William McKinley assassination occurred on September 6, 1901, at the
Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York.
United States President William McKinley, attending the Pan-American Exposition, was shot
twice by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist.
McKinley initially appeared to be recovering from his wounds, but
took a turn for the worse six days after the shooting and died on
, 1901. Theodore Roosevelt
succeeded McKinley as
President. McKinley was the third of four U.S.
presidents to be assassinated, following Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and James
A. Garfield in
1881 and preceding John F.
Kennedy in 1963.
After McKinley's murder, Congress
would officially charge the
physical protection of U.S. presidents.
McKinley at the Exposition
McKinley and his wife Ida
arrived at the Exposition on September 5th, which had been
designated as "President's Day" in his honor. Events scheduled for
that day included private receptions and a military review as well
as a speech to be given by McKinley.
morning of the 6th, McKinley visited Niagara Falls and returned to the Exposition for a scheduled
public reception that afternoon.
His secretary, George B. Cortelyou
, disliked such public
receptions, believing them to be security risks. Cortelyou
suggested that McKinley should skip the reception, but McKinley
replied, "Why should I? No one would wish to hurt me." McKinley,
accompanied by Cortelyou and Exposition president John Milburn,
arrived at the Exposition at 3:30 p.m. and proceeded to the Temple
of Music building where the reception was to take place.
In 1901 the U.S.
in 1865 to combat counterfeiting
not officially responsible for the protection of American
presidents. However, the Secret Service had already provided
informal, occasional security since 1894, starting with McKinley's
predecessor Grover Cleveland
Secret Service was there that day to protect the President, along
with Buffalo detectives and a squad of eleven Army
servicemen that had been instructed
to keep an eye on the crowd. McKinley, flanked by Cortelyou and
Milburn, stood and shook hands with the people filing by in a long
line. Waiting in that line was Leon
Leon Czolgosz mugshot, from the day
after the shooting.
was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1873, the son of Polish
James Parker, circa 1884
He was an unemployed factory worker and was
living with his family in 1901. Czolgosz became interested in
in the years preceding the
McKinley murder. In May 1901 he attended a speech given by
anarchist leader Emma Goldman, in
traveled to Goldman's home in Chicago on July 12
and spoke briefly to Goldman before she left to catch a
Goldman was later arrested and briefly detained on
suspicion of involvement in McKinley's murder.
In his September 7 statement, Czolgosz said that he had read eight
days prior, in Chicago, that McKinley would be attending the
Exposition. He immediately took a train to Buffalo and found
lodgings in a boarding house. Czolgosz attended the fair on
September 5 for President's Day and heard McKinley's speech. He was
tempted to shoot the President then but he could not get close
enough. Instead, he returned to the Exposition the next day.
Goldman's speech from May was still "burning [him] up". He joined
the line of people waiting to shake the president's hand. Czolgosz
wrapped his hand in a white handkerchief to hide the gun he was
carrying. Secret Serviceman George Foster later explained his
failure to observe Czolgosz's wrapped-up hand by saying that
Czolgosz was too closely bunched up to the man in front of him.
However, at the trial, Foster would also admit to not noticing
Czolgosz because he was paying close attention to James Parker, a
six-foot six inch black waiter from Atlanta laid-off by the
exposition's Plaza Restaurant, who was standing immediately behind
Temple of Music at night, photograph,
McKinley had been shaking hands for approximately ten minutes when
Cortelyou left his side to shut the doors. William J. Gomph, the
exposition's official organ
, was softly
on the massive organ that was
a special attraction at the Temple of Music. At this moment, 4:07
p.m. Czolgosz advanced to face the President. McKinley reached out
to take Czolgosz's "bandaged" hand, but before he could shake it
Czolgosz pulled the trigger twice. James Parker punched Czolgosz in
the face and tackled him, knocking the gun from Czolgosz's hand.
Agent George Foster jumped onto Czolgosz and shouted to fellow
agent Albert Gallagher "Al, get the gun! Get the gun! Al, get the
gun!" Gallagher instead got Czolgosz's handkerchief, which was on
fire. Private Francis O'Brien, of McKinley's Army detail, picked up
Scene of the shooting inside the
Temple of Music.
