Tuesday, September 5, 2023

September 5, 1901 - McKinley's Tragic Day

His Last speech on Sept. 5 1901
 MR. McKINLEY was never in a more buoyant mood than on his Buffalo trip. This was marked by all who saw him. He had the springy step of light-heartedness and the receptive, merry eye of appreciation—appreciation of the welcome that he got and of the attention shown him. His temperament was somewhat mercurial. Depression he usually concealed, but elation he did not attempt to hide and at the exposition he found much to please him. There was the friendliness of the people and the general tenor of good feeling about the city which, with a grace seldom seen, was expressed in both the Democratic and Republican newspapers.

     The visit was singularly free from all party bickering, and no petty personality, such as frequently obtrudes, dared show itself. The exposition had not been getting the crowds that were wanted and had looked forward to President's Day to pull it a good ways from the financial hole it was in. That day, September 5th, had been a good one. It had broken the record for attendance, and the speech of the President, long considered and marking an epoch in the history of the Republican party and in the political career of Mr. McKinley himself, had been well received, just as his diplomatic foresight had hoped it would. The public reception in the afternoon, with its half hour of deadening strain, was before, but the President always welcomed such opportunities for meeting the mass of the people. He liked the contact and believed that the close sight they got of the Executive's person was a simple gratification due them. Besides, it was a part of his political policy to meet and greet the public on friendly terms. 

  His hand clasp was known as the most cordial at such receptions that any public man had shown in Washington in a generation. He was peculiarly positive in his clasp, giving the other fully as much of sincerity as was given—usually more, because curiosity prompts much of the attendance at these functions and curiosity is an impersonal thing at best, and sometimes an inhuman one. He fairly pulled the line along at the rate of 125 persons every minute. He tried always to utter some kindly word and usually gave a smile, so that he made a very personal affair of the meeting.        

Government Building
At the Nashville Exposition, in 1897, the Secretary of War, seeing the great fatigue of the President, ordered the door closed on a waiting crowd. 'The order was immediately countermanded by the superior authority of the President. He would brook nothing of the kind and insisted on treating the people generously. At Buffalo, on the afternoon of President's Day, there was a private reception to some 1500 in the Government Building. There, after a fatiguing forenoon the President found no difficulty in meeting the strain for twenty minutes. It was noticed, however, that it required some effort which, though concealed, was apparent to close observers, to carry him through the line of invited guests. This fatigue had disappeared on Friday, after a good night's rest and with a pleasant day ahead. In the morning, at 7 o'clock, before breakfast, he left the house of Mr. Milburn, where he was staying, for his usual walk. It took him, entirely unattended and carelessly playful in his enjoyment of the wonderful crisp September atmosphere, through several blocks of Delaware, the most beautiful avenue in Buffalo, a city of beautiful avenues.

    The Milburn home is in a locality almost deserted at that early hour. An assassin might have shot him down thus with ease, but there would have been no scene then, merely the motive for a drama. Delaware Avenue, in the morning of such a day, is ecstatically oppressive with its beauty, and no doubt the President lingered over it fondly, without the crowds, the jostle, the crush. He was gone twenty minutes, then he went to breakfast and then to the exposition.

