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Archive for September 6th, 2008

On September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was at the Temple of Music in Buffalo, New York.  The magnificent concert hall, built especially for the Pan-American Exposition currently in progress was, for its time, an architectural and technological marvel.  It was also the place for President McKinley’s “meet-and-greet” with the public, having just been elected to his second term and riding a wave of substantial popularity.

In the crowd was the young Leon Czolgosz.  Born in Michigan of Polish immigrants, Leon’s factory jobs brought him first-hand experience with the struggles between the wealthy businessmen and the poor laborer.  After watching workers go on strike and seeing the (sometimes violent) outcomes, Czolgosz came to believe that there was great financial injustice in America, and many of the radical newspapers and magazines Leon chose to read fed his suspicions.

The assassination of King Umberto I in 1900 was a watershed event for Leon, as the assassin spoke of killing the King for the sake of the powerless and poor common man.  The American worker had found his method of striking out against the American version of that Italian inequality, and so he decided to try to duplicate his “hero”‘s feat as closely as possible.

As Leon moved through the receiving line and approached the President, he carefully removed a revolver (the same type used in the Umberto killing) from his pocket and covered it with a hanky.  He reached the front of the line…

President McKinley had been shaking hands with well-wishers for only a few minutes, but it was going well.  He now faced a man whose hand appeared to have been injured, because it was bandaged.  McKinley reached his hand out, smiled…and received 2 bullets in exchange.   The first bounced off his ribs with no damage, but second went almost completely through him, perforating his stomach, kidney, and pancreas.

Leon was immediately captured and beaten nearly to a bloody pulp by the now-enraged crowd.  Doctors were unable to find the bullet lodged in the President and, fearing infection, closed his wounds.  President McKinley’s condition would immediately start improving and he appeared to have survived the attempt on his life.

To be continued…

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