Publication information
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Source: Sunday News
Source type: newspaper
Document type: article
Document title: “The Poisoned Bullet Theory”
Author(s): anonymous
City of publication: Charleston, South Carolina
Date of publication: 15 September 1901
Volume number: none
Issue number: none
Pagination: 2

“The Poisoned Bullet Theory.” Sunday News 15 Sept. 1901: p. 2.
full text
McKinley assassination (poison bullet theory); Eugene Wasdin (public statements); Roswell Park (public statements).
Named persons
William S. Bull; Leon Czolgosz [misspelled below]; Matthew D. Mann; William McKinley; Herman Mynter; Roswell Park; Thomas Penney; Eugene Wasdin.


The Poisoned Bullet Theory


Dr Wasdin, Alone of All the Doctors Employed in the Case, Maintains
That the Bullets Were Poisoned.

     Buffalo, N. Y., September 14.—Immediately after President McKinley had been shot rumors were rife that, acting under a general order of Anarchy, the assassin had probably poisoned the bullets. The early days of splendid improvement in the patient’s condition dispelled these rumors, but they were renewed when the final collapse began. This morning they found their way into the autopsy room and when the gangrenous condition of the tissues in the course of the bullet was discovered discussion was had as to whether or not the assassin had used poison to make more complete his deadly work.
     Of the doctors who have attended President McKinley through his struggle for life and who were at the autopsy this morning but one can be found who positively states it as his belief that the bullet of the murderer was poisoned. This doctor is Eugene Wasdin, an expert in yellow fever cases, who has lately made this city his home and who is familiar with the action of poisons in the human body. Dr Wasdin’s opinion during the progress of the case was much valued by the other physicians and his theory as to the poisonous matter upon the bullet is herewith given:
     “The breastbone wound showed a big impact. Still the area of infiltration of sub-cutaneous tissue was entirely too extensive to be accounted for from contusion or the force of the bullet. The sub-cutaneous tissues were in a partially gangrenous condition. The bullet that went into the abdomen and penetrated the stomach also was followed by extensive necrosis of tissue or gangrene wherever it passed. The skin wound on the point of entrance was livid gangrenous, and this process extended to the entire line of incision made by the surgeons through the abdominal wall. The point of entrance into the stomach was necrotic or gangrenous. The sutures made by the surgeons were still intact in the autopsy, but the line of sutures was surrounded by a necrotic area through the entire thickness of the stomach wall and extending on all sides about one and one-half or two inches. The same is true of the wounds of exit of the bullet on the posterior wall of the stomach, which was also still closed by sutures in the centre of an extensive area of necrosis. The farther passage of the bullet through the soft tissues of the back, where it became imbedded, were also surrounded by necrotic area. These different necrotic areas all had the same appearance as to time of duration—that is, they were due to the same influence acting at the same time. These conditions show that there has been an influence by the passing bullets through these tissues entirely dissimilar to that influence exerted by an ordinary missile. In this case there was no appearance of a single effort at natural repair at any point along the track of the bullet.
     “The influence I speak of might be either bacterial—the microbe being carried in on the bullet and giving rise to a growth of bacteria in the abdominal cavity with resulting peritonitis and possible abscess—or, in the case of some rare germs, to necrosis of tissue. From bacteriological observations made thus far this does not seem to be the case. There was no peritonitis or pus formations at any point within the abdominal cavity, only the gangrenous influence from the bullet, which from these facts I believe to have been due to some possible organic poison placed on the bullet. Further bacteriological tests are in process and possibly a germ capable of giving rise to this gangrenous condition of tissues may be found. But the presence of gangrene only at the passage of the wounds, and the length of time—seven days—required for the necrotic or gangrenous changes either, convince me that it is not a bacteriological influence, but must be due to some organic poison.
     “Tests were made of gangrenous material when the stitches in the President’s wound were removed and the wound redressed. We have not shown as yet the passage of a gangrene-producing organism, lending inferentially to the opinion that the bullet was coated with some poisonous substance.”
     Dr Roswell Park, when asked as to the likelihood of the bullet being poisoned, said:
     “I do not think that the bullet was poisoned.”
     “How, then, do you explain the gangrenous conditions?”
     “I fail to subscribe to the theory that the bullet was poisoned, for the simple reason that I have elsewhere and often seen bullet wounds similar to those sustained by the President, and I have seen conditions similar to those which resulted in the President’s death where no question of ‘poisoned bullets’ was raised.”
     Dr Herman Mynter poo-hooed the idea that the bullet was poisoned.
     Dr Mann did not know whether the bullet was poisoned or not, and said it would be difficult to determine.
     Superintendent Bull said to-night regarding the poisoned bullet theory that nothing had been done to investigate it, but that the police would begin work on it immediately. He said that the cartridges had not yet been removed from Czolgocz’s pistol. It is still in exactly the condition it was when it was wrenched from the hand of the prisoner.
     The city chemist will probably be asked by District Attorney Penney to make a chemical analysis, and it is also probable that an analysis will be made by other chemists and bacteriologists.



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