Mrs. McKinley
        Mrs. McKinley was with him. Her presence and her continued good feeling were the source of much gratification to the President. She had been with him conspicuously throughout the trip, and had had applause two to one, at times, to his. Another essential factor in the propitious character of the trip was the weather. It was fair throughout. The day of the speech and of the great crowds had been hot—almost oppressive with its sticky mid-summer humidity. Then came one of those cool, cynical-clear, Minerva-like nights that occur in the early fall in salubrious Buffalo. It followed a day whose low-drawn languor moved with soft dalliance through the flexible humors of sensitive persons. The sun rose in a mist on the morning of the tragic day and it came up red—a blood red—in a gauze of filmiest cloud that melted away before the forenoon was well advanced. Afternoon found everything sultry and enervating, a day that took the starch from women's clothes and the energy from men's bodies. The exposition ambulance picked up three cases of heat prostration before 3 o'clock. It was a real mid-summer day, such as reminds men on the fortieth parallel that the climate of Porto Rico is theirs.     
    The President was not oppressed. His smile had never been cheerier, and his long rolling walk, like the spirited pace of a thoroughbred, had lost none of its eager charm. He covered the ground with the enthusiasm of a happy man and with the buoyancy of satisfaction. He spoke freely with his secretary, Mr. Cortelyou, with Mr. Milburn, the president of the exposition, and with several local friends who made the short journey with him to the Falls. This was uneventful. It was like that of almost any other of the millions who have visited the exposition, except that it did not take in the Canadian side.


Temple of Music Where Public Reception Took Place 

     The President arrived at the Temple of Music a few minutes before 4 o'clock. Mrs. McKinley had left him down town. Everything was in readiness. The newspapers had not been prodigal in heralding—they were too crowded with other things—though the noon editions bore the conspicuous announcement on their front pages that the President would hold a public reception, to last about half an hour, beginning at 4 o'clock, in the Temple of Music. The number of admissions to the exposition had been comparatively small, for the reaction from a great day is always a great slump. Over a hundred thousand had passed the gates on President's Day, but at 3 o'clock of the following afternoon there were less than sixty thousand persons on the grounds. Perhaps a third of these expected to attend the reception in the Temple. Idlers, partisans in the lower ranks, the distant worshipers of greatness, and, most of all, the intensely curious, formed the crowd—probably 99 per cent from the lower and lower middle classes of society.  Gentility had had its reception on the day preceding; this was a time for the common people, from the very ranks of which the President had come and whose idolatrous support had given him his immense prestige.             

        As the Presidential party, preceded and followed by platoons of mounted police and hedged about by secret service officers, drove from the station through a quarter-mile avenue of blue-coated exposition guards, the desultory crowds that lined the way threw out haphazard cheers. The applause at the Temple was not perfunctory. There were enough people there to create enthusiasm and the spirit of welcome was amply present. The President inspired a personal regard, always magnetic in such a crowd as greeted him there, and as he bowed in measured though sincere politeness, the sweaty noise came up to him in soothing greeting—a greeting upon which his appetite had long fed, and which he craved with much the same insistence that prompted it. 

Believed to be one of the Last Photos of McKinley before he was shot

   The entire occurrences of the two days—the beauty of the exposition, his wife's continued health, the presence of his friends, the favorable reception of his momentous speech, received, as he had hoped it would be, without a full realization of its import, the propitious weather and the strenuous applause—had by that time impregnated him with negative content and positive buoyance. He entered the Temple by a rear door, saw the arrangements were complete (he did not inspect them minutely, for he surrendered such details to others, and had always been lax in guarding his person), bowed to the guards and reporters present, walked up the aisle to the appointed station and said, pleasantly, that the place was cool. 

