Source: Auburn Weekly Bulletin
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Humane, Decent, Orderly”
City of publication: Auburn, New York
Date of publication: 1 November 1901
Volume number: 20
Issue number: 88
|“Humane, Decent, Orderly.” Auburn Weekly Bulletin 1 Nov. 1901 v20n88: p. 5.|
|Leon Czolgosz (execution: eyewitness accounts); William D. Wolff (public statements).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Carlos F. MacDonald [misspelled below]; William McKinley; J. Warren Mead; William D. Wolff.|
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
“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 unsightly.
“‘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.’”