Leon Frank Czolgosz (pronounced show-gotz) was born in Michigan in 1873, to a large, poverty-stricken family. He went to work at the age of 10, and eventually landed a job with good wages at the American Steel and Wire Company, a wire mill in Cleveland, Ohio. Comparatively little is known of him. He was a reliable worker, but he witnessed scenes between striking workers and authorities which affected his mind. A mental breakdown occurred in 1898 which caused him to move home. By that time, he had developed a strong interest in anarchy.

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Leon F. Czolgosz

Czolgosz believed American society, presumably represented by U.S. president William McKinley, enabled a handful of rich men to exploit the masses.

American Steel and Wire Company in Cleveland, Ohio
American Steel and Wire Company in Cleveland, Ohio

McKinley was reelected in 1900, and was scheduled to spend two days at the Pan-Am Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The president’s security team seemed to sense something sinister, and tried to dissuade McKinley from going to Buffalo. When that failed, the President’s secretary George Cortelyou twice removed a visit to the Temple of Music from McKinley’s agenda. In a series of decisions eerily similar to those made by another U.S. president some 60 years later, McKinley ignored his security team’s fears and requested the visit to the Temple of Music be added back to his schedule.

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