John G. Milburn
President of the Pan American Exposition 

     The Temple was cool, for it had been locked up all day. This offered relief from the swelter without and seemed worthy of its august name. From a point just north of the center, extending southeast and northwest at a forty-five degree angle, slightly broken, were two aisles reaching from the apex like the bend in a finger. These aisles were formed by tightly packed folding seats, pushed back smartly, so that they formed a great inextricable jumble, spread over the floor in reckless confusion, whose edges at the aisle were nicely mended by long strips of purple cloth, pieced at the end in a continuous weave of undulating invitation—invitation to the President's stand at the center. There, great palms lifted their somnolent, green shade and a yellow dome, like polished amber, reflected the soft lambent light that streamed in richly from the western windows. For guards there were the regulation exposition police, United States artillery men, city detectives and government secret service men. A short lull came, the President took his place, Mr. Milburn at the left, Mr. Cortelyou at the right, Detectives Ireland and Foster three feet away in front, several reporters behind, diplomats and officials surrounding, with the guards lining the aisle.                                                              
      "Let them come," said the President. The doors were opened and the surge outside pushed in the tide of humanity. There was the usual push, the usual hot day sweat, the usual trodden feet, the usual quiet patience of the waiting thousands, and soon a steady stream of people was being pushed by the guards through the aisle and past the President, as logs are propelled down a sluice by men with cant hooks at a spring drive. This continued for about eight minutes, when there appeared at the door—unnoticed at the time—a well-knit young man, whose right hand, with seeming innocence, was in his back pocket. That hand held a pistol, and both were concealed from even the treacherous depths of the pocket by a dirty rag. The rag was a handkerchief, but it had been carried for several days and in the perspiring heat no face mop was presentable after such long usage. It was a cheap handkerchief, plain, unmarked, ordinarily small and sorely soiled, yet it held the deadliest venom on earth. 
Leon Czolgosz
  The hand was slightly nervous, so was the man. Only a close observer would have seen it. The precision of the next few moments would prove that he had nerves of steel ; the villain at the climax of a tragedy usually has stage fright, and the young man has since admitted that he came within an ace of backing out there, but was already in the Temple, while the crowd behind made retreat impossible, and forced him slowly to the precipice...
      He was well built, had a good wiry form of medium height, an intelligent face with a brow high but narrow, the aquiline nose of determination, a firm chin, a coarse sensual mouth and blue  eyes.  The eyes were responsive but not sympathetic, and at that moment were stolid, with little of the fierce light that burns in the basilisk iris of a fanatic. His hair was brushed in wavy brown disorder back from his forehead. At first glance he was not a striking figure. He wore a cheap, dark suit of woolen cloth, a flannel shirt and a string tie—all ordinary, all unnoticeable. He appeared as a mechanic, a printer, a shipping clerk, a worker at some high-class trade. He moved on down the line, drawing near the President. As soon as he was well past the door he withdrew the handkerchief-enclosed pistol from his pocket, holding both in front of him, as though the hand were wounded and in a sling. 
       Czolgosz left Cleveland on Saturday. He bought the pistol at a Main Street store in Buffalo on Friday morning. In the interval he was contemplating the act. In Buffalo he rented a small, cheap room at the home of a Pole named Nowak, on Broadway, a street partly stricken with poverty. He had not yet chosen the precise time, accessories and method for the act; was merely resolute in general purpose. On the morning of Friday, the fatal day, he rose early—this is had from his confession. He was then decided on the time. It was to be that day. The exact moment he was not sure of. He would choose the most propitious. After dressing, he tied in a bundle what papers he had and placed them in an inside pocket. Breakfast he had at a cheap restaurant near the Nowak house. He was early and ate with several bakery clerks employed next door. One of them remembers him only as a quiet, unpretentious man, deeply preoccupied. He wore good clothes, made to order in Chicago when on his last visit to Emma Goldman, and his dark negligee shirt—a nondescript in quizzical, unknown color announced his familiarity with the department store.
