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Czolgosz Shoots McKinley

Assassination of America’s 25th President

On July 30, 1901, US-born unemployed wire mill worker Leon Czolgosz, wrote a note – today in the possession of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation – that could have given a clue as to the far-reaching actions he took some six weeks later.

The letter – written for John Grinder (one of Czolgosz’s colleagues from the wire mill) is not so easy to decipher.  There was however, one small phrase that made sense.  He wrote: “there is a streetcar to Buffalo in his new town, and it’s just a nickel ride.”

It was at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, on September 6, that same year, that William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz.  Following one shot to the stomach and another to the chest with his .32 caliber revolver, he calmly stated, “I have done my duty.”

Leon Czolgosz’s Background

Perhaps – in hindsight – his actions should not have been such a shock, given the assassinator’s background.  Prior to this he had left his factory job due to a mental breakdown.  But there could have also been other sources for his inspiration.  For example, exactly four months before Czolgosz assassinated America’s 25th President, he had heard a talk by Emma Goldman at the Federal Liberal Club and thereafter spoken to her.  On other occasions he went to places where she spoke on anarchism.  Indeed, Abraham Isaak was quite sure that – due to his almost stalk-like activities – Czolgosz was a spy and even issued a warning about him in the Free Society, his journal.

Had attention been given to the weird and somewhat worrying behavior of Czolgosz, perhaps William McKinley’s life would have ended somewhat differently and the note held at the Shapell Manuscript Foundation would have a very different meaning today.