou,” said the President,
“my wife, be careful about her; don’t let her know.”
Moved by a paroxysm he writhed to
the left and then his eyes fell on the prostrate form of the assassin,
Czolgosz, lying on the floor bloody and helpless beneath the blows
of the guard. 
The President raised his right hand,
red with his own blood, and placed it on the shoulder of his secretary.
“Let no one hurt him,” he gasped, and sank back in the chair, while
the guards carried Czolgosz out of his sight.
The ambulance from the exposition
hospital was summoned immediately and the President, still conscious,
sank upon the stretcher. Secretary Cortelyou and Mr. Milburn rode
with him in the ambulance, and in nine minutes after the shooting
the President was awaiting the arrival of surgeons, who had been
summoned from all sections of the city, and by special train from
The President continued conscious
and conversed with Mr. Cortelyou and Mr. Milburn on his way to the
hospital. “I am sorry,” he said, “to have been the cause of trouble
to the exposition.”
Three thoughts had found expression
with the President—first, that the news should be kept from his
wife; second, that the would-be assassin should not be harmed; and,
third, regret that the tragedy might hurt the exposition.
The news that the President had been
shot passed across the exposition grounds with almost incredible
speed, and the crowd around the Temple grew until it counted 50,000
persons. This big crowd followed the ambulance respectfully to the
hospital, then divided itself into two parts, one anxious to learn
the condition of the President and to catch every rumor that came
from the hospital; the other eager to find the assassin and to punish
Certain it is that if the officials
had not used remarkable diligence in taking Czolgosz out of the
way of the crowd he would have been mobbed and beaten to death.
Czolgosz had been carried into a side
room at the northwest corner of the Temple. There he was searched,
but nothing was found upon him except a letter relating to lodging.
The officers washed the blood from his face and asked him who he
was and why he had tried to kill the President. He made no answer
at first, but finally gave the name of Nieman. He offered no explanation
of the deed except that he was an Anarchist and had done his duty.
A detail of exposition guards was
sent for a company of soldiers. A carriage was summoned. South of
the Temple a space had been roped off. The crowd tore out the iron
stanchion holding the ropes and carried the ropes to the flagpole
standing near by on the esplanade.
“Lynch him,” cried a hundred voices,
and a start was made for one of the entrances of the Temple. Soldiers
and police beat back the crowd. Guards and people were wrangling,
shouting and fighting. 
In this confusion, Czolgosz, still
bleeding, his clothes torn, and scarcely able to walk, was led out
by Captain James F. Vallaly, chief of the exposition detectives;
Commandant Robinson, and a squad of secret service men.
Czolgosz was thrown into a carriage
and three detectives jumped in with him. Captain Vallaly jumped
on the driver’s seat and lashed the horses into a gallop.
Six doctors were at the President’s
side within thirty seconds after his arrival at the hospital, among
them the President’s family physician, Dr. P. M. Rixey. Dr. Roswell
Park, a surgeon of national reputation, was summoned from Niagara
Falls, where he was performing an operation, and Dr. Herman Mynter
arrived soon after.
The surgeons consulted and hesitated
about performing an operation. The President reassured them by expressing
his confidence, but no decision was reached when Dr. Mann of the
exposition hospital staff arrived. After another consultation Dr.
Mann informed the President that an operation was necessary.
“All right,” replied the President.
“Go ahead. Do whatever is proper.”
The anesthetic administered was ether,
and for two and a half hours the President was under the influence
The wound in the breast proved to
be only a flesh wound. The bullet struck a button and was somewhat
deflected. It entered the middle of the breast above the breast
bone, but did not penetrate far. When the President was undressed
for the operation the bullet fell from his clothing upon the table.
The second and serious wound was a
bullet hole in the abdomen, about five inches below, the left nipple
and an inch and a half to the left of the median line. The bullet
which caused that wound penetrated both the interior and posterior
walls of the stomach, going completely through that organ.
It was found also that as a consequence
of the perforation the stomach fluid had circulated about the abdominal
Further examination disclosed that
the hole made by the entrance of the bullet was small and clean
cut, while that on the other side of the stomach was large and ragged.
A five-inch incision was made and
through that aperture the physicians were enabled to turn the organ
about so as to suture the larger bullet hole. After that had been
sewed the abdominal cavity was washed with a salt solution. 
The operation performed on President
McKinley at the emergency hospital left no need for a second operation
to follow it almost immediately. Dr. Mann, who performed the operation,
had for his first assistant Dr. Herman Mynter. His second assistant
was Dr. John Parmenter. His third assistant was Dr. Lee of St. Louis,
who happened to be on the exposition grounds at the time of the
tragedy, and placed his services at the disposal of the President.
Dr. Nelson W. Wilson noted the time of the operation, and took notes.
Dr. Eugene Wasdin of the marine hospital gave the anesthetic. Dr.
Rixey arrived at the latter part of the operation, and held the
light. Dr. Park arrived at the close of the operation. It was Dr.