       The silence, which is the one privilege Czolgosz gets for the enormous price he pays the electric chair, was broken to explain his source of revenue. His trade had been that of a wire puller, never earning more than $9 a week, but for 18 months he had not worked. The money for this long sustenance, the travel and the clothes, he says, he saved at the wire mill and on a farm outside of Cleveland, where he worked for a while. His clothes were bought since that time; his shirt before.
       After breakfast he went to the exposition grounds. On the way he dropped the bundle of papers in a sewer, where they still lie in the city's underground slime unfound by the most zealous scavengers. To reach the grounds he passed again through the low squalor of the city. Its indigent misery smote him with only a further numb realization of the wrongs he would try to right. He was like a man stupefied with narcotics and then given another infusion.
   The tinted colors of early fall had just touched the trees, whose deep shade copiously conceals the seared roughness of the houses there, and moving on past great charitable institutions, the green covered in uncut reverence the gentle mounds of graves. The exposition was in the gardeners' most gorgeous trim, and the sun, amply translucent in its forenoon flight, was brilliant. It seemed that if the exposition escaped suffocation in fresh greenery it must inevitably be drowned in sunshine. To that paradise on earth the assassin came. The fresh glory of the autumnal morning did not enter his soul; the pest behind had buried its venom too deep.
    The young man waited. He got to the grounds just after 8—early enough to see the President drive through on his way to the train for Niagara Falls. He had hoped there would be a chance for a shot then, but found none—everything was in a great hurry, there was no crowd and too many guards. He kept his pistol in his pocket and hung about with cool assurance. It was then that he chose the Temple of Music and made his minute plans. There was to be a public reception. He would enter the line, reach the President and shoot. He would fire as long as he could (there were five chambers in the pistol, each loaded with a 32-caliber ball), he would be stopped, and then—. " Well," he said, when told that he must die, days afterward, " that was the expectation from the beginning." 
      There was an immense, sonorous pipe organ in the Temple—one of the largest and one of the best ever built. An organist was playing. At the moment he had opened the lower diapason for a Bach sonata - a negatively religious invocation, charged with all the tremendous emotional and subtle aesthetic power that that master possesses. Its tremulous pulsation caused by the magnificent acoustics of the building surcharged the mellow air with intense unfelt weight—not oppressive, but formidable, like the deep displacement of a man-of-war. It was a solemn, solvent setting for the tragic scene to follow. Czolgosz was in the line, slowly moving toward the President, for from four to five minutes. Behind him was a tightly-packed crowd which blocked retreat. On all sides were alert guards, likely to detect his diabolical intention at any moment. A few steps away was the President—coming nearer, nearer—and there was to be the test of his resolution, there awaited success and death, or failure and disgrace….
The Herculean James Parker 
at 6ft. 6in Assisted in securing 
the Assassin
    The scene itself is but partially to be described, or rather to be described from varying angles, no one of which is obtuse enough to comprehend the gaps left by the others, for though hundreds were there, the few minutes of the shots and their denouement have left an inextricable tangle, about which everyone is sure of the exact happening and about which no two stories agree. 

