29 October 1901 – Leon Frank Czolgosz

Leon Czolgosz

Leon Czolgosz

The electric chair in Auburn was the final destination for today’s date with death.

A frisson (or three) of electricity was reserved for the demise of an American assassin.

Leon Frank Czolgosz was thrust into the arms of Old Sparky after he bumped off President McKinley in the 1890s.

Two shots found their mark, but neither was fatal in itself. Instead McKinley had one bullet removed and the gangrene set in. It was complications like this that led to the death of what was proving to be a strong leader.

Such was his steer that the president was able to bring America out of a troubled economic spell and even had time to turn his hand to foreign affairs – annexing the Philippines and Hawaii among others and preventing Spain from riding roughshod over Cuba by setting up a protectorate.

Sounds impressive huh? Of course, that renders Czolgosz’s actions nonsensical, until you find out that his motive was anarchy.

But where he differed from most anarchists was that he achieved it via violence. He was a prime example of disaffected youth. Having been bullied at school, he turned into a loner. Czolgosz was one of seven children born to Polish parents and he and his brothers were laid off work prompting his actions to be fuelled by resentment.

He fell in with the anarchists, but even they acknowledged he was a trigger-happy extremist.

Czolgosz was captured after the killing and sent to trial. Bizarrely, he refused to engage in dialogue with his own lawyers making any defence impossible. So, according to a report in Wikipedia, the whole episode took just eight and a half hours.

The sentence was death and the method, the chair.

As Czolgosz took his seat, his last words reflected how unrepentant he was, stating simply that McKinley ‘was the enemy of the good people – the good working people’.

But little did he know that it was same good people who may well have torn his corpse limb from limb through sheer animosity. That’s why his brother was apparently denied his request to bury Czolgosz.

Instead, once executed, his fried body was dumped in a coffin along with sulphuric acid to speed up decomposition. It worked a treat – he was mush within 12 hours apparently.

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