174: Assassination of U.S. President William McKinley

"McKinleyAssassination" by T. Dart Walker (1869-1914) - Artwork by T. Dart Walker. Copy online at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/96521677/.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:McKinleyAssassination.jpg#/media/File:McKinleyAssassination.jpg
“McKinley Assassination” by T. Dart Walker (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1901, U.S. President William McKinley died after being shot eight days earlier in Buffalo, New York.

Here are a few facts you may not have known about McKinley and the assassination.

McKinley was born in Niles, Ohio,1843. He enlisted in the Union Army in Jul 1861 and would go on to serve in several battles including Antietam. During the war he worked his way up the ranks from private to brevet major. Following the war, McKinley returned to Ohio to study law. He opened a practice in Canton, before running for Congress in 1876. Because of attempts to gerrymander him out of office, McKinley represented four districts for 12 of the next 14 years. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1892.

He won the presidency in 1896 on a platform of protectionist tariffs on foreign goods and the continuation of the gold standard. Two years into his first term, McKinley took the United States to war against Spain. The war resulted in Spain abandoning claims to Cuba, and ceding Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines to the United States. Also during his first term, the Republic of Hawaii was annexed by the U.S. In 1900, McKinley was elected to a second term with Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.

Leon Czolgosz, a unemployed former steel worker, had become interested in anarchism during the economic downturn of the mid 1890s. During the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, Czolgosz purchased a .32-caliber revolver at Walbridge’s Hardware Store on Main Street. He attempted to get close to the president at the train station on September 4, but found the president too well guarded. Two days later, a large crowd gathered to meet McKinley at the Temple of Music on the Exposition fairgrounds. Generally at the time, when people met the president they weren’t allowed to have anything in their hands, but due to hot temperatures, visitors were allowed to have handkerchiefs. Czolgosz waited in line with his gun hidden under a handkerchief. At 4:07 p.m. he shot the president twice in the abdomen.

Czolgosz was immediately apprehended and McKinley was taken to the fairground hospital. Two surgeons attempted to find the bullet lodged in McKinley’s abdomen, but were unable to do so. They sewed up the president’s wounds and gave him an injection of morphine and strychnine to for pain relief. Despite showing initial signs of recovery, McKinley died of gangrene on September 14. Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as the 26th president of the United States later that day. Leon Czolgosz was convicted of first-degree murder 10 days later and was executed by electrocution 45 days after McKinley’s death.

Our question, which two American presidents survived being shot in assassination attempts?


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