A detective saw the swathed fist and said in passing comment: " This man has a sore hand." Another had an inkling of suspicion. "I don't know about that," he said, and reached for Czolgosz's arm. 
It was too late.

 The first shot came, low—hardly louder than a cap pistol—than the second, as quick as the self-cocking trigger could work. A vague, startled thrill spread through the crowd; it had been hit a stunning blow and for the moment was numb. 
     About the President, action was decisive, sharp, bewildering. A dozen men leaped for the assassin. A black man, James Parker, burst through the crowd and elbowed his herculean way to an assistance which was too late. George Foster, a government secret service man, in momentary hot revenge, had smashed the assassin's nose, the blood spurting to the floor, where the two were grappling, Czolgosz struggling for a desperate last shot, his face smeared with red ooze and his eyes bleary with tigerish emotion. But his shots, so close that the peppery powder mottled the President's white vest for many inches with specks of frightful black, had been fatal, and the artilleryman who kicked the pistol from his hand got merely cold satisfaction for his rescue. The marines of the President's guard had meanwhile charged the crowd with fixed bayonets, crying, " Clear out, you sons of—," and were pricking some in driving them from the Temple. 
         The President was singularly calm. A huge, deep-rooted mountain oak, lightning stricken, stands as he stood then—alone, transfigured, mystified and silent—before toppling to its fall. Those who saw that face and noted its sweet grandeur and its indefinable surprised pathos will carry the memory to the grave. The President had been greeting little children and had just courteously bowed to an old man. He was cheery, light hearted, kindly, patient—such was his nature—and at that moment he was in the heydey of good spirits. Suddenly there was injected into his life this foul, dank crime, blacker than night, more hideous than a dungeon's horrors.
Crowds waiting for news on the president during surgery
    His shoulders straightened to their fullest, broadest height and he quietly surveyed the fiend still holding the smoking, hidden pistol before him. The smile, with its dimpled placid sunniness, left his face, his white lips pressed each other in a rigid line, their convex curving ends lost in the sunken contour of his mouth, and then for the briefest instant his eye assumed the penetration of a man who reads men as other men read books. For that space of time, measured by hardly more than the wink of an eye-lash, the two—assassin and victim—confronted each other. A multiplicity of emotions showed in the President's face, but two were lacking. There was neither fear nor anger. First there was surprise, then reproach, then pity, benevolence, compassion, a sympathy for the wretch, and then an inkling of astounded horror as he realized the enormity of the attack, and finally as the assassin was felled to the floor his great eyes welled with gentle passion and a tear on each cheek told of calm and chastened appeal for him who brought death that wonderful, black day. 
        He did not once lose consciousness nor self-possession. Such a scene was never looked upon before and probably never will occur again. Never was dignity better exemplified, yet it was pathetic. Though hope came afterward, no one then doubted that the President had been fatally wounded. His faithful secretary, George B. Cortelyou, a man of thin and resolute physique, of wiry courage and canny calmness, was more self-possessed than any other save the President. He caught his chief as he fell and with the help of John C. Milburn, president of the exposition, carried him to a nearby bench. Mr. Cortelyou leaned over the President and asked him if he suffered much pain. The President slowly drew his hand to his bosom, fumbled at his shirt and reached within, groped there with his fingers for a moment, then drew them forth, dabbled with blood. " This pains me," he said. It was the breast wound, not even serious, while the abdominal shot proved fatal. Then followed a moment of silence, during which the ambulance was being called and the prisoner secured. 
Ambulance for the Pan Am.
        The President could be seen again moving his fingers inside and under his shirt bosom. He was calm, quiet, conscious, dignified. The movement to his breast was half halting, like a man groping in the dark, for he seemed dazed, though fully alive to the situation—just as a man in a trance who realizes all that goes on about him and yet is completely above the passing of the events. His hand came out again. He looked at the bloody fingers with circumspection but with no critical examination, as if mentally commenting on his own blood—blood drawn by an assassin—it might be his life's blood. The hand dropped to his side as of no further consequence—it had served its purpose as a barometer of the condition—and he stared into the filigreed wall opposite, where the evanescent afternoon shadows were making figured tapestry with the reflected light from the tawny-amber dome above and sat there blankly conscious, introspective with deep preoccupation. There were tears in many eyes. Respect withheld what might have been a curious crowd. The minutes slowly dragged their sullen feet away and out on the floor there was still some belated scuffling with the prisoner. 
         The President noted it and was drawn by its disturbing clatter from the repose of isolation to which he had been brought. "Be easy with him, boys," he said, and then relapsed again for just the briefest space, the intervals all being hardly noticeable in point of time, then revived and whispered the name of his secretary. 

Mr. Cortelyou bent over him and heard, spoken slowly:
 "My wife—don't let her know of this and if she does don't 
let it be exaggerated."

At that moment Mr. Buchanan, the director-general of the exposition, was admitted to the Temple. He found his way to within a few steps of the President, who recognized him and who had by that time taken wakeful observation of the happenings about him. He looked in Mr. Buchanan's direction and as the other approached nearer said: " I am sorry that this should have happened at the exposition." Those three thoughts were uppermost in his mind: desire for fair play with the assassin, anxiety for his wife, and regret for the hurt the exposition might receive. The arrival of the ambulance was six minutes after the shooting and throughout the ride to the hospital the President sat up.

