This is part 2 of a very American double-header!

Have you taken the 2020 census yet? I did a couple of weeks ago, and I was surprised by how short it was. I remember it being very long and detailed in 2010, with questions like, “Do you carpool to work? If so, how many people are in your car pool?” Why does the government need to know that much information about me. I still don’t know the answer to that but nevertheless census records are really fascinating. recently highlighted this census record of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which was actually filled out at the White House:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s census

I found the records of two well-known people in the census data to share with you.

The first census is John Wilkes Booth, best known for being the assassin of Abraham Lincoln, just after the Civil War. Booth murdered Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, and fled on horseback into Virginia, where he was killed 12 days later by federal troops. Well, unless you believe the theory that Booth survived and died in 1902 or thereabouts.

John Wilkes Booth, 1865

In 1860, Booth was already a famous actor. In 1860, he had no idea that with five years, he would be infamous and reviled by Americans. The soon-to-be-infamous actor was just 22 and was already well-known. Booth was a famous stage actor, or as he put it, a Tragedian– one who performs tragic roles in the theater. He was living in Philadelphia, with his mother and siblings. His brother, Edwin, also a tragedian, lived at the same address.  Fortunately, another person living at the address listed his occupation as a Comedian, and hopefully balanced things out a little!

The 1860 census in Philadelphia (John Wilkes Booth highlighted)


The other record I found was Theodore Roosevelt’s 1900 census. Roosevelt had no idea what the next two years held for him. He was the governor of New York in June 1900. Eight months later, he would be the vice-president of the United States. And seven months into the second  McKinley administration, the president was assassinated, catapulting Roosevelt into the presidency. (Who knows what great things will happen to you in the next 15 months?)

Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt’s home

But in 1900, Roosevelt was not exactly bored and waiting for something to happen. He was living in Oyster Bay with his second wife, Edith Kermit Roosevelt. Their house was called Sagamore Hill and in addition to the couple, it was also home to their six children and seven full-time employees.

Theodore Roosevelt’s 1900 census

The census is a unique snapshot in time!

The wounded President McKinley was taken to Milburn House, where Ida was waiting. His cabinet was informed of the shooting, and they rushed to Buffalo to join the president. Initially, however, it looked as though a crisis had been averted. The doctors were optimistic and President McKinley appeared to be on the mend. The Cabinet dispersed and Vice President Roosevelt headed for a long-planned camping trip in the Adirondacks.

The doctors had overlooked the earliest signs that the president’s wounds had become infected and on the morning of September 13, a week after the shooting, William McKinley’s health began a rapid decline. The doctors were confronted with the ugly reality that the president was dying. Gangrene had set in, and it was rapidly poisoning him. No drugs yet existed that could control such an infection. His pulse grew fainter all day, until around 5 p.m., when the president suffered a heart attack.

That evening, McKinley realized what the doctors had known all day. “It is useless, gentlemen,” he whispered. “I think we ought to have prayer.”

He wanted to see Ida. The First Lady rushed to him and sobbed, “I want to go, too! I want to go, too!”

“We are all going,” he said soothingly. “God’s will be done– not ours.” He lost consciousness shortly afterwards and on Saturday at 2:14 a.m., William McKinley’s spirit departed.

Buffalo Courier front page of Sept 14 1901

As soon as the president was known to be dying, messengers had been sent out to locate the vice president. The adventurous Roosevelt was camping on Mount Marcy, far from easy reach of civilization. As soon as he was located, Roosevelt rushed back to the president’s bedside but he was too late to see McKinley. Instead, he was inaugurated as the twenty-sixth president of the United States in the city of Buffalo.

While America mourned the fallen McKinley, the people were hopeful about Theodore Roosevelt. He was still relatively unknown to most of the country, having been the vice president for less than 200 days, but he was a man of the age: optimistic, tough, and an avid outdoorsman. Had they heard of Roosevelt at all, it would have been about his speech to the crowd at the Minnesota State Fair, when he said: “Speak softly and carry a big stick, and you will go far.”

