Immediately after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, a great number of books appeared on the shelves turning the dead president into a martyr and turning a quick buck for the authors. I recently came across a beat up old book in a second hand bookstore that had been cranked out immediately after the assassination of President McKinley in 1901.
The book was definitely a rush job, padded with photographs and purple prose. McKinley was shot twice in the chest on September 6, 1901. He was expected to recover, but died from gangrene on September 14. When the book was published the assassin was still living. The author suggested he be kept alive as an example. No one listened to him and the assassin was electrocuted on October 29 of that same year.
Anarchism was the Terrorism of McKinley’s day. Teddy Roosevelt, a few years before becoming president upon McKinley's death, said anarchism was the main problem in the country. Anarchism is a philosophy that rejects the authority of the state. Pure communism or libertarianism are synonymous with it. Anarchists will use evolutionary change when they can. Otherwise violent revolution will be their tactic.
McKinley's assassin was Leon Czolgosz (CHOL-gosh), the son of Polish immigrants. Czolgosz was born in Michigan and came of age during the Depression of 1893. He lost his job as a steelworker and joined a socialist club, taking an interest in anarchism. He became a fan of the popular anarchist Emma Goldman. When he tried to befriend Goldman, she and her group were put off by his odd behavior and thought he was an infiltrator.
Czolgosz was rebuffed by other anarchist groups and decided to work alone after being inspired by the assassination of the Italian king by a lone gunman in 1900. Czolgosz bought a revolver and headed to Buffalo in early September, 1901, where McKinley would be speaking at the Pan-American Exposition. Czolgosz attended McKinley's speech on September 5, but was not able to get close enough to the president.
The next day Czolgosz joined the line that was shaking hands with McKinley. Czolgosz carried his pistol wrapped in a handkerchief as though his hand was injured. This might have alerted the security detail, but the man ahead of Czolgosz in line was a dark-skinned Italian who got most of the guards' attention. As McKinley took his hand, Czolgosz fired two bullets into McKinley's chest. The crowd set upon Czolgosz and probably would have killed him if McKinley had not ordered his guards to protect him.
McKinley lingered another eight days. The surgeon was unable to find the second bullet. There were no antibiotics then to fight the infection growing in the president's abdomen. McKinley had been a popular president. Prosperity had returned to the country during his first term and there was an outpouring of grief at his death on September 14.
Czolgoz pleaded guilty and refused to cooperate with his lawyer. His trial was swift and despite obvious signs of insanity, he was condemned to death and electrocuted on October 19. The old book about the assassination has no personal information about Czolgosz. That would only come out in the following months. The author of the book has to content himself with describing Czolgosz as a "damnable assassin," a "murderer by profession," and "a hissing serpent in the weeds." Correction, that last was the author's description of the assassin of President Garfield in 1881. John Wilkes Booth was simply a "madman." All three assassins were "bloody miscreants."
The last eight pages of the book are ruled blank pages which I thought were for notes, but were actually a form for ordering additional copies, "bound in extra SILK CLOTH, inlaid Photographs. RETAIL PRICE ONLY . . $1.50. I only had to pay a dollar for my copy.
|From "Illustrious Life of William McKinley"|