Anxious Crowds reading Bulletins of McKinley's
Condition in Downtown Buffalo
      It was outside the Temple of Music, about the exposition grounds, in the city of Buffalo, all over the United States and throughout the whole world that the news spread like a conflagration, ever widening in its grievous circle. It was but twenty years since Garfield had been assassinated and the memory of a single generation comprised the murder of another President, that a third should fall by a venomous bullet seemed incredible. A more unlikely time for such a deed could not be imagined. There was no personal ill will toward the wounded man. The fratricidal heat in which Lincoln was killed and the political frenzy that brought Garfield's doom were alike unknown. It occurred in the freest country on earth and in the fairest year of its existence. It is probable that never before in history had the expression " Like thunder from a clear sky " been more apropos. The incredulous way in which the news was received was everywhere alike and one instance will show the peculiar tenor of the feeling. In the Ohio Building at the exposition, the commissioners in their frock coats and their ladies in evening gowns were awaiting the conclusion of the reception in the Temple, for the President was scheduled to visit them there immediately to pay his respects to his home State. A man came in the rear entrance and announced that the President had been shot. 
Triumphal Bridge
     No one paid much attention to him at first and then one of the hangers-on told him he was crazy. He persisted, hunted up one of the commissioners and told him. A bystander heard the remark and said with quizzical foolishness, like the dash of farce that Shakespeare puts in his blackest tragedies: " Yes, I suppose so. Shot with a camera." And with that the incident passed in the light talk of the afternoon. But the man with the rumor was not to be downed, and finally in response to the expressed alarm of several of the ladies two of the men started out to investigate. When they reached the Triumphal Bridge they saw the doors of the Temple closed, a great, hushed, awesome crowd outside and a portentous stillness in the air. Something had surely happened! Everyone knew that the President had been taken to the hospital, but everyone also knew that the assassin was still inside and no one moved. The center of interest was with the man who had done the deed. He was about to be brought out and no one knew what to expect ; would he be lynched, would the officers run with him or would they take him off slowly and give the crowd a chance for a glimpse of him? Some half suspected that he might rise in quick anger, shake off his captors and shoot at the crowd itself; others would not believe that the President had been shot at all. There seemed to be stupor and only a numb, unconscious realization of the catastrophe.
Crowds gather outside the Temple of Music
        It was so absolutely sudden and unsuspected that few felt its poignant pang; the nebulous throb of anguish and long-drawn tapering thrill of vengeful retaliation had not yet come home. In the midst of it the door was suddenly thrown open and the assassin appeared and halted there in full sight for the briefest instant—a pale, deter-mined, satisfied man. The brilliant afternoon sun stretched its searching rays past the golden finials of the western buildings and lit his defiant bust with rebuking fire. His collar was gone—lost in the scuffle—and his flannel shirt, torn open at the throat, revealed a hard and scrawny neck. His chestnut hair, almost red in the glinting sunlight, matched his blood-smeared cheeks, and his whole air bespoke the conviction of a man who " had done his duty," for such was the only reply he would make when asked why he had fired the shots. That pause, with its sight of the assassin, was short but intense. It brought its reply straight in the teeth of the dare-devil courage of the young man. 
      "Lynch him," called several. These cries were not pronounced or organized. No impetuous frenzy had yet seized the crowd. It seemed as though nearly everyone for the moment had lost all sense of outrage and of revenge. What cries there were scattered and sporadic. There was unrest and muttered discontent and imprecation. The marines were steadfast, and through the narrow lane they formed with their turned backs the detectives hurried Czolgosz to a covered carriage and jumped in with him. The coachman hit the horses a terrific cut. They bounded out as from released catapaults and the few who grasped the wheels in vain hope of staying the flight to unmerited safety were jerked from their feet. On through the prepared lane the horses sprang at a swinging gallop, over the Triumphal Bridge, which the day before had been the scene of the wildest, most buoyant welcome, through the long, beautiful residence avenues, to downtown, four miles away, and the assassin was safe. 
        The surgeons—the best in Buffalo—who had been called in, decided that an immediate operation was necessary. The President had been twice hit, the first shot striking the breast bone and glancing off with only a slight abrasion of the skin, but the second one had entered the abdomen and had pierced the stomach twice, burying itself in the fleshy muscles of the back. It has never been found. An hour and fifteen minutes after the shooting the President was unconscious with the ether that had been given him.  When asked if the operation should be performed, he replied:  

"I am in your hands. You know what is best. Do that," and then as he sank into unconsciousness he muttered slowly to himself: " Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done."

