Publication information

New York Times
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “The Assassin Makes a Full Confession”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: New York, New York
Date of publication: 8 September 1901
Volume number: 50
Issue number: 16121
Part/Section: 1
Pagination: 1-2

“The Assassin Makes a Full Confession.” New York Times 8 Sept. 1901 v50n16121: part 1, pp. 1-2.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (confession); McKinley assassination (Czolgosz account); Leon Czolgosz (incarceration: Buffalo, NY); Leon Czolgosz (interrogation); McKinley assassination (investigation); McKinley assassination (investigation of conspiracy: Buffalo, NY); Walter Nowak; Walter Nowak (public statements); Leon Czolgosz (friends, acquaintances, coworkers, etc.); McKinley assassination (investigation: secrecy); Thomas Penney (public statements).
Named persons
Gaetano Bresci; William I. Buchanan; William S. Bull; Leon Czolgosz; George F. Foster; Emma Goldman; Humbert I; Frank Koehler; William McKinley; John Nowak; Walter Nowak; Thomas Penney [misspelled once below]; Elihu Root; John Wisser [misspelled below].

The Assassin Makes a Full Confession


For Three Days Czolgosz Had Planned the Attack.
Inspired to the Deed by Hearing Emma Goldman Talk—Says She Set Him
Thinking until His “Head Nearly Split with Pain.”

     CHICAGO, Sept. 7.—A dispatch from Buffalo says that the statement of Leon Czolgosz, made to the police, transcribed and signed by the prisoner, is as follows:
     “‘I was born in Detroit nearly twenty-nine years ago. My parents were Russian Poles. They came here forty-two years ago. I got my education in the public schools of Detroit and then went to Cleveland, where I got work. In Cleveland I read books on Socialism and met a great many Socialists. I was pretty well known as a Socialist in the West. After being in Cleveland for several years, I went to Chicago, where I remained several months, after which I went to Newburg, on the outskirts of Cleveland, and went to work in the Newburg wire mills.
     “‘During the last five years I have had as friends Anarchists in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and other Western cities, and I suppose I became more or less bitter. Yes, I know I was bitter. I never had much luck at anything, and this preyed upon me. It made me morose and envious, but what started the craze to kill was a lecture I heard some little time ago by Emma Goldman. She was in Cleveland, and I and other Anarchists went to hear her. She set me on fire.
     “‘Her doctrine that all rulers should be exterminated was what set me to thinking so that my head nearly split with the pain. Miss Goldman’s words went right through me, and when I left the lecture I had made up my mind that I would have to do something heroic for the cause I loved.
     “‘Eight days ago, while I was in Chicago, I read in a Chicago newspaper of President McKinley’s visit to the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. That day I bought a ticket for Buffalo and got here with the determination to do something, but I did not know just what. I thought of shooting the President, but I had not formed a plan.
     “‘I went to live at 1,078 Broadway, which is a saloon and hotel. John Nowak, a Pole, a sort of politician, who has led his people here for years, owns it. I told Nowak that I came to see the Fair. He knew nothing about what was setting me crazy. I went to the Exposition grounds a couple of times a day.
     “‘Not until Tuesday morning did the resolution to shoot the President take a hold of me. It was in my heart; there was no escape for me. I could not have conquered it had my life been at stake. There were thousands of people in town on Tuesday. I heard it was President’s Day. All those people seemed bowing to the great ruler. I made up my mind to kill that ruler. I bought a 32-calibre revolver and loaded it.


