At the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901, Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley twice. Less than two months later, he was executed for the assassination.
President William McKinley was a firm believer in good fortune. He felt that red carnations brought good luck, therefore he wore one to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on September 6, 1901. The president offered the flower to a little girl who asked for it. McKinley was then shot in the abdomen by Leon Czolgosz.
Czolgosz’s success had nothing to do with luck. Czolgosz, an anarchist incensed by inequality in the United States, viewed McKinley as a “enemy of the good people.” McKinley purchased a rail ticket after discovering that he would be attending the Pan-American Exposition. Then he went out and got a rifle.
Leon Czolgosz did more than end McKinley’s life in the end. In addition, he changed the trajectory of American history. Following the president’s death, his 42-year-old vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, was raised to the White House.
Leon Czolgosz’s Decision To Assassinate The President
Leon Czolgosz was born on May 5, 1873, in Detroit, Michigan, to Russian-Polish immigrant parents. He was one of eight children. He worked as a youngster in a glass plant near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and later at a steel mill in Cleveland, Ohio.
Czolgosz’s experiences in Cleveland were pivotal, according to his confession, which was published in the New York Times on September 8, 1901.
Czolgosz believed the system was rigged against the poor because of wage cuts, strikes, and tensions between mill employees and owners. He experimented with socialism and then anarchism.
Then, in May 1901, Leon Czolgosz happened to be present at an anarchist Emma Goldman’s address.
In his confession, he admitted, “I know I was bitter.” “I’ve never had a lot of luck in my life, and this preyed on me.” It made me sad and envious, but what sparked the killing mania was a talk Emma Goldman gave a few years ago… “She lit a fire in me.”
Czolgosz said that Goldman had stated that all rulers should be “exterminated.” This corresponded to Czolgosz’s own indignation over unequal labor conditions and elite authority.
“Her doctrine… made me think so hard that the pain nearly burst my brain,” Czolgosz stated. “Miss Goldman’s comments cut right through me, and by the time I left the lecture, I’d resolved to do something heroic for the cause I cared about.”
There was a casual acquaintance between Goldman and Czolgosz. Other anarchists suspected the socially awkward Czolgosz of being a spy, according to Goldman’s memoir, Living My Life. Fred Nieman (a Polish and German surname that means “nobody”) had introduced himself and aroused suspicion by asking too many questions.
In any case, Leon Czolgosz was the only one who learned that President William McKinley would be in Buffalo in September for the Pan-American Exposition. Czolgosz was the one who chose to confront him there.
William McKinley’s assassination
Leon Czolgosz landed in Buffalo, New York, on August 31, 1901, according to The Buffalo News. President McKinley purchased a.32 caliber Iver Johnson revolver from a local hardware store on Tuesday, Sept. 3, the day before he was scheduled to arrive in Buffalo.
“The decision to shoot the president didn’t take hold of me until Tuesday morning,” Czolgosz subsequently admitted. “It was in my heart; I couldn’t get away.” If my life had been on the line, I would not have been able to overcome it.”
On September 4, Czolgosz and a big crowd waited for President McKinley to arrive at the railway station. Ironically, as McKinley’s train arrived, the first car’s windows were shattered by a 21-shot salute from three cannons intended to welcome his arrival. However, McKinley was unharmed, and Czolgosz was unable to approach him due to the crowd.
Czolgosz tried — and failed — to put his plan into motion during the next two days. On September 6, Czolgosz had his chance when McKinley went to an exposition at the Temple of Music.
As the president made his way through the crowd, shaking hands, the assassin stood in line. He met a 12-year-old girl called Myrtle Ledger, who begged for the red carnation he wore in his lapel for good luck. According to the Tribune Chronicle, McKinley said, “I must offer this blossom to another small flower.”
A few minutes later, McKinley was confronted by Leon Czolgosz, who was holding his gun behind a white handkerchief in his right hand. Though it was customary for people to approach the president with nothing in their hands, McKinley may have assumed that Czolgosz was hiding a disability or that he was holding the handkerchief because it was so hot.
In any case, the president stretched out to shake Czolgosz’s left hand — and was shot twice in the abdomen by Czolgosz.
“I would have fired more,” Czolgosz later said, “but a strike in the face shocked me.”
The blow was delivered by an African-American waiter named James Parker, who reacted to the gunshot faster than McKinley’s guards. According to PBS, as the rest of the throng descended on Czolgosz, McKinley told them not to hurt the “poor foolish fellow.” .
McKinley had been shot twice, once in the stomach and once in the sternum, by Czolgosz. Despite the fact that the sternum wound was superficial, the president died of gangrene on Sept. 14 as a result of the abdomen wound. He died whispering “Nearer, my God, to Thee, Nearer to Thee,” his favorite hymn.
Following the assassination, Leon Czolgosz boasted that he had slain the president in the interests of anarchy. “I’m an anarchist,” says the speaker. When the cops questioned him about his motive, he said, “I am an Emma Goldman devotee.” “Her statements inspired me”
Leon Czolgosz’s Legacies
Following the assassination of William McKinley, Leon Czolgosz was pronounced insane and found guilty of first-degree murder on September 24, 1901. The assassin was sentenced to death two days later, and on Oct. 29, at the age of 28, he was killed in the electric chair.
At his death, Czolgosz claimed, “I killed the President because he was the adversary of the good people – the good working people.” “I am not sorry for my crime,” he continued. I apologize for not being able to see my father.”
Goldman, for one, denied any involvement with Czolgosz while defending his actions.
“I am an anarchist who opposes violence,” she stated. “However, if people wish to eliminate assassins, they must eliminate the conditions that breed killers.”
Czolgosz, like any other presidential assassin, made an indelible effect on American history. He ended William McKinley’s second term and installed his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, in the White House.
Roosevelt would go on to modernize and enlarge the American presidency, conserve millions of acres of land, and lead the country with a foreign policy of “speaking softly and carrying a big stick.”
Leon Czolgosz did more than assassinate William McKinley in September 1901 in this way. In addition, the assassin permanently altered the trajectory of American history, ushering the country into the twentieth century.
- Miller, Scott (2011). The President and the Assassin. New York: Random House. ISBN978-1-4000-6752-7.
- “Assassin Known…” & September 8, 1901, col. 1 para. 8.
- Vowell, Sarah (2005). Assassination Vacation. New York City: Simon and Schuster. p. 214. ISBN978-0-7432-8253-6.
Fired, then blacklisted, he got his old job back by working under the alias Fred Nieman. German for ‘nobody,’ Nieman is the name Czolgosz first gave to the Buffalo police upon arrest.
- “The Tragedy at Buffalo”.