Publication information

Philadelphia Record
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “Czolgosz’s Body Dissected and Buried in Acid”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of publication: 30 October 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: 10832
Pagination: 1, 3

“Czolgosz’s Body Dissected and Buried in Acid.” Philadelphia Record 30 Oct. 1901 n10832: pp. 1, 3.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (autopsy); Leon Czolgosz (medical condition); Leon Czolgosz (disposal of remains); Leon Czolgosz (incarceration: Auburn, NY); Leon Czolgosz (execution); Leon Czolgosz (last words).
Named persons
Cornelius V. Collins; Leon Czolgosz; Edwin F. Davis; John Gerin; Carlos F. MacDonald [misspelled twice below]; William McKinley; J. Warren Mead; Edward A. Spitzka; Walter N. Thayer.

Czolgosz’s Body Dissected and Buried in Acid


Autopsy Showed That the Assassin’s Brain Was Healthy.
A Carboy of Vitriol and Half a Dozen Barrels of Quicklime Poured Over the
Remains to Destroy Them.
Assassin Declared He Killed President McKinley to Benefit the Good
Working People—Wanted to Make Longer Speech.

Special to “The Record.”
     Auburn, N. Y., Oct. 29.—Within an hour after he was killed in the electric chair the body of Leon F. Czolgosz, the assassin of President McKinley, was placed on a table in the jail office and the autopsy was begun.
     Naturally almost the entire attention of the surgeons was directed towards discovering, if possible, whether the assassin was in any way mentally irresponsible. The autopsy was conducted by Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, E. A. Spitzka and Prison Physician Gerin.
     The top of the head was sawed off through the thickest part of the skull, which was found to be of normal thickness, and it was the unanimous agreement of the microscopical examination that the brain was normal or slightly above normal. This demonstrated to the satisfaction of the physicians that in no way was Czolgosz’s mental condition, except as it might have been perverted, responsible for the crime.
     The autopsy was completed shortly before noon, when the surgeons issued the following brief statement:


     The autopsy was made by Mr. Edward A. Spitzka, of New York, under the immediate supervision and direction of Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, of New York, and Dr. John Gerin, prison physician. The autopsy occupied over three hours, and embraced a careful examination of all the bodily organs, including the brain. The examination revealed a perfectly healthy state of all the organs, including the brain.
     All of the physicians who attended the execution were present at the autopsy, and all concurred in the findings of the examiners.


     A lengthy report, prepared this afternoon by the autopsy surgeons, related entirely to the brain and was of a highly technical character. After scientifically describing to the minutest detail the brain of the dead murderer, the report concludes as follows:
     “No anomalies found. The brain in general is well developed, sufficiently marked with fissures and the lobes are in normal proportion.”


     At 12.30 o’clock a dray, drawn by two horses, backed up to the death house and the pine box, six feet long, was taken from it and carried to the autopsy room. The nude body of the assassin, which had been put together again, was placed in it and the cover nailed down. It was placed on the dray with several barrels and boxes. The barrels contained quicklime. One of the boxes held a carboy of vitriol. The prison officials had decided to bury the body without delay and to subject it to chemical treatment. Several days before they had decided that quicklime would accomplish the desired results of disintegration. Not being familiar with the action of quicklime on flesh, they had made an experiment with a piece of beef, placing a large chunk of it in a cauldron with quicklime. It was found this morning that the lime did not disintegrate the flesh as rapidly as was desired. It was then decided to supplement the lime with vitriol.

     As the dray drove through the courtyard, at 10 o’clock, groups of prisoners were going to their stations. They all knew that the assassin had been put to death, and one group of convicts who saw the wagon depart sent up a cheer and were not admonished for so doing. The dray lumbered through the streets and over the road to the narrow lot adjoining the Fort Hill Cemetery. It is separated from the cemetery. The nearest building to it is a modest dwelling, occupied by a family by the name of O’Flaherty. When the O’Flaherty’s [sic] learned that the assassin’s body was to be planted within 30 feet of their dwelling they set up a vigorous protest.
     Even before the dray with the assassin’s body came a hole eight feet deep, eight long and four wide had been dug in the centre of the lot. When the dray pulled in through the inclosure there were about 100 people gathered around the dray. The guard compelled them to withdraw to the street and then they made short and expeditious work of the ceremony of burying the assassin. The box containing his body was taken from the dray and lowered into the hole. The heads of six barrels containing quicklime were knocked in and the lime dumped on top of the box.


     Three or four armsful of straw were thrown on top of the lime and the carboy containing the vitriol was brought. Two of the guards pulled the stopper from the carboy and tilted it over the hole. Instantly there arose a great volume of vapor, thick and of an opaque whiteness. The column of vapor mounted high in the air and rolled off with the wind. As soon as the carboy had been emptied the laborers began to shovel in the dirt on top of the mass below, and soon the vapor was cut off and a fresh mound of earth upon which a few sods were thrown was the only thing to indicate the whereabouts of all that is mortal of the slayer of President McKinley.
     It is the belief of the physicians that the body will be entirely disintegrated within 12 hours. During that time and as long as deemed necessary a guard will be kept over the unmarked grave.