Mann who wielded the knife.
The operation lasted almost an hour.
A cut about five inches long was made. It was found necessary to
turn up the stomach of the President in order to trace the course
of the bullet. The bullet’s opening in the front wall of the stomach
was small and it was carefully closed with sutures, after which
a search was made for the hole in the back wall of the stomach.
This hole, where the bullet went out
of the stomach, was larger than the hole in the front wall of the
stomach; in fact, it was a wound over an inch in diameter, jagged
and ragged. It was sewed up in three layers. This wound was larger
than the wound where the bullet entered the stomach, because the
bullet, in its course, forced tissues through ahead of it.
In turning up the stomach, an act
that was absolutely necessary, and was performed by Dr. Mann with
rare skill, the danger was that some of the contents of the stomach
might go into the abdominal cavity, and as a result cause peritonitis.
It so happened that there was little in the President’s stomach
at the time of the operation. Moreover, subsequent developments
tended to show that this feature of the operation was successful
and that none of the contents of the stomach entered the abdominal
cavity. If any of the contents had entered the cavity the probability
is that peritonitis would have set in.
The weapon used by the assassin proved
to be a five-barreled double-action revolver of 32 caliber. Every
chamber contained a bullet, and three remained in the weapon after
It was at first reported that the
weapon was a derringer, but this proved to be incorrect.
Many of the accounts of the assassination
vary in detail, which is quite natural under the excitement of the
moment, and the fact that no two persons see and hear alike. One
account, given by an eye-witness, which differs in 
some respects from the one with which this chapter begins, is as
“It was about four o’clock, near the
close of the reception in the Temple of Music, and the President,
in his customary cordial manner, was reaching forward, with a pleasant
smile, to take the hands of the good-natured crowd that was pushing
forward. A six-foot colored man, who proved to be a waiter in the
Plaza, named James F. Parker, had just shaken hands with the President
and was smiling all over with enjoyment, when suddenly, behind him,
pressed forward the slight figure of a smooth-faced but muscular
young man, whose eyes were wild and glaring, whose head was drooping,
and who seemed to me to have sprung up from the floor, as I had
not observed him before. The President took no special notice of
him, but simply stooped over to shake his hand, without looking,
apparently, at the individual.
“Their palms had hardly touched before
I heard two shots in quick succession. A hush and quiet instantly
followed. The President straightened up for a moment and stepped
back five or six feet. Secretary Cortelyou, who had been standing
at his side, burst into tears, and exclaimed, ‘You’re shot!’ The
President murmured, ‘Oh, no, it cannot be!’ But Secretary Cortelyou
and Mr. Milburn had torn open the President’s vest, and the telltale
blood, flowing from the wound in the abdomen, revealed the fearful
truth. The President had dropped into a chair and now turned deathly
pale. Meanwhile, the other wound in the breast had been uncovered
and both Mr. Milburn and Secretary Cortelyou were in tears. The
President, seeing their emotion, put up his hand and gently murmured
that he was all right, or some reassuring words, and appeared to
“The Secret Service men, Foster and
Ireland, at one bound seized the assassin, before the smoke had
cleared away, and, in fact, before the sound of the second shot
was heard. The negro, Parker, also turned instantly and confronted
Czolgosz, whose right hand was being tightly held behind him by
the detectives and whose face was thrust forward. Parker, with his
clenched fist, smashed the assassin three times squarely in the
face, and was apparently wild to kill the creature, while all the
crowd of artillerymen, policemen, and others, also set upon the
object of their wrath.
“The women in the vast audience were
hysterical, and the men were little less than crazy. The transformation
from the scene of smiles and gladness of a moment before, to the
wild, rushing, mighty roar of an infuriated crowd, was simply awful.
The police and military at once set about the task of clearing the
building, which they accomplished with amazing celerity and 
good judgment, considering the fact that a crowd of 50,000 at the
outside was pressing into the entrance.”
A third narrative is still somewhat
different. The narrator recites that the President, after he had
been shot, was calm, seemed to grow taller, and had a look of half
reproach and half indignation in his eyes as he turned and started
toward a chair unassisted. Then Secretary Cortelyou and Mr. Milburn
went to his help. Secret Service Agent S. R. Ireland and George
F. Foster had grappled with the assassin, but, quicker than both,
was a gigantic negro, James F. Parker, a waiter in a restaurant
in the Plaza, who had been standing behind Czolgosz, awaiting an
opportunity, in joyous expectation, to shake the President’s hand.
He stood there, six feet four inches tall, with two hundred and
fifty pounds of muscular enthusiasm, grinning happily, until he
heard the pistol shots. With one quick shift of his clenched fist
he knocked the pistol from the assassin’s hand. With another he
spun the man around like a top, and, with a third, he broke Czolgosz’s
nose. A fourth split the assassin’s lip and knocked out several
teeth, and when the officers tore him away from Parker the latter,
crying like a baby, exclaimed, “Oh, for only ten seconds more!”