     “‘On Tuesday night I went to the fair grounds and was near the railroad gate when the Presidential party arrived. I tried to get near him, but the police forced me back. They forced everybody back, so that the great ruler could pass. I was close to the President when he got into the grounds, but was afraid to attempt the assassination because there were so many men in the bodyguard that watched him. I was not afraid of them or that I should get hurt, but afraid I might be seized and that my chance would be gone forever.
     “‘Well, he went away that time and I went home. On Wednesday I went to the grounds and stood right near the President, right under him near the stand from which he spoke.
     “‘I thought half a dozen times of shooting while he was speaking, but I could not get close enough. I was afraid I might miss, and then the great crowd was always jostling, and I was afraid lest my aim fail. I waited until Wednesday, and the President got into his carriage again, and a lot of men were about him and formed a cordon that I could not get through. I was tossed about by the crowd, and my spirits were getting pretty low. I was almost hopeless that night as I went home.
     “‘Yesterday morning I went again to the Exposition grounds. Emma Goldman’s speech was still burning me up. I waited near the central entrance for the President, who was to board his special train from that gate, but the police allowed nobody but the President’s party to pass out while the train waited. So I staid [sic] at the grounds all day waiting.
     “‘During yesterday I first thought of hiding my pistol under my handkerchief. I was afraid if I had to draw it from my pocket I would be seized by the guards. I got to the Temple of Music the first one, and waited at the spot where the reception was to be held.
     “‘Then he came, the President—the ruler—and I got in line and trembled and trembled until I got right up to him, and then I shot him twice through my white handkerchief. I would have fired more, but I was stunned by a blow in the face—a frightful blow that knocked me down—and then everybody jumped on me. I thought I would be killed, and was surprised the way they treated me.’
     “Czolgosz ended his story in utter exhaustion. When he had concluded, he was asked:
     “‘Did you really mean to kill the President?’
     “‘I did,’ was the cold-blooded reply.
     “‘What was your motive. What good could it do?’ was asked.
     “‘I am an Anarchist. I am a disciple of Emma Goldman. Her words set me on fire,’ he replied, with not the slightest tremor.
     “‘I deny that I have had an accomplice at any time,’ Czolgosz told District Attorney Penney. ‘I don’t regret my act, because I was doing what I could for the great cause. I am not connected with the Paterson group, or with those Anarchists who sent Bresci to Italy to kill Humbert. I had no confidants, no one to help me. I was alone absolutely.’”


Special to The New York Times.

     BUFFALO, Sept. 7.—The only bit of information in connection with the crime gleaned by the local police to-day is, that Czolgosz bought the weapon with which he [1][2] shot the President in a hardware store in this city. It was a cheap revolver of 32-calibre. The clerk who sold it to him was shown his picture. He said that he thought he recognized Czolgosz’s face. He was then taken to the jail, and positively identified Czolgosz as a man to whom he had sold the pistol three days ago.
     What purports to be a full copy of the assassin’s confession is being generally published here, but it is not genuine. The text of the confession, which covers twelve pages of typewritten manuscript, is kept secret, under instructions from the Federal authorities. All that is essential in the confession is made public by District Attorney Penney.
     The prisoner was born in Detroit twenty-eight years ago. His parents were Russian Poles, who came to this country about forty years ago. He received some education in the common schools of Detroit. For a while he worked in Cleveland. While there he became interested in the Socialist movement, read quantities of Socialist literature, and was soon prominently known as a Socialist in the West.
     Several years ago he left Cleveland and went to Chicago, where he lived for several months. Then he returned to Cleveland and procured employment in the wire mills in Newburg, a suburb of Cleveland. During the last few years he has gained quite a reputation in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and other Western cities as an Anarchist of the most bitter type.
     Some days ago he attended a lecture given by Emma Goldman in Cleveland. Her doctrine that all rulers should be exterminated was accepted by him. He went away from the lecture determined to do something heroic for the cause. A little over a week ago while in Chicago he read in a Chicago paper of the intended visit of President McKinley to the Pan-American Exposition. A day or two later he bought a ticket for Buffalo. He came to this city with a half-formed purpose. The idea that he might have an opportunity to assassinate the President was in his mind, but the plot had not taken definite form.
     He was one of the first in the Temple of Music, where the public reception was held on Tuesday. He fell into line with the rest of the people, and when his turn came to shake hands with the Chief Executive of the Nation, he fired two shots with the muzzle of the revolver close to the President’s body.
     He says he would have fired more, but for the fact that some one struck him a frightful blow.
     Czolgosz at no time expressed any regret for his act. If he regretted anything it was the fact that his attempt to kill the President apparently had failed. He positively denied that he had any accomplices or confidants. He said that he had conceived the plot to murder alone, and that he was the agent of no organization. He also declared he was in no way connected with the Anarchists whose agent, Bresci, assassinated King Humbert of Italy.
     While he is now kept in such strict seclusion, much concerning him can be learned from the special officers who have been detailed to watch him in a basement dungeon in the Franklin Street Station. Although his age is given as twenty-eight, he looks much younger, and is much the type of young man who can be found by the thousand working in the sweatshops of New York. He does not look particularly vicious. In fact his face has little character.
     He is very vain. When he was landed behind prison bars last night his first thoughts were concerning his personal appearance as the result of the mauling he had received from the hands of the mob. His nose and face had been cut and the blood ran down over his torn clothing. When he asked for anything it was for permission to wash and for clean clothes. He was not excited, even while they were extorting the confession from him. On the contrary, he told them all he cared to very coolly and with braggadocio.
     When the authorities were through with him and took him back to his dungeon, he went to sleep. To-day, after being permitted to wash up and put on some clean clothes, he behaved like a man who had no concern for himself. Once he asked to see some newspapers, and when that was denied him, he stretched himself out on a bench and went to sleep. Several times Secret Service officers went to him and tried to draw him into conversation in the hope of learning something about him and his associates, but he simply shrugged his shoulders and said he had told all he had to tell.
     A good deal of criticism is heard here against the special guard from the Seacoast Artillery and from the special Exposition detective force, which was supposed to guard the President during his stay here. Surprise has been expressed that a man of Czolgosz’s appearance was allowed to approach the President holding a handkerchief in his hand in such a manner as he would have had to to conceal a revolver. Those who are in charge of the special guard meet this criticism by saying that nearly everybody in the crowd which poured into the Temple of Music to see the President was carrying some sort of a lunch box or parcel, and that consequently they noticed nothing peculiar in Czolgosz’s appearance.
     Czolgosz says that he talked over in advance in a general way with his friends, but that he was not advised by them, and that there was no plot or conspiracy to take the life of the President in which any one else had a part.
     He declines to furnish the names of the men with whom he discussed the crime of Friday, but the police believe they will yet learn them, and that when they do they will have exposed the Anarchistic plot of which they are confident the prisoner was the final murderous agent.