Spot where McKinley was shot marked with an X.
McKinley remained standing while security dragged Czolgosz away.
After someone hit Czolgosz again, McKinley cried out "Don't let
them hurt him!" Eleven minutes after the shooting an ambulance
arrived and McKinley was taken to the hospital on the Exposition
grounds. He had been shot twice. One bullet deflected off his ribs,
making only a superficial wound. However, the second bullet hit
McKinley in the abdomen
, passed completely
through his stomach
, hit his kidney
, damaged his pancreas
and lodged somewhere in the muscles of his back.
The doctors, unable to find the bullet, left it in his body and
closed up the wound. An experimental X-ray
machine, which might have helped to find the bullet, was on hand at
the exhibition, but for reasons that remain unclear it was not
used. (In the following days Thomas
would arrange for an X-ray machine to be delivered all
the way from his shop in New Jersey, but it was never used either).
McKinley, still unconscious from the ether
used to sedate him, was taken to John Milburn's home to
Death of the President
Milburn residence, where McKinley
Czolgosz confessed everything that night stating, "I killed
President McKinley because I done my duty. I didn't believe one man
should have so much service and another man should have none." He
provided more detail the next day, insisting that he acted alone,
although his statement did not prevent Goldman's arrest a few days
Contrary to Czolgosz's assertion that he had killed the President,
McKinley not only was still alive, but seemed to be recovering. On
Saturday, September 7th, McKinley was in good condition, relaxed
and conversational. His wife was allowed to see him, and he asked
Cortelyou, "How did they like my speech?" A bulletin sent from his
sickbed on September 8 said, "The President passed a good night and
his condition this morning is quite encouraging. His mind is clear
and he is resting well. Wound dressed at 8:30 and found in a very
Most of McKinley's cabinet came to Buffalo, as well as his old
friend and former campaign manager, Senator Mark Hanna
. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was attending a
luncheon event in Vermont on September
6 when word came that the President had been shot.
and his party left immediately for Buffalo, arriving the next day.
However, by September 10, McKinley had improved to the point that
Roosevelt's presence no longer seemed necessary, and, for the sake
of publicity, the Vice President left Buffalo that day. He went to
take a hiking vacation in the Adirondack Mountains
, where his wife
and family were already waiting. Similarly, Mark Hanna and the
cabinet members left Buffalo when the crisis seemed to have
The President continued to improve. A bulletin on September 9
stated, "The President's condition is becoming more and more
satisfactory. Untoward incidents are less likely to occur." On
September 10 a bulletin stated, "The President's condition this
morning is eminently satisfactory to his physicians. If no
complications arise a rapid convalescence may be expected."
McKinley continued to take water orally and nutritive enemas
. On September 11, the President took beef juice
orally, the first food he'd taken in the stomach since the
shooting. Bulletins said "continues to gain" and "condition
continues favorably." On September 12, McKinley had his first solid
food, some toast and egg with coffee, but he "did not relish it and
ate very little."Later that day, the President's condition began to
worsen. He reported headache and nausea and his pulse rate
increased, rapid but weak. McKinley became sweaty and restless,
although he remained conscious and alert. A bulletin on the morning
of September 13 said, "The President's condition is very serious,
and gives rise to the gravest apprehension." That day, Friday,
September 13, McKinley began rapidly deteriorating. Hanna and the
cabinet returned to the Milburn house. McKinley was given
adrenaline and oxygen in attempts to improve his weak pulse. His
condition worsening, McKinley told his doctors, “It is useless,
gentlemen, I think we ought to have prayer.” Later, as he faded,
McKinley whispered the words to the hymn, "Nearer, My God, to Thee
." A bulletin
at 6:15 p.m. said, "The President's physicians report that his
condition is most serious in spite of vigorous stimulation...
unless it can be relieved the end is only a question of
Senator Hanna, grief stricken, said "Mr. President, can't you hear
me? William! Don't you know me?" President McKinley, brought down
by infection and gangrene, died at 2:15 a.m. on September 14,
Roosevelt succeeds to the Presidency
September 12, Theodore Roosevelt
and his family arrived at their cabin on the 5,344-feet-high
Newspaper sketch of Theodore
Roosevelt's inauguration, minus the customary Bible.