     The details of the operation are merely similar to those of any other such. " Laperotomy " is the surgical term for it.  An incision was made in the abdomen by Dr. Matthew D. Mann, the operating surgeon, the stomach turned and the two perforations made by the bullet sewn up, the wound thoroughly cleansed, the stomach replaced, the incision sewn and the effects of the ether dissipated. The President was then removed to the home of Mr. Milburn on Delaware Avenue. 

Hospitality extended to President and Mrs. McKinley for their occupancy
while in Buffalo
Miss Catherine Simmons &  Miss May D. Barnes
Attending Nurses to Surgeons & President
               For the next six days hope mounted high. Everyone except the chronic grumblers thought the President would recover. Senator Hanna, his life-long, steadfast friend, "saw a rainbow in the sky and declared he believed in the McKinley star," and Vice-President Roosevelt, who had hurried on a special train to the bedside of the President, was so secure in his belief that he left for the Adirondacks, put civilization behind him and when he was next wanted was forty-two miles from a telegraph wire. The newspapers and the country looked for slow recovery and were counting the period of expected convalescence. The Buffalo papers were rather gleefully commenting on the probability of the city becoming what Secretary Root declared it might become," the summer capital." Even the doctors were deceived. There were several indications, however, that the President was not yet past the danger point; the feeding of food by injection became impossible because of threatened inflammation and on Thursday morning it was decided to give him a light breakfast. He had toast, coffee, chicken broth, beef juice and finished with rare relish by asking for a cigar. That day, considering everything, was a remarkably bright one. The weather was perfect and the President, said all, was on the road to recovery.
              THE LAST DAY 
Mrs. Duncan and Miss Alice McKinley
Sisters of the President with Escorts.
Thursday night brought the first serious sign of danger. The physicians were obliged to give their patient violent purgatives and at 2:30 o'clock of Friday morning the collapse came. His life for the next twenty-four hours was an artificial one. That Friday fell on the 13th—doubly an unlucky day. The city woke to get the fateful news that the President's pulse had almost ceased its throb and from then on the tell-tale mincings of the official bulletins brought merely varied versions of a " hope against hope." There was a time through the morning when to hope seemed reasonable. 
  The pulse and temperature had gone back to their normal condition of the day before, but when Secretary Cortelyou, on his regular afternoon visit to the newspaper tent across the street, said with words which had been well weighed: "If the President lives until morning there will be grounds for hope, " the immediate analysis brought the conviction that there really was no ground for hope. Throughout the city, from then on, the fact of grave danger was so potent that the air was charged with the momentous import of the situation. In the sick room the day had been one of battle—a battle against death; and outside, to the world which did not know the details of that fierce fight, there was just as hard a struggle against the deadening fear of the worst. No one wished to admit the grievous fact, but the conclusion was irresistible. 
Abner McKinley Brother of the President
Reading a Special Bulletin 
        Each person who came from the Milburn house—physicians, cabinet ministers, senators, governors and members of the family—brought through the afternoon the word: "He is in peril," and as the careless radiance of the buoyant exposition beyond lit its way into, the starry sky all that could be said by anybody was: " He is still alive." On that last gray and awful night as the great heart beat slower, each feeble minute keeping sure count for the last lingering run of the life-sands, the tension among the watchers grew. It became a tremendous pressure. The creak of a sentry's boot on the pavement in front of the Milburn house, where armed guards paced with clock-like regularity, brought quick response from the newspaper men across the street. There were more than 1oo of them. It was no idle crowd, such as gathered down town swearing feeble vengeance against the triumphant murderer. Each was a picked man, chosen for experience and skill. The chief papers of Christendom and many of the minor ones were represented there. 
Senator Mark Hanna
The Presidents Steadfast Friend,
Hastening to his side after the shooting.
        This immense tongue, which was to tell the fateful news to 80,000,000 of William McKinley's fellow citizens and to other millions waiting wherever the telegraph tolls its disturbing click, was hushed in awful preparation for its direful loosening. At the word, that avalanche of news was to be poured onto the world—a thunderbolt from the night. The moments dragged, each one heavy with expectancy and each one supposed to be the last. Mrs. McKinley was induced to take rest and the entire number of those who waited were in the condition of a condemned man waiting for the rope to drop. A heart specialist from Washington arrived at midnight, at record-breaking pace, in an electric automobile, but it was too late; God Himself could not have turned the hour glass back then. 
        The End Came Quietly,
like the ebbing of the tide, at that indistinct time of the early morning when lives most frequently go out. The President had been unconscious for seven hours; he died at 2 : 15.   In the evening, before lapsing into mere breathing life, there occurred that spiritual uplift which was to place the final, lasting purport of a sacred benediction on his life's best effort. As his soul reeled on the brink for that concluding conscious moment before its dissolution, there came to him a flitting period of time wherein the memory of his long life of deeds and thoughts, his wife, his children and his friends, passed before him like the phantasmia of a dream, and with that vision in his already death-glazed eyes he murmured slowly : 