     He submitted to six hours of examination and questioning at the hands of officials to-day and was tired out when they led him back to his cell and locked him up for the night.
     He was in the hands of a group of shrewd examiners, and they set trap upon trap to snare him, but the effort to break him down failed. The police say that in the end, when he comes to a true appreciation of his position, he will break down and confess fully. In reviewing his confession, he made open avowal of his belief in Anarchy, and said that he had merely done his duty as he saw it.
     In addition to the examination to which the prisoner was submitted, local and Federal detectives spent the day in scouring the city for some trace of possible confederates. They took up the trail of the prisoner from the day of his arrival and partially completed an outline of his movements up to the commission of the crime. They did not succeed in connecting him with any of the Socialists who make their home here, and by nightfall had almost abandoned the theory that he was assisted by any one here. They also showed an inclination to give up the belief that a confederate preceded the prisoner in the reception line leading up to the President, but work along that line had not been abandoned.
     The general theory now held by the detectives is that a circle of Czolgosz’s associates plotted the murder of President McKinley, and that he was picked by lot or induced by persuasion to carry out finally the conspiracy. They say that he lacks the shrewdness to have planned and executed the crime as he did. The police said to-night that they had made no other arrests, and had none in contemplation. It is evident that they have not made much progress toward the establishment of their theory with material evidence, and that their chief reliance at present is on a confession from the prisoner.
     Czolgosz’s trail has been taken up in Cleveland, and it is expected that the inquiry there will let in some valuable light as to his companions and possible fellow-conspirators.
     Apart from the fact that the local police have Czolgosz locked up in a station house here, they have little or nothing to do with the work of ascertaining what instigated the assassin to commit his terrible crime and what confederates, if any, he had in planning it. The War Department and the Secret Service Bureau have practically taken that work out of their hands, and the investigation in this city and elsewhere is now under Federal supervision.
     District Attorney Penney spent hours searching for a law to cover the case. He finally satisfied himself that there was no such law, and that Czolgosz would have to be prosecuted under the State law like any other criminal who had committed an ordinary assault with a murderous weapon upon an ordinary citizen. He decided that he would not arraign the man on any charge at this time, not even to the extent of simply having him remanded. Czolgosz is held to-day without any charge resting against him.


