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Source: Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination
Source type: book
Document type: book chapter
Document title: “The Assassination of President McKinley” [chapter 1]
Author(s): Everett, Marshall
Edition: Memorial edition
none given
Place of publication: none given
Year of publication:
Pagination: 33-40

Everett, Marshall. “The Assassination of President McKinley” [chapter 1]. Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination. Memorial ed. [n.p.]: [n.p.], 1901: pp. 33-40.
full text of chapter; excerpt of book
McKinley assassination; William McKinley (surgery).
Named persons
George B. Cortelyou; Leon Czolgosz; George F. Foster; Albert Gallaher [misspelled below]; John J. Geary; Samuel R. Ireland; Edward Wallace Lee; Matthew D. Mann; William McKinley; John G. Milburn; Herman Mynter; Roswell Park; James B. Parker [middle initial wrong below]; John Parmenter; Presley M. Rixey; Alexander R. Robertson [identified as Robinson below]; James F. Vallely [misspelled below]; Eugene Wasdin; Nelson W. Wilson.
From title page: Complete Life of William McKinley and Story of His Assassination: An Authentic and Official Memorial Edition, Containing Every Incident in the Career of the Immortal Statesman, Soldier, Orator and Patriot; Profusely Illustrated with Full-Page Photographs of the Assassination Scene, Portraits of President McKinley, His Cabinet, Famous Men of His Administration and Vivid Life-Like Pictures of Eventful Scenes in His Great and Grand Career.

From title page: By Marshall Everett, the Great Descriptive Writer and Friend of the Martyr President.


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 [33][34] 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 right.


     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. [34][35]
     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.


     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. [35][36]
     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 Niagara Falls.
     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 him.
     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. [36][37]
     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 of this.
     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 cavity.
     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. [37][38]
     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 the shooting.
     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 [38][39] some respects from the one with which this chapter begins, is as follows:
     “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 faint away.
     “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 [39][40] 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!”



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