McKinley's trip to Buffalo was part of a planned ten-day absence from Canton, beginning on September 4, , which was to include a visit in Cleveland to an encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic ; he was a member as a Union veteran. On Saturday, September 7, they were to travel to Cleveland and stay first at the home of businessman and future Ohio governor Myron Herrick , a friend of the President, and then with McKinley's close friend and adviser, Ohio Senator Mark Hanna.
While in Buffalo, McKinley had two days of events: On Thursday, September 5, he was to deliver his address and then tour the fair. The following day, he was to visit Niagara Falls , and, on his return to Buffalo, meet the public at the Temple of Music on the Exposition grounds. Part of the reason for bringing McKinley repeatedly to the fair was to swell the gate receipts; the popular President's visit was heavily advertised.
The public reception at the Temple of Music was disliked by his personal secretary , George B. Cortelyou , who, concerned for the President's security, twice tried to remove it from the program. McKinley restored it every time; he wished to support the fair he agreed with its theme of hemispheric cooperation , enjoyed meeting people, and was not afraid of potential assassins.
When Cortelyou asked McKinley a final time to remove the event from the schedule, the President responded, "Why should I? No one would wish to hurt me. McKinley responded, "Well, they'll know I tried, anyhow. The Esplanade, the large space near the Triumphal Bridge where the President was to speak, was filled with fairgoers; the crowd overflowed into the nearby Court of the Fountains. Of the , fairgoers that day, about 50, are believed to have attended McKinley's speech.
The route between the Milburn House and the site of the speech was packed with spectators; McKinley's progress by carriage to the fair with his wife was accompanied by loud cheering. He ascended to a stand overlooking the Esplanade, and after a brief introduction by Milburn, began to speak.
In his final speech, McKinley urged an end to American isolationism. He proposed trade arrangements which would allow US manufacturers new markets. The expansion of our trade and commerce is the pressing problem. Commercial wars are unprofitable. McKinley toured the pavilions of other Western Hemisphere nations, attracting crowds and applause wherever he went. He presided over a luncheon at the New York State Building, and attended a by-invitation-only reception at the Government Building.
He was heavily guarded by soldiers and police, but still tried to interact with the public, encouraging those who tried to run to him by noticing them, and bowing to a group of loud young popcorn sellers. He made an unscheduled stop for coffee at the Porto Rican [a] Building before returning to the Milburn House in the late afternoon.
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Despite a Cortelyou warning to the organizers that she might not attend due to her delicate health, Ida McKinley had been present at a luncheon in her honor by the Exposition's Board of Lady Managers, and after dinner, the President and First Lady returned to the fairgrounds, pausing at the Triumphal Bridge to watch the fair illuminated by electricity as the sun set. They went by boat to the Life Saving Station to view the fireworks from there before returning to the Milburn House.
Czolgosz, gun in his pocket, had arrived early at the fair, and was quite close to the podium before McKinley arrived. He considered shooting the President during his speech, but felt he could not be certain of hitting his target; he was also being jostled by the crowd. Czolgosz had not made up his mind when McKinley concluded his speech and disappeared behind security guards. On the morning of Friday, September 6, , McKinley dressed formally as usual, then departed the Milburn House for a stroll through the neighborhood.
The President nearly slipped away unguarded; when the police and soldiers noticed him leaving, they hurried after him. When the party reached the municipality of Niagara Falls , they transferred to carriages to see the sights.
The party rode halfway across the Honeymoon Bridge overlooking the Falls, though McKinley was careful not to enter Canada for reasons of protocol. It was a hot day, and Ida McKinley felt ill due to the heat; she was driven to the International Hotel to await her husband, who toured Goat Island before joining his wife for lunch. After smoking a cigar on the veranda, the President rode with his wife to the train which now awaited them nearby, and saw her settled there before touring the hydroelectric plant at the Falls.
Ida McKinley had originally intended to accompany her husband to the auditorium, but as she was not fully recovered, she decided to return to the Milburn House to rest.
As the time allotted for the reception had been pared down to ten minutes, the President did not expect to be separated from his wife for long. When given the opportunity to host a public reception for President McKinley, fair organizers chose to site it in the Temple of Music—Louis L.
Babcock, grand marshal of the Exposition, regarded the building as ideal for the purpose. The large auditorium was located close to the Esplanade, in the heart of the fair, and had doorways on each of its four sides. In addition to rows of chairs on the floor of the hall, it had spacious galleries. Babcock spent the morning of September 6 making some physical arrangements for the reception.
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Floor seating was removed to create a broad aisle, running from the east doors through which the public would be admitted, to where McKinley would stand. Once members of the public shook hands with McKinley, they would continue on to exit the building. An American flag was draped behind the President, both to screen him from behind and for decoration—several potted plants were arrayed around his place to create an attractive scene. Besides its utility for other purposes, the ornate building was one of the architectural features of the fair. Considerable arrangements had been made for the President's security.
