The Assassination of President McKinley
PRESIDENT WILLIAM M
chief magistrate of the Republic, was mortally shot in the Temple
of Music on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo,
at seven minutes after four o’clock, Friday afternoon, September
6, 1901, and died from the effects of wounds then and there inflicted,
Saturday, September 14, at fifteen minutes after two o’clock in
the morning. His assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was immediately secured
and has been tried, convicted, and condemned to death for the crime
in the courts of Buffalo.
In these brief sentences is recorded
the most heinous, dastardly, revolting murder ever committed within
the boundaries of this free and enlightened union of states. In
making this assertion we do not forget that two other Presidents,—Lincoln
and Garfield,—also have suffered death in a similar manner. But
we also remember that the immortal Lincoln was killed during a period
of civil war when the passions of men ran riot, and when there was
great bitterness of feeling toward the man who had saved the Republic
When Garfield was shot there was a
high party feeling throughout the land and many were disappointed
in the distribution of offices. There were factions at war and the
quarrel ran high. A fanatic seized upon this moment to revenge a
fancied wrong by killing an innocent and well-meaning executive.
But when William McKinley was so cruelly
assailed there was peace everywhere within our broad land, and there
were neither party nor partisan quarrels. Moreover, the good President
had borne himself so well in his great office that even his party
opponents respected him. There were no animosities toward him in
the ranks of the opposition, while within, thanks to his tactful
management, his own party was a unit in the support which it accorded
The circumstances attending his taking
off were so cruelly inhuman as to lend an additional sadness to
the tragedy. This great President came to Buffalo as the guest of
the Pan-American Exposition on a mission of good-will to the American
people, with peace, prosperity and progress as the settings of a
picture that must portray forever a classic epoch in American history.
These three essentials to national greatness were the themes of
his gifted speech made on the exposition grounds on the morning
of September 5, when amidst the assembled thousands he delivered
to his fellow-countrymen a message that will take rank with the
greatest of state papers, and which attracted the attention of the
There was joy that day in Buffalo;
the inhabitants and visitors assembled in vast numbers to see the
President and listen to his words of wisdom. He was surrounded by
his cabinet, by high officials of state, by the diplomatic corps,
and by distinguished citizens who had gathered from remote places
to do homage to the Chief and lend dignity to the occasion. The
sun was shining in all its resplendent glory on as beautiful a scene
as the eye need view. The exposition buildings and the landscape
architecture reflected the warm effulgent rays of a fading-summer
sun which could light up no more charming spectacle in all the world.
The turn stiles at the gates were kept busy registering the people
who came, and by night-time the total was 116,000, a larger number
than had attended in a single day since the opening of the fair.
The people were in holiday attire and flags were flying from every
staff and pinnacle, making a panorama of life and beauty rare to
The President, too, was happy. He
was enjoying a respite from the cares of an office to which he had
been twice chosen by seventy millions of people. He was mingling
with the people who had thus honored him, and was ready to render
an account of his stewardship. He was taking the only real vacation
he had enjoyed since his first election. His devoted wife had recovered,
or nearly so, from a grievous illness and she, too, was lending
her gracious presence with smiling countenance to the enchanting
scene. And thus he began his last speech!
A review of the military at the Stadium
followed the address, and then the luncheon at the New York State
Building, with 200 of his suite and other guests,—civic, diplomatic
and military; next a card reception at the Government building;
then a return to the Milburn home, that had been given over to the
President during his visit, where dinner was served; afterward a
drive to the exposition to view the illumination of the tower and
buildings; and, finally, the fireworks were witnessed,—the most
costly and magnificent pyrotechnic display that ever had been offered,
which more than 100,000 people enjoyed. A return to the Milburn
house in the balmy evening air at 10 o’clock concluded the ceremonies.
And so ended the last happy day the President was to enjoy on earth!