Nine days after President McKinley’s death, Leon Czolgosz went on trial for his murder. The trial was short, mostly because the defense had nothing to present. Czolgosz would not speak to his attorneys, though he communicated freely with everyone else. After 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury declared the president’s assassin Guilty. The judge sentenced him to death.

Exactly 45 days after President McKinley died, on October 29, 1901, Leon Czolgosz made his final statement. “I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people— the good working people,” he said defiantly. “I am not sorry for my crime.” Moments later, an Edison camera recorded his execution, by electrocution.

A panoramic souvenir picture of the Pan-American Exposition

A month later, the Pan-Am Exposition closed. Eight million people had visited the magnificent City of Light within the city of Buffalo. Workers dismantled and packed up the exhibits, and the beautiful buildings were demolished.

Despite the end of the exposition, and the tragedy that hung over the place, no one could fail to be impressed with Buffalo’s beauty and ingenuity. The city had made its mark. Buffalo was a consequential place.

The day after President McKinley spoke to a vast crowd at the Pan American Exposition, Leon Czolgosz hurried to the Temple of Music, with his .32 caliber revolver carefully hidden in his pocket beneath his handkerchief. He drew a breath of relief when he saw the long line of citizens waiting for the doors to open so they could have their turn to shake a U.S. President’s hand. His only concern was that something would have happened to detain McKinley and he would not have his chance. Czolgosz took his place at the end of the line.

McKinley only had ten minutes allotted for greeting the public, and the line moved forward swiftly. While they waited, they could listen to William Gomph, the exposition’s organist, playing Robert Schumann’s Träumerei from Kinderscenen on the Temple’s famed organ.

Czolgosz reached the front of the line at 4:07 p.m. “I trembled until I got right up to him,” he said later. The eyes of the president met those of the dark-haired young man, and McKinley smiled; meeting the public was a part of his job he enjoyed. He extended his hand. Czolgosz slapped it away and before McKinley could react, he shot the president twice at point blank range. The first bullet ricocheted off of a coat button before hitting McKinley and causing a shallow wound. The bullet second tore into McKinley’s stomach, seriously wounding him.

The Temple of Music, where Leon Czolgosz shot President McKinley. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

McKinley had a security detail, but in the critical moment they seemed to be frozen in shock.
‘Giant’ Jim Parker was a visitor from Atlanta. You could not miss Giant Jim, a black man who towered over everyone else at 6’6. He realized what had happened before anyone else did, and hit Czolgosz in the face, knocking him down and preventing him from firing a third shot and immediately killing the president.

This broke the spell, and the soldiers and detectives who were there to protect McKinley descended on Czolgosz. They would surely have beaten him to death but McKinley’s voice rose over the pandemonium and stopped it. “Go easy on him, boys,” he told them. “He could not have known.”

McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz, was arrested at the scene and dragged away. When he was questioned, Czolgosz confirmed he had deliberately fired at the president and said he had acted alone. “I am an anarchist,” he declared. “I am a disciple of Emma Goldman. Her words set me on fire.”

Later that day, Czolgosz wrote and signed a confession that read: “I killed President McKinley because I done my duty. I didn’t believe one man should have so much service and another man should have none.”

The handwritten confession of Leon Czolgosz

There were shrieks and screams as the news spread, and the president was carried out of the temple and rushed to the exposition’s aid station in an electrical ambulance.

McKinley was laid on a table and the doctors crowded around him. The first bullet was easy to find and remove but the second was buried deep in the president’s body.

The doctors were at a disadvantage. Even though the exteriors of many of the buildings were covered with thousands of light bulbs, the tiny operating room at the aid station did not have electric lights. Someone on the staff procured a tin pan and used it to reflect sunlight to illuminate the room.

The Ambulance in Which President McKinley was taken from the Temple of Music to the Emergency Hospital , and thence to the Milburn residence, where he died. Photo courtesy Library of Congress

Efforts to find the second bullet were unsuccessful. The doctors were aware a newly developed X-ray machine was on display at the exposition, but they were unsure what side effects it might have and were reluctant to use it on the president. At last they decided further attempts to find the bullet would hurt McKinley more than they could help him.