Exposition police were stationed at the doors; detectives from the Buffalo police guarded the aisle. In addition to McKinley's usual Secret Service agent, George Foster, two other agents had been assigned to the Buffalo trip because of Cortelyou's security concerns. Babcock was made nervous by a joke at lunch in an Exposition restaurant that the President might be shot during the reception. He had arranged for a dozen artillerymen to attend the reception in full-dress uniform, intending to use them as decoration.
Instead, he had them stand in the aisle with instructions to close on any suspicious-looking person who might approach the President.
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These men were not trained in police work, and served to crowd the area in front of the President and obstruct the views of the detectives and Secret Service. At such events, Foster usually stood just to the left and behind McKinley. Milburn wished to stand to McKinley's left to be able to introduce anyone he knew in the line to the President, and Foster and another agent instead stood across the aisle from McKinley. Throughout the afternoon, crowds had filled the floor outside the blocked-off aisle, and the galleries as well, wanting to see the President, even if they could not greet him.
McKinley arrived just on time, glanced at the arrangements, and walked over to his place, where he stood with Milburn on his left and Cortelyou on his right. The pipe organ began to play " The Star-Spangled Banner " as McKinley ordered the doors open to admit those who had waited to greet him. The police let them in, and McKinley prepared to perform his "favorite part of the job". An experienced politician, McKinley could shake hands with 50 people per minute, gripping their hands first so as to both guide them past him quickly and prevent his fingers from being squeezed.
Cortelyou anxiously watched the time; about halfway through the ten minutes allotted, he sent word to Babcock to have the doors closed when the presidential secretary raised his hand. Seeing Cortelyou looking at his watch, Babcock moved towards the doors. The procession of citizens shaking hands with their President was interrupted when year-old Myrtle Ledger of Spring Brook, New York , who was accompanied by her mother, asked McKinley for the red carnation he always wore on his lapel.
The President gave it to her, then resumed work without his trademark good-luck piece. The Secret Service men looked suspiciously on a tall, swarthy man who appeared restless as he walked towards the President, but breathed a sigh of relief when he shook hands with McKinley without incident and began to move towards the exit. The usual rule that those who approached the President must do so with their hands open and empty was not being enforced, perhaps due to the heat of the day, as several people were using handkerchiefs to wipe their brows; the man who followed the swarthy individual had his right hand wrapped in one, as if injured.
Seeing this, McKinley reached for his left hand instead. As onlookers gazed in horror, and as McKinley lurched forward a step, Czolgosz prepared to take a third shot. He was prevented from doing so when James Parker , an American of part-African part-Spanish descent from Georgia who had been behind Czolgosz in line, slammed into the assassin, reaching for the gun. Czolgosz disappeared beneath a pile of men, some of whom were punching or hitting him with rifle butts.
He was heard to say, "I done my duty. The President tried to convince Cortelyou he was not seriously injured, but blood was visible as he tried to expose his injury. Seeing the pummeling being taken by Czolgosz, McKinley ordered it stopped. Czolgosz was dragged away, but not before being searched by Agent Foster. When Czolgosz kept turning his head to watch the President while being searched, Foster struck him to the ground with one punch.
After stopping the beating of Czolgosz, McKinley's next concern was for his wife, urging Cortelyou, "My wife — be careful, Cortelyou, how you tell her — oh, be careful. On the way there, McKinley felt in his clothing and came out with a metal object. Although it usually dealt only with the minor medical issues of fairgoers, the hospital did have an operating theatre.
At the time of the shooting, no fully qualified doctor was at the hospital, only nurses and interns. Roswell Park , was in Niagara Falls, performing a delicate neck operation. When interrupted during the procedure on September 6 to be told he was needed in Buffalo, he responded that he could not leave, even for the President of the United States. He was then told who had been shot. Park, two weeks later, would save the life of a woman who suffered injuries almost identical to McKinley's.
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Herman Mynter, whom the President had met briefly the previous day; the wounded McKinley who had a good memory for faces joked that when he had met Mynter, he had not expected to need his professional services. The multitude seemed only partially aware that something serious had happened. A host of soldiers and detectives also pounced on the assassin and began beating him to a pulp.
It took an order from McKinley before they finally stopped and dragged Czolgosz from the room. The only qualified doctor that could be found was a gynecologist, but the president was nevertheless rushed into the operating theater for emergency surgery. The other had struck his abdomen and passed clean through his stomach. Even with the. In a matter of hours, he grew weak and began losing consciousness. At a. The Michigan native said he had pulled the trigger out of a desire to contribute to the anarchist cause. He was also adamant that he had acted alone.
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