Humane, Decent, Orderly
Dr. Wolff’s Description of the Execution and the
Impression It Made on Him.
There are a few inaccuracies in the
statements attributed to Dr. Wolff in the following from Wednesday’s
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle but in general it is a fair statement
of facts by one who was there:
“Dr. William D. Wolff, of this city,
was one of the witnesses of the execution at Auburn of the assassin,
Czolgosz. Before continuing his journey Eastward, Dr. Wolff gave
out the following interview, graphically detailing the impressions
made on him by the closing scene of the national tragedy that was
begun at the Pan-American exposition:
“‘I am opposed to capital punishment,
but I felt no sorrow for the wretch that died this morning. When
he declared he was not sorry he had shot the President, they could
not kill him quick enough to suit me.
“‘For an execution that completes
a historical incident, this morning’s electrocution was remarkably
lacking in dramatic detail. It was a marvel of expedition. A minute
after the assassin entered the death chamber he was dead. After
the 24 witnesses were seated the door leading from the condemned
cells swung open. Warden Mead entered. Following him was the assassin,
with a guard on either side. Two other guards followed. Czolgosz
was dressed in a suit he wore during his trial at Buffalo. His trousers
were dark-colored and shoddy. His gray flannel shirt was open at
the neck, so that the stethoscope could be applied.
“‘Contrary to the usual custom he
wore shoes. The right leg of his trousers was slit up the knee.
He wore no underclothes.
“‘I had expected him to die like a
craven, but he surprised me. He entered the room erect, steady,
motionless. There was no hangdog about his looks. He stared coldly
into the faces of the men who were waiting to see him die.
“‘When his eyes had swept across the
crowd they fell on the death chair. Without a suggestion he walked
to it and seated himself. Warden Mead’s four assistants began at
once to bind him. His right leg was slipped into a metal casing
[fitted?] with an electrode that rested against the calf of his
leg. His wrists were strapped down to electrodes on the arms of
the chair. A metal cap was fitted on top of his head, with a retaining
band about his forehead. His legs were pinioned at the knee and
straps about his waist and abdomen held him tightly in the chair.
“‘It was while this preparation was
being swiftly done that he made his offensive declaration. His voice
was full and clear and even. He spoke slowly; so slowly, that to
me it seemed he was thinking out his words in Polish and translating
them to English. It was not a prepared speech.
“‘It is a hard thing to feel resentment
for a dying man, but every feeling of pity was crushed out by his
declaration that he was not sorry for his crime.
“‘Not a word was spoken by any one
in the death chamber, as the warden had asked that there be no conversation;
but there was a stir in the room, and I seemed to feel that every
one was stirred by the same angry feeling of resentment I [felt?].
The assassin had hardly finished speaking when the work of the deputies
was done. As they stepped back Warden Mead dropped a handkerchief
and the current was turned on. A contraction of muscles told that
the assassin was dead. He had closed his eyes and there was nothing
“‘The current was kept in his body
for a full minute, raised and lowered. Then Dr. McDonald applied
the stethoscope and felt for his pulse. The man was dead.
“‘In less than a minute after the
man entered the death chamber the current was applied. One minute
was consumed in the electrocution and one minute in the physicians’
examination. Five minutes after the witnesses entered the room to
see the execution of President McKinley’s assassin they were leaving
it; and meanwhile the [ends?] of justice had been accomplished.
“‘It may not have been a dramatic
[scene?], but it was humane, decent, orderly and, above all, expeditious.’”