Let us hope, let us believe, it was the happiest in all his presidential
Early next morning the presidential
party was astir, for this was to be a day at the Falls of Niagara,
and then a public reception and some informal visiting of the exhibits
and other attractions at the exposition. The special train went
direct to Lewiston, where awaiting trolleys were boarded and the
gorge was viewed as the cars slowly wended their way along the river.
At the International Hotel, Niagara Falls, a modest luncheon was
served lasting but an hour, then the powerhouse and other points
of interest were visited, after which the return to Buffalo was
made in season for the public reception that had been appointed
to begin in the Temple of Music at four o’clock. On reaching the
exposition grounds a short visit was paid to the mission house.
Precisely at the time appointed the
President took his place and began to take each one by the hand
with all his well-known cordiality. In the next seven minutes a
large number had been received, when lo! a man approached with his
right hand enveloped in a white handkerchief, giving the impression
that he was disabled. The President attempted to grasp the left
hand which the assassin offered; but the villain, pushing it aside,
at the same time planted his right against the President’s breast
and discharged twice in rapid succession a pistol which was concealed
beneath the handkerchief.
A scene of consternation followed
which cannot be described in calm words. Amidst shoutings, faintings,
and swayings of the crowd the President was tenderly assisted to
a chair in which he calmly sat without murmur or one word of reproach.
Meanwhile, before the fiendish assailant could discharge the weapon
again he had been secured and taken away. The ambulance had been
summoned, and on its arrival the President was laid on the stretcher-bed
which, with its precious burden, was lifted into the vehicle. Mr.
Cortelyou, the President’s faithful secretary, Mr. John G. Milburn,
president of the exposition, and the hospital internes took their
places in the ambulance which was then driven to the hospital.
The medical history of this saddest
of events is told elsewhere in the J
by those who are familiar with the facts. Dr. Parmenter’s account
of the operation will be read with interest. His competency as a
surgeon is unchallenged, and especially has he had considerable
experience with gunshot wounds of the abdomen. Why he was not continued
as a member of the staff during the after-treatment of the President
is not explained.
Dr. Wilson tells, in graphic manner,
the details of the case from beginning to end, and his interesting
narrative is a word-picture that has rarely been equaled in medical
It is not our purpose to deal with
the surgical aspects of this startling and awful tragedy in this
place. It is sufficient for us to remark that there is little in
the management to criticise, 
while there is much to commend. We leave the long-distance critics
a clear field for the exercise of their talents.
Buffalo is too deeply grieved that
she has become even the innocent cause of the President’s death,
to pay heed to idle or unkind remarks concerning the physicians
who so creditably performed their parts, and who did all that human
skill could do to save a life so precious to the nation.
In the midst of so much that tends
to sadden our hearts, it is some consolation to reflect that men
were easily accessible so thoroughly competent to deal with the
case. It must ever be a matter of local pride that a suitable hospital
had been provided within the exposition grounds, where such an important
operation could be done quickly; and, further, that three of our
surgeons could be assembled promptly, who had the skill and presence
of mind to deal adequately with such formidable wounds, without
a moment’s unnecessary delay. These two facts, we repeat, are sources
of much comfort to the medical profession of Buffalo, and ought
to take precedence in the minds of the people over every other consideration.
We cannot be personal, or make invidious
distinctions here, but to all the surgeons and physicians who served
in the President’s case our gratitude is tendered. Each played his
part well; all share the honor of having used a combined skill and
judgment rarely equaled and never excelled, and none should be exalted
or belittled above or below a common meed of praise that each alike
is entitled to receive.
A word of praise likewise may be
said of the nurses, hospital corps men, and other attendants who
so devotedly served the wounded and dying President during those
trying days and nights. The newspaper men in the camp opposite Milburn
house were self-sacrificing and faithful under many difficulties.
We are greatly indebted to the Illustrated
Buffalo Express, for courteously supplying to the J
the illustrations which we publish as a part of the history of the