Czolgosz’s Bones to Be in Museum
Will Be Kept with Those of Guiteau and Wilkes Booth
UNCLE SAM has a rat in his trap—a human rat, fierce and vicious,
with poisoned fangs. He is going to kill it like any other vermin,
but mercifully. It will die by electricity, quickly and surely.
The electric death is a stroke of
harnessed lightning. There will be a spasmodic struggle, and then,
after a moment or two, the body of the assassin, Czolgosz, will
be declared without life by the physicians in attendance. It will
be handed over to them immediately for an autopsy, and, without
losing an unnecessary minute, they will subject it to a searching
The first step will be an inspection
of the brain, which, being removed, will be photographed. A plaster
mold will then be taken from it, so that its form may be reproduced
in a cast. All this will require only a few moments, and, as soon
as it is accomplished, the medical men will dissect the brain in
order to ascertain whether it exhibits any peculiarities of structure
or alterations due to disease.
This, barring the photograph and the
mold in plaster, was the process carried out in the case of Charles
J. Guiteau, the murderer of Garfield, and also in that of Wilkes
Booth, the assassin of Lincoln.
Certain portions of the brain of Czolgosz,
particularly of the gray matter of the cortex or rind, will be put
aside for examination at leisure with the aid of the microscope.
Then the physicians will make a complete inspection of the rest
of the body, including all the vital organs, taking copious notes,
which later on will furnish the material for an official report.
Finally the body will be skeletonized,
and the bones, though technically the property of the State of New
York, will be formally surrendered to the government. It is probable
that they will be forwarded in a box to the War department at Washington
and will be stored away. Eventually they will be strung together
and placed on exhibition, but not until many years have passed.
The bones of Guiteau, preserved in
like fashion, have been stored away at Washington for nearly twenty
years. They are not on exhibition because it is not desired to excite
a morbid curiosity in the popular mind, as would be the case if
they were shown to the public. People would come in crowds to gape
at them, and the effect would be rather unwholesome than otherwise.
At some time in the future the skeletons
of Czolgosz and Guiteau will doubtless dangle side by side, in most
appropriate contiguity and companionship, in the Army Medical Museum.
Meanwhile they will remain in storage. Guiteau’s bones at the present
moment are neatly stowed away in an oblong wooden box in the basement
of the institution aforesaid.
An attempt was made to take a cast
of Guiteau’s brain immediately after he was hanged, but it was a
failure. It was carefully examined, however, and was found to be
much diseased. There were, indeed, extensive lesions or alterations
of structure, due to disease—a fact which was especially interesting
in view of the claim of insanity made by his counsel in behalf of
the assassin. The medical men stated, however, that such lesions
did not necessarily imply derangement of the mind—were not incompatible,
as they expressed it, with a perfectly normal state of the mental
The brain is preserved to this day
in a glass jar by Dr. D. S. Lamb of Washington, who performed the
Another curiosity in the possession
of Dr. Lamb is some arsenic which was brought to the assassin by
his sister at the District jail. It was only a few hours before
he was to be hanged, and the death watch had already been set on
him. The woman came to see him with a bouquet of flowers in her
hand, and one of the watchmen noticed that some sort of white powder
was scattered upon the blossoms. He confiscated the flowers, and
sent them to the Army Medical Museum, where it was found that they
contained enough arsenic to kill three men. By chewing them the
prisoner might easily have swallowed enough of the poison to kill
The government received an offer of
$30,000 cash from the proprietor of a dime museum for Guiteau’s
body, the idea of the enterprising showman being to embalm the corpse
and inclose it in an air-tight glass case for exhibition. Probably
this was the largest sum ever offered for a cadaver.
The body of Guiteau, on being cut
down, was buried at the jail, but was promptly dug up again at the
request of the physicians and conveyed secretly to the Ford’s Theater
Building, at that time occupied by the Army Medical Museum. It will
be remembered as an interesting coincidence that this was the very
building in which Abraham Lincoln had been murdered seventeen years
and two months previously.
Guiteau’s ghost is said to haunt the
District jail to this day, and many of the prisoners in that penal
institution are much afraid of it. On one occasion a negro, occupying
the assassin’s cell, was almost frightened to death by a fellow-convict
in a cell across the corridor, who slowly rolled marbles, one after
another, into the little brick-walled room which the murderer of
Garfield had inhabited. The mysterious sounds were too much for
the nerves of the victim of the joke, and he was found by the guards
in a condition of collapse.
The body of Wilkes Booth was not skeletonized.
However, before he was buried at the District jail a thorough autopsy
was performed. Three vertebræ of his neck were preserved, and these
are now on exhibition at the Army Medical Museum, with a steel bodkin
thrust through the hole to show the course of the bullet which was
made by Boston Corbett’s shot. The ball struck Booth on the right
side of the neck, and plowed its way directly through the spinal
cord. Of course, the wounded man was entirely paralyzed, and the
records of the case show that he survived the injury only a few
Also, there is exhibited, on the same
shelf with the vertebræ, a piece of the injured spinal cord of the
assassin, preserved in alcohol.
Of such a kind is the immortality
earned by murderers of our Presidents—indefinite preservation of
their bones and the undying horror and hatred of a generous and