Publication information
view printer-friendly version
Source: Buffalo Morning Express
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Saw the Assassin Die”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Buffalo, New York
Date of publication: 30 October 1901
Volume number: 56
Issue number: 248
Pagination: 7

“Saw the Assassin Die.” Buffalo Morning Express 30 Oct. 1901 v56n248: p. 7.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (execution: witnesses); Grosvenor R. Trowbridge; Charles R. Huntley; Samuel Caldwell; Grosvenor R. Trowbridge (public statements); Leon Czolgosz (execution: personal response); Leon Czolgosz (execution); Leon Czolgosz; Leon Czolgosz (last words); J. Warren Mead; Edwin F. Davis; Carlos F. MacDonald; John Gerin.
Named persons
Samuel Caldwell; Leon Czolgosz; Edwin F. Davis; Henry Oliver Ely; John Gerin; William A. Howe [identified as Hower below]; Charles R. Huntley; Carlos F. MacDonald; J. Warren Mead; Edward A. Spitzka [middle initial wrong below]; Grosvenor R. Trowbridge.
In accordance with the original source, the phrase “death chair” appears below both with and without a hyphen.


Saw the Assassin Die


Dr. Trowbridge Describes the Electrocution Scene.

     Dr. Grosvenor R. Trowbridge was one of the three Buffalo men who were on the jury of witnesses to Czolgosz’s death. The others were Charles R. Huntley, general manager of the Buffalo General Electric Company, and Sheriff Samuel Caldwell. Dr. Trowbridge returned from Auburn at 6 o’clock last evening. When seen at his home by an Express reporter and questioned as to what he saw and the impressions he received, he said:
     “I had never before seen an electrocution and I never wish to see another. I would not care to; in fact, I would not witness an execution where there was the slightest room for doubt as to the guilt of the convicted man. I was cocksure that Czolgosz was guilty, so I had no compunction on that score.
     “As we were admitted to the death chamber ,there [sic] was haste on the part of some of the witnesses to get back seats. There were two rows of chairs facing the electric chair. The chairs were the space of a chair apart, so that those who sat in the back row looked between those who sat in front. My chair was in the front row, directly in front of the rubber platform, which was, perhaps, six feet square, on which the death-chair stood.
     “I would not say so positively, but it is my impression that the assassin was full of fear when he was brought in. I could see his hands tremble, and I verily believe that were it not for the support of the two big guards who held him between them, his legs would have given way under him. He stumbled in getting to the chair, one of his feet tripping on the edge of the rubber platform. That may have been because he did not see the platform, or his fear may have had something to do with it. He had a frightened, hunted expression on his face.
     “He said nothing until he was seated in the chair. Then, while they were strapping him and applying the electrodes, he leaned forward with his hands on the arms of the chair and, facing the witnesses in front of him, made his last speech. It was very short. I listened intently and I am sure of every word he said and the order in which he placed his words. These are all the words he spoke, and just as he spoke them:
     “‘I killed the President for the good of the laboring people—the good people. I am not sorry for my crime, but I am sorry I can’t see my father.’
     “Then they put on the death mask. I believe had they waited a moment he would have said more. I saw his lips move as if he had more to say, just as the mask was put over his face. But I believe from what I heard in the prison that it was not the desire of the officials to let him talk at all. Warden Mead told me Czolgosz had ample opportunity to say all he wanted to say. On Monday night he was asked if he wished to make any final remarks. Czolgosz replied that he did not wish to speak at that time, but would do so in the morning. The warden’s belief is that Czolgosz wanted to talk before a crowd. But the prison officials evidently did not wish him to make a scene. They did their work quickly and had he not taken advantage of the brief time it took to strap him and apply the electrodes, he probably would not have had the chance to say even the few words he said.
     “The whole operation of fastening the straps, puttng [sic] the electrodes in position and dropping the mask took but a few seconds. Then the warden, stationed close to the doorway of the little room in which was the switchboard, in which doorway State-Electrician Davis stood, so that he could handle the switch and watch the man in the chair at the same time, gave the signal to Mr. Davis and the current was turned on instantly. Then came the violent convulsions of the muscles, accompanied by the sound of the straining and creaking of the chair.
     “The first current lasted, it seemed to me, but a few seconds, surely less than half a minute. Then it was turned on again for about the same length of time. Then Dr. Carlos MacDonald and Dr. Gerin, the prison physician, who stood beside the chair, leaned over and listened to the heart for a second or so and pronounced him dead. Then the current was turned on for the third time. It lasted for about the same length of time as the two previous currents. Then all physicians present were invited to step up and listen at the dead man’s breast—for he was dead after the first stroke. Drs. MacDonald and Gerin first listened, after which Dr. Ely of Binghamton, Dr. Hower of Phelps and myself listened. The heart had stopped beating.
     “I talked with Electrician Davis afterward, and he explained that when he administered the first shock he put on the full current—some 1,700 or 1,800 volts—immediately and kept it on until the end of the first shock. The second time he turned the full force at the start, then cut it down gradually. The third time he started it low and gradually ran it up to the full force.
     “It seemed to me that the whole business, from the time the assassin was led into the death chamber to the time the last shock was applied, was not much over one minute. The physicians present were invited to remain and witness the autopsy, which was performed by Dr. MacDonald and Dr. E. H. Spitzka of New York. I stayed only long enough to see the head measurements taken. It was not a small head, it was very normal. Czolgosz did not, to me, look like either a half-witted person or a criminal. I saw much worse looking faces in the prison and I have seen much less intelligent looking faces right in our own Polish district in East Buffalo. Though he was not overbright looking, he appeared to be fairly intelligent.”
     Charles R. Huntley was impressed that the doomed man was quite calm, that what he said he had previously arranged to say, that he manifested no spirit of bravado, but said the few things as if he felt it his duty to say them.
     Sheriff Caldwell considered that Czolgosz was a man of great nerve. To him it appeared that the assassin gave no evidence of fear as he was led to the death chair.
     All three of the Buffalo witnesses agree that the electrocution was perfectly arranged and executed without the slightest hitch. “It was a credit to the State and the country,” said Dr. Trowbridge.



top of page