Source: Auburn Weekly Bulletin
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “A Nation Is Avenged”
Author(s): Graham, George Edward
City of publication: Auburn, New York
Date of publication: 29 October 1901
Volume number: 20
Issue number: 87
|Graham, George Edward. “A Nation Is Avenged.” Auburn Weekly Bulletin 29 Oct. 1901 v20n87: p. 1.|
|Leon Czolgosz (execution); Leon Czolgosz (last words); Leon Czolgosz (incarceration: Auburn, NY); Leon Czolgosz (disposal of remains).|
|Cornelius V. Collins; Leon Czolgosz; Waldeck Czolgosz; Edwin F. Davis; John Gerin; Carlos F. MacDonald [misspelled once below]; William McKinley; J. Warren Mead; Walter N. Thayer; Allen P. Tupper.|
|The article is accompanied on the same page with two illustrations, captioned as follows: “Czolgosz, the Assassin” and “The Chair and Victim.”|
A Nation Is Avenged
He Made a Statement from the Chair in Which He Said He Was Not
Sorry He Had Killed the President.
A, Oct. 29.—At 7:12½ o’clock this morning Leon Czolgosz, murderer of President William McKinley, paid the extreme penalty exacted by the law for his crime. He was shocked to death by 1700 volts of electricity. He went to the chair in exactly the same manner as have the majority of all the other murderers in this State, showing no particular sign of fear, but in fact, doing what few of them have done, talking to the witnesses while he was being strapped in the chair.
“I killed the President because he was an enemy
of the good people—of the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”
These were his words as the guards hurried him into the chair.
Words he supplemented a moment later mumbling them through the half adjusted face straps, “I am awfully sorry I could not see my father.”
Czolgosz retired last night at 10 o’clock and
slept so soundly that when Warden Mead went to the cell shortly before 5 this
morning the guard inside had to shake Czolgosz to awaken him. He sat up on the
edge of his cot and made no reply to the warden’s greeting of good morning.
The prison official took from his pocket the death warrant and read it slowly and distinctly to the assassin, who hardly raised his eyes during the perfunctory ceremony.
Just as the warden stepped away from the cell door, Czolgosz called to him and said: “I would like to talk to the superintendent.”
The warden responded: “He will be down presently.”
Then the condemned man rolled over on his cot
apparently anxious to sleep again. At 5:15, however, the guard brought to him
a pair of dark trousers with the left leg slit so as to allow the free application
of the electrode, and a light gray outing shirt. He was told to get up and put
these on, which he did.
Contrary to the usual custom, he was given a new pair of shoes. When dressed he laid down on the cot again and in this attitude Superintendent Collins found him at 5:30 when he went down to visit him.
The superintendent stood in front of the steel
bars and when the guard had called Czolgosz’s attention, he said: “I want to
make a statement before you kill me.”
“What do you wish to say, Czolgosz?” asked the superintendent.
“I want to make it when there are a lot of people present. I want them to hear me,” said the prisoner.
“Well, you cannot,” said the superintendent.
“Then I won’t talk at all,” said the prisoner sullenly.
After the superintendent had left the guards brought Czolgosz’s breakfast, consisting of coffee, toast, eggs and bacon, and he ate with quite a good deal of relish.
While he was partaking of this, the witnesses were gathering in the office of Warden Mead and at 7:06 o’clock the procession passed to the death chamber, going through the long South corridor.
In the chamber Electrician Davis and former
Warden Thayer, of Dannemora, had arranged the chair test, placing a bank of
22 incandescent lights across the arms and connecting the electrode wires at
The witnesses were ordered seated and then Warden Mead briefly addressed them, saying: “You are here to witness the legal death of Leon F. Czolgosz. I desire that you keep your seats and preserve absolute silence in the death chamber, no matter what may transpire. There are plenty of guards and prison officials to preserve order and attend to the proper details.”
The prison physician, Dr. John Gerin, and Dr. Carlos F. McDonald, of New York, took a position to the left of the chair, Warden Mead stood directly in front, and Electrician Davis retired to the little room containing the electrical switchboard. Thayer gave the signal and the current was turned through the electric lights, flooding the chamber with brilliant light and dramatically showing the power that was used to kill the prisoner.
Warden Mead gave the signal to have the prisoner brought in, and at 7:10½ o’clock Principal Keeper Tupper swung open the big steel door leading to the condemned cells, and as the steel bars behind which Czolgosz had been kept were swung aside two guards marched the prisoner out into the corridor, two others following behind, and the principal keeper walking in front.
The guards on either side of Czolgosz had hold
of his arms either as if to support him, or to keep him from making a demonstration.
As he stepped over the threshold he stumbled but they held him up and as they
urged him forward toward the chair he stumbled again on the little rubber covered
platform upon which the chair rests. His head was erect and with his gray flannel
shirt turned back at the neck, he looked quite boyish. He was intensely pale
and as he tried to throw his head back and erect, his chin quivered very perceptibly.
As he was being seated he looked about at the assembled witnesses with quite a steady stare and said: “I killed the President because he was an enemy of the good people—of the working people.”
His voice trembled slightly at first, but gained strength with each word and he spoke perfect English.
“I am not sorry for my crime,” he said loudly
just as the guard pushed his head back on the rubber head rest and drew the
divisible strap across his forehead and chin. As the pressure on the straps
tightened and bound the jaw slightly he mumbled, “I’m awfully sorry I could
not see my father.”
It was just exactly 7:11 o’clock when he crossed the threshold, but a minute had elapsed and he just had finished his last statement when the strapping was completed and the guards stepped back from the man.
Warden Mead raised his hand and at 7:12:30 Electrician
Davis turned the switch that threw 1700 volts of electricity into the living
body. The rush of the immense current threw the body so hard against the straps
that they creaked perceptibly. The hands clinched up suddenly and the whole
attitude was one of extreme tenseness.
For 45 seconds the full current was kept on and then slowly the electrician threw the switch back reducing the current volt by volt until it was cut off entirely. Then just as it had reached that point he threw the lever back again for a brief two or three seconds. The body which had collapsed as the current was reduced, stiffened up again against the straps.
When it was turned off again Dr. MacDonald stepped to the chair and put his hand over the heart. He said he felt no pulsation but suggested that the current be turned on for a few seconds again. Once more the body became rigid. At 7:15 the current was turned off for good.
From the time Czolgosz had left his cell until
the full penalty was paid, less than four minutes had elapsed.
The physicians used the stethoscope and other tests to determine if any life remained and at 7:17 the warden, raising his hand, announced: “Gentlemen, the prisoner is dead.”
The witnesses filed from the chamber, many of them visibly affected, and the body, which five minutes before had been full of life and vigor, was taken from the chair and laid on the operating table.
The autopsy is now in progress.
Last evening Waldeck Czolgosz, the assassin’s brother, signed a release of the body to Warden Mead and it will be buried in quick lime instead of being cremated.