The next morning, a cold, foggy day,
Roosevelt left for a climb to the top of the mountain, accompanied
by a couple of his friends and a park ranger. By noon on September
13, the Vice President and his party stopped to rest at the summit
on a large flat rock that offered a panoramic view of the
mountains. They climbed back down five hundred feet to have lunch
by a lake. At about 1:30, a park ranger arrived, running, bearing a
telegram. Roosevelt understood as soon as he saw the messenger what
had happened, saying later: "I instinctively knew he had bad
news... I wanted to become President, but I did not want to become
President that way."
Theodore Roosevelt's cabin on Mount
The telegram confirmed his fears, reporting that McKinley's
condition had turned very much for the worse. After returning to
his cabin, Roosevelt received a dire telegram from Secretary of War Elihu Root
THE PRESIDENT APPEARS TO BE DYING AND MEMBERS OF THE CABINET IN
BUFFALO THINK YOU SHOULD LOSE NO TIME COMING
Just before midnight, Roosevelt left his family for a carriage ride
down Mount Marcy, a trip that even in daylight usually took seven
hours. At 3:30 a.m. Roosevelt boarded another wagon and continued
the long, twisting ride down the mountain at high speed in the
hours later, Roosevelt finally arrived at the train station in
New York, where, at 5:22 a.m. on September 14, he received a
telegram from Secretary
of State John Hay:
THE PRESIDENT DIED AT TWO-FIFTEEN THIS MORNING
Roosevelt then boarded the train. The train stopped briefly in Albany before pulling into Buffalo at 1:30 p.m.
There he met his friend Ansley Wilcox and went to Wilcox's house,
one mile from Milburn's house where McKinley's body lay. After
cleaning up, Roosevelt went to the Milburn house to pay his
respects. He met with Mrs. McKinley, Root, Cortelyou, and most of
the rest of the cabinet
but could not see McKinley's body as the autopsy was underway. Root
recommended holding the ceremony there, but Roosevelt thought that
"inappropriate" and decided to return to the Wilcox house for the
swearing-in ceremony. Roosevelt took the oath of
as the 26th President of the United States at 3:30 p.m.
Six weeks away from his 43rd birthday, he was and still is the
youngest man ever to hold the office of President.
incurred a great deal of
negative publicity when she published an article in which she
compared Czolgosz to Marcus Junius
, the killer of Julius
, and called McKinley the "president of the money kings
and trust magnates." Some other anarchist
and radicals were unwilling to help Goldman's effort to aid
Czolgosz, believing that he had harmed the movement.
Czolgosz went on trial on September 23, 1901, only nine days after
the President died. Prosecution testimony took two days and
consisted of the doctors who treated McKinley and various
eyewitnesses to the shooting. Defense counsel Loran Lewis did not
call any witnesses. In his statement to the jury, Lewis noted
Czolgosz's refusal to talk to his lawyers or cooperate with them,
admitted his client's guilt, and said that "the only question that
can be discussed or considered in this case is... whether that act
was that of a sane person. If it was, then the defendant is guilty
of the murder... If it was the act of an insane man, then he is not
guilty of murder but should be acquitted of that charge and would
then be confined in a lunatic asylum."
The jury took only half an hour to convict Czolgosz. On September
26, Czolgosz was sentenced to death. He was immediately
taken to Auburn State Prison to await execution.
According to one
account, Czolgosz expressed remorse, saying, "I wish the people to
know I am sorry for what I did. It was a mistake and it was wrong.
If I had it to do over again I never would do it. But it is too
late now to talk of that. I am sorry I killed the President."
Czolgosz was executed by means of electrocution
on October 29, 1901. However
elsewhere his last words are reported as, "I killed the President
because he was the enemy of the good people the good working
people. I am not sorry for my crime."
