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Source: Indianapolis Journal
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Startled the Country”
Author(s): Carmichael, Otto
City of publication: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date of publication: 7 September 1901
Volume number: 51
Issue number: 250
Pagination: 1-2

Carmichael, Otto. “Startled the Country.” Indianapolis Journal 7 Sept. 1901 v51n250: pp. 1-2.
full text
McKinley assassination (public response: Washington, DC); White House; Benjamin F. Montgomery; McKinley assassination (personal response); Thomas F. Pendel; presidential assassinations (comparison); William McKinley (medical condition); William McKinley; Richard Sylvester (public statements); William McKinley (protection).
Named persons
James A. Garfield; Abraham Lincoln; Ida McKinley; William McKinley; Benjamin F. Montgomery; Thomas F. Pendel; Richard Sylvester.


Startled the Country

Staff Correspondence of the Journal.
     WASHINGTON, Sept. 6.—“The President is shot!” The breathless announcement was followed by a frantic rush, women in the departments were hysterical, men hurrying on the street were nervous and doubtful. Offices of newspapers and news agencies were quickly besieged. Verification was promptly followed by false reports of his death. The impact of the news was so heavy that the people were dazed, men and women were to be seen on the street cars, trained newspaper men stood around half stupefied, not knowing what to say or do. Perhaps in all their lives before they had never been shocked into a state of inaction.
     At the White House the servants, who had just returned from Canton, rocked silently on stiff-backed chairs and moaned forth their grief and misery. The President’s household is a plain, old-fashioned one. All know the master and mistress in simple, domestic sense; the policemen in front of the white portals trod their beats silently with tears coursing down their cheeks. The doorkeepers had nothing to say when questions were asked. Their throats were choked with silent sobs.
     In the war room Colonel Montgomery, the signal officer, sat silently gazing at the large map with its hundreds of little flags showing the points on the map where American troops are stationed. He had no news. He expected no news; what news could there be? At that time it was thought the President was dying.


     An hour later an aged and trembling messenger came tottering to the door, he feebly climbed the stairs to gain the latest information from the telegraph room. This was Thomas F. Pendel, seventy-six years of age, appointed by Lincoln, and in service at the White House since that day. April 19, thirty-six years ago, Lincoln was leaving the house when the alert and watchful Pendel said:
     “Good night, Mr. President.”
     “Good night, Pendel,” replied the President. [“]You will be in bed when I return.”
     When Lincoln returned, it was as a corpse and Pendel held open the great doors with eyes streaming with tears.
     On July 2, twenty years ago President Garfield left the White House with buoyant step and as he jauntingly stepped from the door to the carriage said: “Good-bye, Pendel, take care of the folks while we are away.”
     “Good-bye, Mr. President, and a good trip to you.”
     An hour later Pendel held open the White House doors and the fatally stricken Garfield was carried by the erect and soldierly attendant whose eyes were swimming with tears for the second martyred President.
     On July 5, Pendel stood on the White House porch and shook hands with President and Mrs. McKinley, and it was a jocular and merry party. Mrs. McKinley had a pleasant good-bye for the old doorkeeper and the President gayly [sic] said: “Pendel, if you capture any of those pretty girls while I am away remember that I am to be invited to the wedding.”


     This afternoon Pendel, waveringly, came to the White House to learn if it was to be his duty to hold open the doors for the stricken form of another martyred President. He was one of those who joined the crowds in front of the newspaper offices, and was among those who soon were rejoicing on account of the favorable news from the bedside of the President. This cheerful news soon had the crowd in almost as happy a condition as though they were winners on an election night. They cheered and cried like people possessed. They waved their hats and shouted their glee at the favorable news which was bulletined and shouted through megaphones.
     Washington thoroughly believes in McKinley luck. It has held good through many a trial, and it is fondly hoped that it will not desert now. He is robust and strong. He was healthy and vigorous after a six weeks’ stay in the country. His life had been devoted to taking good care of himself physically. It is believed by those who have known him for years that he is in fine shape to take care of himself through an arduous siege.
     McKinley is well known personally to more people in Washington than any other President. For twenty-five years he has lived here and moved in and out among the people in an ordinary way. Thousands and thousands know him well[,] and were he not President would be chatting with him daily on the streets were he in town. It is these people who so strongly believe that his good health and strength will pull him through. Pendel lies on a couch at the White House to-night fitfully sleeping, waiting for news from his beloved employer.


     “While the President is in Washington, his personal safety is always carefully if not conspicuously guarded,” said Colonel Sylvester, chief of police, this evening. “We go on the principle that it is impossible to give the person of the President absolute protection from the assassin’s bullet, yet the danger can be reduced to a minimum. Showy protection, we assume, is worse than none, as it inevitably attracts attention to the fact that we are afraid and are taking precautions. Such protection invites reckless irresponsibles to try to defeat our purpose. We assume that a shot fired fifteen or twenty feet from the President has about one chance in a hundred of fatally wounding him. Therefore we try to keep strangers that distance from him. Even the constant visitor at the White House sees only a few idle policemen. Yet they are always on the move and they see every public spot every few minutes. Each pushes a button every ten minutes and reports all well. Furthermore there are many plain clothes men coming and going. All in all they keep very close track of all who come.
     “Unless known very few come close to the President while here. As he comes and goes from his drives the crowds are kept at a distance of fifteen or twenty feet and the groups who watch the President and his wife have surely been carefully inspected before they come from the doors. It is the same when they return. No mounted police gallop in front of the President’s carriage, but the route of his drive always gets inspected by plain clothes men before the President appears. This is all inconspicuously, but most effectively done. Even at receptions we know pretty nearly who are coming. In this way the danger is reduced to the minimum.
     “When the President leaves on a trip [1][2] the chiefs of police are notified of our methods. The main thing is to keep the crowds twenty feet away. It is of record that few assassins fire bullets a greater distance. When we have a parade our detectives do not ride with the President. They are near the crowd at the edge of the curb and would instantly nab any one who tried to approach the President. The distance protects him.”



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