RSS
Today in history: September 6
In 1901, President McKinley was shot
 
McKinley died eight days after being shot.
McKinley died eight days after being shot. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Sept. 6, 1901: President William McKinley was shot twice while visiting Buffalo, N.Y. He died eight days later. McKinley, six months into his second term as president, was touring the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. The president enjoyed meeting the citizenry and didn't like to be surrounded by security men. There wasn't much in the way of protection anyway. McKinley and his wife often went on carriage rides through the streets of Washington alone, and when visiting his hometown of Canton, Ohio, usually walked around in the open without any protection whatsoever.

Ironically, that day in Buffalo, McKinley seemed to be well protected. The president's personal secretary, George Cortelyou, was worried about the venue and twice removed it from McKinley's schedule — only to be overruled each time by the president. Cortelyou then asked Buffalo authorities to arrange for extra security, and three Secret Service agents (two more than usual) were assigned to accompany the president.

In the exposition hall, people lined up for a rare opportunity to shake hands with the president. A 12-year-old girl, Myrtle Ledger, admired McKinley's lucky carnation and asked if she could have it. The president obliged. As well wishers streamed by, guards scanned each approaching guest for signs of trouble. Then, as now, they looked for suspicious behavior and studied hands, which were to be open, and thus non-threatening. But it was hot, and some wiped their brow with handkerchiefs. One such man — his right hand wrapped in one as if injured — approached the president. McKinley, seeing this, reached for the man's left hand. The man, a Polish anarchist named Leon Czolgosz, proceeded to shoot McKinley twice with a .32 revolver concealed underneath the bandage. The president stumbled, and Czolgosz tried to shoot again when guards knocked him down.

The president was conscious as he was rushed to a hospital. On the way, he felt in his clothing and pulled out a metal object. "I believe this is a bullet," he said. After a few days, McKinley appeared to be recovering. But gangrene set in. Even McKinley knew he was dying. "It is useless, gentlemen," he said bravely. "I think we ought to have a prayer." At 2:15 on the morning of September 14, 1901, the president died.

His assassin was tried and sent to the electric chair.

Sept. 6, 1970: Five jets bound for New York were hijacked by Palestinian terrorists. President Nixon later formed the Air Marshals program.

Sept. 6, 2008: The Bush administration unveiled a $200 billion bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government sponsored mortgage companies. The 2008 bailout of Fannie/Freddie was one result of the subprime mortgage crisis which contributed to the near collapse of the U.S. economy.

Quote of the Day

"We are a nation that has a government — not the other way around. And that makes us special among the nations of the earth." -Ronald Reagan

More from West Wing Reports...
 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week