After McKinley's murder, Congress took up the question of
Presidential security. In the fall of 1901 they informally asked
the Secret Service to control presidential security, and the
Service was protecting President Theodore Roosevelt full-time by
1902. However, this was not yet official. Some in Congress
recommended the United States
be charged with protecting the President. Not until 1906
did the Congress pass legislation officially designating the Secret
Service as the agency in charge of presidential security.
The Temple of Music
in late 1901 and the grounds of the Pan American Exposition were
cleared for residential development. A boulder with a metal plaque
marks the location where McKinley was shot. The Milburn house at
1168 Delaware Avenue, where McKinley died, was turned into an
apartment building in 1919 and later demolished in 1956 in order to
create an additional parking lot for Canisius
Students of the school watched the
demolition from their classroom windows. The Ansley
in Buffalo, where Theodore Roosevelt took the
oath of office, is now a National Historic Site. In 1907, Buffalo
dedicated a 96-foot-tall marble obelisk in Niagara Square
to McKinley's memory.
The assassination site as it appears
Order of exercises, Nashua, N.H.
- "Images of President McKinley at the Pan-American
- "Official Daily Program of the Pan-American
Exposition, Sept. 5, 1901"
- "William McKinley's Pan-American Address"
- Olcott, Charles. The Life of William McKinley. Houghton Mifflin
company, Boston, 1916, p. 313
- Olcott, 314
- Olcott 314
- Bumgarner, Jeffrey. Federal Agents: The Growth of Federal
Law Enforcement in America. Greenwood Press, 2006, ISBN
0275989534, p. 44
- Olcott 314–5
- Goldman, Emma. Living My Life. New York: Courier
Dover, 1970 edition. ISBN 0486225437, pp. 289–91
- New York Times, Sept. 11, 1901
- Goldman 296–304
- New York Times, Sept. 8, 1901
- Townsend, G.W. Memorial Life of William McKinley. 1901, p.
- Rauchway 61
- Olcott 317
- Olcott 315
- "James B. Parker Revisited"
- "Big Ben Parker and President McKinley's
- Rauchway 62–3
- Townsend 464
- "The Trial"
- Olcott 316
- The Official Report on the Case of President
- Kevles, Bettyann. Naked to the Bone: Medical Imaging in the
Twentieth Century. Basic Books, 1998. ISBN 020132833X. p.
- X-rays at the Exhibition
- Olcott 319
- "The Confession of Leon Czolgosz"
- Olcott 320
- "Medical and Surgical Report" by Dr. Presley M.
- Olcott 321
Morris, The Rise of Theodore
Roosevelt, Modern Library 2001 paperback edition, ISBN
0375756787, p. 777
- Morris, Rise, 778
- Olcott 322
- "Medical and Surgical Report" by Dr. Presley M.
- Olcott 323
- Olcott 324
- Olcott 325
- Beschloss, Michael. Presidential
Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America 1789-1989.
Simon and Schuster, 2007, p. 128. ISBN 0684857057.
- Morris, Rise, 779
- Morris, Rise, 780
- Morris, Rise, 889, endnote 16
Morris, Theodore Rex, Random House, 2001.
ISBN 0394555090, p. 3
- Morris, Rex, 4–6
- Morris, Rex, 7
- Morris, Rex, 9–11
- Morris, Rex, 11–15
- "The Tragedy at Buffalo"
- Goldman 311–319
- "The Execution of Leon Czolgosz"
- "Regrets His Crime"
- Bumgarner 45
- Bumgarner 46
- History of the Secret Service
- Buffalo Historical Markers and Monuments
- John Milburn
- Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic
- Buffalo Arts Commission - City of Buffalo
- McKinley Monument
- Fisher, Jack C. Stolen glory : the McKinley
assassination. La Jolla, CA : Alamar Books, ©2001
- Johns, A. Wesley. The man who shot McKinley. South
Brunswick [N.J.]: A.S. Barnes 
- Lowy, Jonathan. The Temple of Music: A Novel. Three
Rivers Press, 2005. ISBN 0307209849. A novel of the
- Rauchway, Eric. Murdering Mckinley: The Making of Theodore
Roosevelt's America. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2004. ISBN