     At the same time the local authorities are giving very full head to the advice of the Secretary of War and the Washington authorities in the matter of the treatment of the prisoner. Early in the day, before they knew that it was against the wishes of the Federal authorities, they permitted the prisoner to be photographed for the benefit of the newspapers, and even permitted him to be seen. That was all stopped after the wishes of the National authorities were known.
     While many stories are current here in which it is asserted that the Secret Service officers have established a connection between Czolgosz and Anarchist brutes in other cities, there is no suggestion that anything has been gleaned to show that he had any confederates in this city. Those who were unfortunate enough to know him during his three days’ stay here, and who were at first under some suspicion, have succeeded in clearing themselves.
     Superintendent of Police Bull and District Attorney Penney declined to discuss their second interview with Czolgosz, or to indicate in any way the progress made in the police investigation. They did admit, however, that the prisoner had again talked freely of his crime, and that he had insisted that he alone had planned and executed it.
     It is known that the attention of the detectives is devoted to the Socialistic circle at Cleveland, to which the accused belongs. It is also regarded as certain that every man known to have been connected with that organization will be placed under arrest.
     Czolgosz was confronted by several witnesses at the office of the Superintendent of Police, but except in the case of Walter Nowak, who knew him in Cleveland, nothing was learned as to developments of the conference. The prisoner lost much of his self-possession during the visit to the office of the Superintendent of Police, and one of the officers who guarded him said afterward that he lapsed into a preoccupied state of mind and appeared rather dazed. While he was in the room of the Superintendent his revolver was brought in by Capt. Wiser.
     Detective Frank Koehler brought Walter Nowak to Police Headquarters this morning. He is a cigar dealer, and also a Polish newspaper man of Chicago. He says he knows Czolgosz well, and corroborates the statement that the latter was inspired to his cowardly act by Emma Goldman.
     “I knew him in Cleveland,” said Nowak. “He belonged to several secret societies, and one of them was Anarchistic. I think the idea of assassination had been turning in his mind for some time, as that sort of business is what is taught in the society to which he belongs. He is well known in Cleveland, Chicago, and other Western cities, where he has talked his doctrine.”
      Nowak, who is a short, plump man, with an iron-gray mustache, and an intelligent face, has been here for some time seeing the exposition. He has been staying on Broadway, near Fillmore Avenue, not far from where Czolgosz was boarding, but declares he has not seen the assassin during his visit here.
     When taken into the room where Czolgosz was being examined, after glancing at the prisoner, Nowak said he knew him in Cleveland two years ago. At that time Nowak was a reporter on a foreign newspaper, and in common with him and a number of his countrymen Czolgosz formed a social organization that later developed into a Socialistic club. Nowak withdrew from it. He stated that he remembered some of the radical resolutions adopted by the club and brought to him for use in his paper.
     He had always found it necessary to alter them materially to make them proper material for publication. He said that Czolgosz was without sufficient intelligence to plan such a crime as the prisoner had been guilty of.


     After coming from the room where the conference was held Nowak said that Czolgosz advanced toward him with extended hand, but he refused to grasp it, saying: “Scoundrel! Why did you commit this devilish plot? It was not you.”
     “I did,” replied Czolgosz. “I did. I originated the plan. It was my plan. It was my crime.”
     Director General Buchanan and Secret Service Agent Foster called at Police Headquarters shortly after 12 o’clock and were closeted for some time with Superintendent Bull and District Attorney Penny. When they left it was announced that Secretary of War Root had through them made a request for complete secrecy in connection with the investigation of the crime. The District Attorney said:
     “In order that the people shall not be unduly and improperly excited, Secretary Root has asked that this matter be treated as quietly as possible. The making of a hero of this man with certain classes or the bitter condemnation of him will tend to disturb the people, and Mr. Root’s idea is to curb that. We will, therefore, not make public the confession made by the prisoner, nor will we permit any one other than officials or witnesses to see the man. We fully appreciate the force of the suggestion by Mr. Root, and will do all we can to carry it out. There is always an inclination to overplay a man of the character of the prisoner, and we will do what we can to check it in this case. I cannot say when the prisoner will be arraigned. I imagine that we will take no formal action against him until the result of the President’s wounds is known.”