Anniversary of President McKinley’s Assassination

Suddenly, President William McKinley (1897-1901) – one of only four American presidents killed in office – is in the news again. This week, his name was removed from North America’s highest mountain peak, located in Alaska.

This weekend, Americans will be marking the anniversary of the assassination of President McKinley, who was shot by “anarchist” Leon Czologsz at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, on 6 September 1901. The nation was traumatized as they had been with the murder of President Lincoln just 36 years before. With the shock of both shootings – and that of President Garfield in 1881 – still firmly in their minds, Americans looked to their daily newspapers to learn the latest news of McKinley’s condition.

article about the assassination of President William McKinley, Plain Dealer newspaper article 7 September 1901

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 7 September 1901, page 1

McKinley lingered, then passed away the following week on 14 September 1901.

When national leaders such as Presidents Lincoln, McKinley and Kennedy, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., are assassinated, the nation responds by renaming streets, schools and monuments for our fallen leaders.

photo of Mt. McKinley (now Denali), Alaska

Photo: Mt. McKinley (now Denali), Alaska. Source: National Park Service.

In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson honored McKinley’s memory by signing “the Mount McKinley National Park Act, which required the park to be ‘dedicated and set apart as a public park for the benefit and enjoyment of the people under the name of the Mount McKinley National Park.’” (USA Today, 31 August 2015).

But Mount McKinley is no more. On Aug. 30, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the name of North America’s highest mountain is being changed back to its original name, Denali, which in the Athabaskan languages of Alaska Natives means “the high one.”

Related Assassination Articles:

Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: Shot after Victory Speech

Only 4½ years after his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated – and just two months after civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had been gunned down – America awoke on 5 June 1968 to read the horrifying news that another of the nation’s young leaders had been attacked: Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He was shot three times by a Jordanian, Sirhan Sirhan, in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles right after giving a victory speech in the California Democratic presidential primary. Five others were wounded in the shooting as well.

photo of Robert F. Kennedy, 1964

Photo: Robert F. Kennedy, 1964. Credit: U.S. News & World Report; Library of Congress.

RFK had only entered the presidential primary in March, but was rapidly gaining momentum. Winning the California Democratic primary over his rival Senator Eugene J. McCarthy on June 4, Kennedy gave his victory speech to a gathering of about 2,000 buoyant supporters in the hotel’s ballroom. He ended his victory speech shortly after midnight and headed for the hotel’s kitchen, a shortcut to get to a press conference. At 12:15 a.m., 5 June 1968, Sirhan struck and Kennedy fell to the floor, bleeding and mortally wounded from the gunshots.

He clung to life for 26 difficult hours, but died early in the morning of June 6. He was 42 years old. America had lost another legendary leader, felled by an assassin. Sirhan later said he was angry over Kennedy’s support for Israel.

Here is the shocking newspaper front page editorial that readers in the Seattle, Washington, area saw that day.

article about the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Seattle Times newspaper article 5 June 1968

Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington), 5 June 1968, page 1

The lead news story reports:

Robert Kennedy’s Condition Remains Extremely Critical

Associated Press and United Press International

Los Angeles—Senator Robert F. Kennedy emerged from more than three hours of surgery in extremely “critical condition” today after he was shot in the head by a mysteriously silent gunman early this morning. The shooting occurred after he had won the California Democratic presidential primary.

The gunman was identified at midmorning as Sirhan Sirhan, 23, a Jordanian born in Jerusalem.

Kennedy was shot down about 4½ years after his brother, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated by a rifleman in Dallas, Tex.

An aide said all but a fragment of a bullet was removed from Kennedy’s brain and a second bullet, less serious, remains in the back of his neck.

Vital signs—pulse and breathing—are in good order, Frank Mankiewicz, Kennedy’s press secretary, told newsmen, but the next 24 to 36 hours will be critical. He said there “may have been some impairment of the blood supply to the center of the brain”—which controls pulse, blood pressure and tracking of the eye—but “not the thinking processes.”

A series of tests conducted on the senator “do not show measurable improvement” in his condition, which remains extremely critical, Mankiewicz reported at 2:15 p.m.

Mayor Samuel Yorty said identification of the gunman was made by the suspect’s brother, Adel Sirhan of Pasadena, who was traced through the death weapon.

The 42-year-old New York senator came from behind in California’s crucial primary to accrue a winning lead over Senator Eugene J. McCarthy around midnight. Kennedy had proclaimed his win to about 2,000 supporters at an Ambassador Hotel rally and was taking a shortcut through the kitchen to a meeting with newsmen when shots rang out.

With stunning rapidity at 12:15 a.m., a man police described as a Caucasian, 5 feet 6 inches and 140 pounds, with dark hair and complexion, emptied the chamber of an eight-shot .22-caliber pistol.

Kennedy fell, hit three times. Five others near him were wounded, none as badly as Kennedy.

Pandemonium broke loose. Roosevelt Grier, giant Negro tackle for the professional Los Angeles Rams, quickly grabbed the much smaller gunman, wrestled the gun from him and held him for police.

The man under arrest was arraigned secretly at 7 a.m. as John Doe and bail was set at $250,000. The arraignment was on six accounts of assault with intent to commit murder.

