Assassination of U.S. President William McKinley and Swearing-in of Theodore Roosevelt as President

As previously noted, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt were inaugurated as U.S. President and Vice President on March 4, 1901.

McKinley speech @ Exposition
McKinley speech @ Exposition
McKinley assassination
McKinley assassination

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only six months later, on September 6, 1901, McKinley was shot and wounded on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, the day after he had made a major speech advocating an end to American isolationism and promoting his plan to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements with other countries. The shooter was a Polish anarchist, Leon Czolgosz.

McKinley appeared to be recovering when visited by Roosevelt in Buffalo, and after receiving assurances of a complete recovery from McKinley’s doctors, Roosevelt left to join his family on vacation in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York.

On September 13th, however, McKinley’s condition worsened with gangrene, and early the next morning he died in Buffalo.

On the 13th Roosevelt  at the vacation cabin received telegrams that were relayed up the mountain by telephone operators, riders and runners. The telegrams advised him that the President’s condition was worsening and that Roosevelt should come to Buffalo as soon as possible. Just before midnight that night Roosevelt started his descent from the mountain by horse and buggy. Around 5:00 a.m. the next day he arrived in the small town of North Creek. He was met by his secretary, William Loeb, Jr., who handed him a telegram. The message was short: “THE PRESIDENT DIED AT TWO-FIFTEEN THIS MORNING.”[1]

Roosevelt immediately boarded a private railroad train to take him south to Albany and then west to Buffalo. At about 7:00 a.m. the train crashed into a hand-car and nearly killed two men, but fifteen minutes later the train was on its way. Around 8:00 a.m. the train briefly stopped at Albany before proceeding west to Buffalo, arriving around 1:30 p.m. on the 14th.[2]

Two hours later, around 3:30 p.m. Roosevelt along with 50 dignitaries, family members and cabinet officials gathered in the library of the elegant Wilcox Mansion in Buffalo.[3] U.S. District Judge John R. Hazel administered the presidential oath.[4]

Wilcox Mansion
Wilcox Mansion
Roosevelt "Inauguration" of 1901
Roosevelt “Inauguration” of 1901

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roosevelt made a brief “inaugural” statement with “characteristic passion, punctuating his words with dental snaps, as if biting the syllables out of the air.” He said, “And in this hour of deep and terrible national bereavement I wish to state that it shall be my aim to continue absolutely unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace, the prosperity, and the honor of our beloved country.”[5]

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[1] Edmund Morris, Theodore Rex at 3-7 (Random House; New York; 2001).

[2] Id. at 7-11.

[3] The Wilcox Mansion is now the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Historic Site and along with its collection of items from the Pan-American Exposition is open to the public.

[4] Theodore Rex at 11-15.

[5] Id. at 14.