Good-bye—all,—good—bye !—It—is—God' s—way.—His—will,— not—ours,—be—done."   The rest was silence. 
With that resignation in his heart he found eternity. 
It was a simple, manly death-a death worthy the President of the United States.
The Presidents Body Lying in State in City Hall,  Buffalo
Just before the opening of the doors to the hundred thousand mourners who
filed past the bier on Sunday afternoon, September 15, 1901
      There were three funerals—one at the Milburn house in Buffalo; one along historic Pennsylvania Avenue, where the victorious armies of Grant and Lincoln had trod in elate confidence, and down which the dead President had twice marched in triumphant inauguration; and, the last, a simple country burial procession, magnified to collossal proportions, passing through the crowded, silent streets of the inland city of Canton. The details of that three days journey from the greensward of populous Buffalo to the velvet of the Ohio meadows are alike in showing suppressed, inexpressible emotion. 
Head of the Funeral Procession Leaving
the Milburn House
        It was perhaps the most heart-felt pageant that ever passed through this broad country. Every home was a house of mourning, the cities were draped in black, and the States stood like crepe-veiled sisters, hand in hand in silent, deep commiseration. The hundreds of thousands who viewed the remains were but a small fraction of those who pressed forward for a chance. In Buffalo the crowds about the City Hall on Sunday afternoon were such that for four blocks the streets were impassable; a solid wall, broken only by the buildings, stretched back in patient confusion, each individual arrayed in Sunday finery, and each dripping with the soaking rain that poured down without let. Two days later, in Washington, the crowd that pressed forward at the Capitol found the same drenching, and met it with the same determined patience, and even in little Canton, swelled to three times its normal population by the influx of mourning guests, the entire afternoon was amply busy with those who demanded a last farewell. 

The Ansley Wilcox Residence, Delaware Ave. Buffalo
Where Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the Oath of Office & Became President


The entirety of this story was taken and edited from the book;  

” The True Story of the Assassination of President McKinley at Buffalo." 

It was written in 1901 by Richard H. Barry who was present during the historic events, beginning with the President's visit to Buffalo and ending with the last ceremonies at Canton.

Robert Allan Reid, Publisher
Buffalo NY  1901


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