     The assassin was put to death between 7.10 and 7.15 o’clock this morning.
     At 6.30 o’clock the condemned man sent for the warden, and he went down with Superintendent Collins. The following conversation took place between them and Czolgosz:
     “I want to make a statement,” said Czolgosz.
     “Well, make it,” said the warden.
     “But I want more people to hear it.”
     “You won’t have any more here,” was Superintendent Collins’ comment. “If you wait until you get into the death chamber you won’t have time to say anything.”
     Czolgosz’s answer was a negative. The [1][3] poor fool wanted an audience to gratify his morbid vanity, and an audience he would have if he had to curtail his remarks.
     When this little incident became known, the haste with which the guards hurried Czolgosz from the cell to the chair was accounted for. He was not to have any more time for his mouthings than could be helped.
     Before the warden left his cell for the last time Czolgosz asked if he could not see his brother, for the first time manifesting any interest in his family.
     “No,” replied the warden; “he said farewell to you last night; that must do.”


     Shortly after that the guards gave him the clothing he was to wear in the chair and he put it on. The trousers, dark gray, of some fustian or shoddy material, were those he wore when he was brought to Auburn. The shirt, of cheap gray flannel, was bought last night outside the prison. Gray prison socks and prison shoes were furnished, but no underclothing was given him. The shirt was left open at the throat, and the right leg of the trousers was split from the knee to ankle. Czolgosz did not talk during the last few minutes in his cell.
     As soon as the execution party reached the death chamber four guards were sent to Czolgosz’s cell. They had opened the door and were standing outside when the warden went, at 7.10 o’clock, to the door leading from the death chamber to the inner corridor and signaled for the prisoner to be brought in.
     The clothing and personal effects of the assassin were burned under the direction of Warden Mead soon after the execution.


     There was silence in the room, broken only by the sound of splashing water as a final dip was given to the electrodes, when Czolgosz strode in, and, pushed by the guards, plunged forward to the chair, stumbling on the edge of the rubber mat and tripping over the leg anklets because he was not looking where he was going, but had his eyes on the spectators. No one but the prison officers knew that he meditated a speech, and when his lips began to move and sounds came from them everyone was startled. Czolgosz’s face, which had been very flushed when he came in, and in which his eyes glittered with dilated pupils, turned pale as he was pushed back in the chair under the pressure of the straps, which were quickly passed across his body and arms, and all the while he spoke and tried to speak the pallor deeepened [sic]. At the end he was ghastly white.


     His jaws could be seen working several seconds before a sound came through his parted lips. The guards and electricians who were affixing the straps quickened their efforts. Suddenly Czolgosz’s voice came to him and he said:
     “I shot the President.” There was a mumble and then: “I die because I thought it would benefit the good people—the good working people.”
     Again the voice failed and what followed sounded like “abomination,” but was probably “of all nations.”
     “I am not sorry for my crime,” he ejaculated fiercely.
     Nothing more came from the death chair for a minute. Its occupant was now firmly fastened in the leather mask, and the strap, which covers all the face but the nose and binds the head by the forehead and chin firmly to the rubber pad at the back, had been adjusted, and Czolgosz’s life was no longer counted by minutes, but by seconds. As the head electrode was being affixed by Electrician Davis and the leg electrode by Assistant Thayer, the assassin said:


     “I am awfully sorry I could not see my father. That’s all.”
     The warden, who was standing to the right of the chair, and not far from the door of the electrician’s closet, now raised his arm as a signal to Davis to get ready. Davis signaled to the dynamo room, and, when he nodded that all was ready the warden’s arm fell to his side. Instantly Davis threw his lever over, and as instantly something seemed to shake Czolgosz. It struck in with a sound that will never be forgotten by those who have witnessed such an execution—the sound of a blow struck with irresistible force on more than living tissue—on life itself. The assassin’s body seemed to shrink as the current passed through it. Every muscle was contracted. The fingers dug at the hard wood. Some of the spectators gasped.
     It was 7.12½ o’clock when the current of eight amperes was first turned on at 1700 volts. Davis held it there for about ten seconds, and several seconds before the tenth Czolgosz was probably dead.


     Davis reduced the current to 200 volts, and held it there until 7.13, when he turned it on again full, and the body, which had relaxed imperceptibly, was convulsed again. The second full force was to expel the air from the lungs, and the dead man’s chest did seem to heave and fall as though a sigh escaped. The current was down to 200 volts again at 7.13½ o’clock, when Drs. McDonald and Gerin stepped forward and made a rapid examination of the body, feeling the pulses in the neck and wrist and listening for heart-beats. They found no sign of life, but suggested another shock for safety’s sake, and once more, at 7.14, the full current was slung through the body. A few seconds later Davis shut the current off altogether.
     Drs. McDonald and Gerin applied the stethoscope, and agreed at 7.15 o’clock that Czolgosz was certainly dead. At their invitation all the other physicians present came forward and satisfied themselves that this was so.