Police Chief Thomas Reddin said the man remained silent for hours, then broke that silence and proved to be “extremely articulate with an extensive vocabulary,” but he refused to identify himself or discuss the shooting.

Kennedy was taken first to Central Receiving Hospital, where a doctor said he was “practically dead” upon arrival.

Physicians there administered closed cardiac massage, oxygen and adrenalin. “At first he was pulseless,” a doctor who treated him said, “then his pulse came back and we began to hear a heartbeat and he began to breathe—a little erratically.”

The doctor, Victor Baz, said Ethel Kennedy, who accompanied her husband in the ambulance, was frightened. “She didn’t believe he was alive because she couldn’t see that he was responding. I put the stethoscope to her ears so she could listen and she was tremendously relieved.”

Kennedy was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital near downtown Los Angeles. There a team of six surgeons began brain surgery at 3:12 a.m. that lasted about 3 hours and 40 minutes.

Doctors said one bullet struck near the right ear and entered the brain. Another hit in the shoulder. A third apparently grazed his forehead.

The actual surgery here was performed by Drs. Maxwell Ambler of the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School and Nat Downes Reid and Henry Cuneo of the University of Southern California Medical School.

Kennedy’s brother, Edward, senator from Massachusetts, flew here from San Francisco and was taken by helicopter to Good Samaritan.

Wounds were suffered by Paul Schrade, 30, United Auto Workers official; William Weisel, 30, unit manager for the American Broadcasting Co.; Ira Goldstein, 19, a radio newsman; Irwin Stroll, 17; and Mrs. Elizabeth Evans. All but Weisel, of Washington, D.C., are from the Los Angeles area.

The gunman appeared in the kitchen area behind the bandstand of the Embassy Room, where Kennedy backers, including movie stars and students, were listening to their candidate’s light-hearted victory speech.

Kennedy finished his speech and began working his way off the platform and into the kitchen, followed by close associates and members of his family.

At that moment the gunman pushed through the throng, reached his arm around others in front of him and shot the senator.

Grier, the football player, grabbed the man’s arm. Joe LaHive, a local Kennedy campaigner, wrested the gun away. Grier and a former Olympic decathlon champion, Rafer Johnson, lifted the assailant and spread him on a steel kitchen table.

“Nobody hurt this man!” one of the athletes shouted. “We want to take him alive!”

Women were screaming, “Oh no!” “God, God, not again!”

Kennedy was stretched on the floor, his face covered with blood. “Give him room! Step back!” someone yelled.

Kennedy seemed to hear nothing. His face was blank, his eyes staring sightlessly.

Grier, Johnson and two or three others held the gunman on the table 10 feet away. Screams began to be heard in the ballroom as news of the shooting spread to the campaigners, who had been cheering their candidate two minutes before.

Kennedy was given emergency treatment by a doctor summoned from the ballroom.

The gunman, apparently unharmed, was rushed through the Ambassador lobby by police 10 minutes after the shooting. By this time the crowd knew that Kennedy had been shot.

“Kill him! Lynch him!” onlookers shouted. They milled forward to get at the man, but the police ran him down the stairs and got him to the central jail.

Learn more about Robert F. Kennedy’s life, political career and assassination in GenealogyBank’s newspaper archives:

RFK Family Tree Chart

family tree for Robert F. Kennedy

Download our free family tree chart template to create your own personalized family tree chart like the Robert F. Kennedy family tree chart featured above:

Related Articles:

Assassination of President Lincoln: History of an Epic Tragedy

Introduction: Scott Phillips is a genealogical historian and owner of Onward To Our Past® genealogy services. In this guest blog post—to commemorate the fact that this week marks the 149th anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln—Scott searches old newspapers to see how this traumatic news was reported to our ancestors in the nation’s newspapers.

The American Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on 9 April 1865 (see 149th Anniversary: Civil War Ends with Lee’s Surrender to Grant). Although the last battle of the Civil War was not fought until 13 May 1865, it seemed in mid-April of 1865 that America’s long internal struggle was finally over.

Then, just five days after General Lee’s surrender, tragedy struck the evening of 14 April 1865 when President Abraham Lincoln was shot by Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth while watching the popular play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in the nation’s capital. The President died the next morning from his wounds at the nearby Petersen House located at 453 10th St., Washington, D.C.

a lithograph by Currier & Ives of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, 1865

Illustration: lithograph by Currier & Ives of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, 1865. Source: Library of Congress.

This traumatic news gripped the nation back then, and as genealogists and family historians it is interesting to think about how this news was reported to the public, and to wonder what its effects on our families and ancestors might have been.

To find the answers, I searched on Lincoln’s assassination in GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives.

Enter Last Name

Lincoln’s Assassination Hits the Newspaper Headlines

Right away, I found this article from a New York newspaper with these shocking headlines. The article provides a series of dispatches that the newspaper received, from the assassination attempt up to President Lincoln’s death at 7:22 a.m. on 15 April 1865.

Can you imagine how this tragedy must have gripped every one of our American ancestors?

Assassination of President Lincoln, Albany Evening Journal newspaper article 15 April 1865

Albany Evening Journal (Albany, New York), 15 April 1865, page 2

This Maine newspaper uses similar headlines and carries the latest dispatches from Washington regarding Lincoln’s last day alive, the assassination scene, and details of the assassination attempts on Secretary Seward and his son.

President Lincoln Assassinated, Daily Eastern Argus newspaper article 15 April 1865

Daily Eastern Argus (Portland, Maine), 15 April 1865, page 2

Newspapers in the South reflected the same shock and sadness, as you can see from this Virginia newspaper.

editorial about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, Alexandria Gazette newspaper article 15 April 1865

Alexandria Gazette (Alexandria, Virginia), 15 April 1865, page 2

As you can imagine, the news of Lincoln’s assassination riveted the entire nation.

Lincoln’s Funeral Train

Then came the Lincoln funeral train, which passed through 444 communities in 7 states; many Americans went to see the train carrying the body of the President (and that of his young son, Willie) from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Illinois, to pay their final respects. After departing from Washington, D.C., Lincoln’s funeral train passed through Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and finally Illinois.

Enter Last Name

This Vermont newspaper article outlines the plans for the funeral train.

Transportation of President Lincoln's Remains to Springfield, North Star newspaper article 29 April 1865

North Star (Danville, Vermont), 29 April 1865, page 2

My Ancestors Watched as Lincoln’s Train Passed

At this time in our nation’s history, most of my ancestors who had immigrated to the United States were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and many of them may have seen the following newspaper article. With incredible detail, this article explains not only the order of the reception of the funeral train in Cleveland, but also the exact times the pilot engine (an advance train engine checking the tracks, etc.) and the cortege train would leave each of the 19 stations in the Cleveland area. It also instructs that every business be closed that day, flags were to be at half-mast, and “the bells of the city will be tolled during the moving of the procession.”

I clearly remember my grandmother relating stories to me of her parents and aunts and uncles all going to see Lincoln’s funeral train that day.

Reception of President Lincoln's Remains, Plain Dealer newspaper article 27 April 1865

Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), 27 April 1865, page 3

This article from a New York newspaper provides many details about the movements and stops of Lincoln’s funeral train.

article about President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train, New York Tribune newspaper article 1 May 1865

New York Tribune (New York, New York), 1 May 1865, page 5

More Interesting Facts about Lincoln

In my reading on Lincoln’s assassination I found two particularly interesting facts that I need to research more. The first is that the President’s funeral train actually stopped in the small town of Michigan City, Indiana, adjacent to where I live now.

The second interesting fact is that trains played a prominent role in the life of President Abraham Lincoln even before he was sworn in as president, as explained in this 1861 article from a Pennsylvania newspaper. It reports the story of an assassination plot targeting Lincoln as the president-elect made his way to the nation’s capital to be sworn in. Luckily the plot was uncovered and Lincoln, in disguise, was spirited past the conspirators in Baltimore, Maryland, and—as we all know—was successfully sworn in to become America’s 16th president.

article about a plot to assassinate President-Elect Abraham Lincoln, Washington Reporter newspaper article 28 February 1861

Washington Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania), 28 February 1861, page 2

Now, I am betting that is a great story all on its own for a future Blog article! Stay tuned!

Related Articles about Abraham Lincoln:

46th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Assassination

At 6:01 p.m. the evening of 4 April 1968, the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by an assassin while standing on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Though rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dr. King was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. He died young at only 39 years old. A stunned nation lost its leading proponent of nonviolence, the civil rights movement lost its most visible leader, and many Americans deeply mourned King’s death.

Dr. King had come to Memphis to lead a protest march supporting the city’s striking garbage workers, almost all of whom were black. The plane carrying him to Memphis on April 3 received a bomb threat, and that night he gave what turned out to be the last speech of his life, sounding eerily as though he had already transcended his own death:

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now…I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

Historical newspapers are a great resource for exploring your ancestors’ lives—and the times they lived in. Here is a collection of old front-page headlines to show how newspapers broke the tragic news of MLK’s assassination to the nation. (Note: all of the newspaper articles used to illustrate this Blog post come from GenealogyBank’s online Historical Newspaper Archives.)

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Record American newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Record American (Boston, Massachusetts), 5 April 1968, page 1

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Greensboro Daily News newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Greensboro Daily News (Greensboro, North Carolina), 5 April 1968, page 1

Enter Last Name

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Boston Herald Traveler newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Boston Herald Traveler (Boston, Massachusetts), 5 April 1968, page 1

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Centre Daily Times newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Centre Daily Times (State College, Pennsylvania), 5 April 1968, page 1

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Commercial Appeal newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee), 5 April 1968, page 1

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Morning Advocate newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Morning Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 5 April 1968, page 1

Enter Last Name

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Aberdeen American-News newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Aberdeen American-News (Aberdeen, South Dakota), 5 April 1968, page 1

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Augusta Chronicle newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Augusta Chronicle (Augusta, Georgia), 5 April 1968, page 1

front-page news about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dallas Morning News newspaper articles 5 April 1968

Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas), 5 April 1968, page 1

Related Articles: