McKinley Assassination

William McKinley was elected to the first of two terms in 1896. He was sworn in on March 4, 1897 as the nation’s 25th president. He won re-election in 1900. Six months into his second term McKinley visited the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

On September 6th McKinley, while at the Temple of Music Hall, was in a receiving line shaking hands. A man named Leon Czolgosz, an avowed anarchist, came to the head of the line, and, pulling a gun from beneath a handkerchief, shot McKinley twice. Some accounts say one bullet hit a button and was deflected. The other bullet entered the president’s body.

McKinley was taken by ambulance to the fairground hospital. A doctor cleaned and closed the wound. McKinley convalesced for a few days and it was thought he might recover.

On the morning of September 13 his health quickly deteriorated as gangrene developed and he died on the morning of September 14th, 1901. Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of The United States. Czolgosz was quickly tried for murder, found guilty and executed on October 29, 1901.

Sculptor Edward L. A. Pausch Background

Here is where a famous turn of the century sculptor named Edward L.A. Pausch enters into our story. Sculptor Edward Ludwig Albert Pausch was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and immigrated with his family to Hartford Connecticut as a small child. He apprenticed with various sculptors for eleven years in Hartford and New York City. In 1889 he joined with sculptor, James G.C. Hamilton at the Smith Granite Company in Westerly, Rhode Island. James G.C. Hamilton is known to Cantonians as the stone sculptor of the beautiful historic pediment above the entrance of the present Stark County Courthouse, in Canton, Ohio.

Edward Pausch’s most ambitious work, created at the Smith Granite Company is the George Washington Memorial (1889-91) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This is a one and a half-life size equestrian statue depicting Washington as a 23 year old colonel in the French and Indian War.

Pausch is also credited with creating at least seven of the numerous monuments in the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

According to an article that appeared in the Columbus Dispatch newspaper in 1923 upon William McKinley’s death on September 14, 1901, a New York sculptor, Edward L.A. Pausch, immediately wired McKinley’s secretary, Mr. George B. Cortelyou. He was requesting permission to make a death mask of the dead President. With Mrs. Ida McKinley’s permission, the request was granted and Pausch took the first train that he could catch, reaching Buffalo in time to make the mask in the morning after the death.

Pausch made a mold from a plaster of Paris application to the president’s facial features. The casting was immediately locked up in a safety deposit vault in Buffalo, New York. No photographs were permitted. Three days later it was delivered to Mr. Cortelyou at the White House and was transferred to the Smithsonian National Museum.

Pausch had made a clay model from the plaster of Paris impression and, later in early 1902, Pausch was commissioned by the Postal Union workers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to make a bronze casting bust of the McKinley death mask affixed to a granite pedestal to be displayed inside the post office in Philadelphia. This commission was paid for by the postal employees who wished to honor President McKinley for his pioneering work in civil service.

When the post office relocated a few years later there was no suitable spot in the new building for displaying this work of art, so it was placed in storage at the Philadelphia Arsenal for 30 years.

The Arsenal was slated to be demolished in 1959 and the question arose as what to do with the bust and pedestal. Several cities sought to obtain it but City of Canton officials heard about the situation and made a pitch to the post office to obtain it. The post office offered the art work to the City of Canton on condition that the City would pay all transportation costs. The Canton Lions Club, a service club stepped up and paid all transportation costs.

The McKinley bust now gracing the front walk of the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum is getting a refurbishment. The Museum contacted a company of Canton and they sandblasted the bust and treated the surface of the bronze with 3 coats of preservative.

The beautiful Pausch sculpture commissioned by the Philadelphia Postal Union workers in 1902 will hopefully celebrate the memory of President William McKinley for many more generations to come.

George Washington Memorial by Edward Ludwig Albert Pausch (1856-1931) – Allegheny Commons Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Dedicated on Feb. 23, 1891. The head of this piece copied after Houdon’s George Washington in the Virginia State House in Richmond, Virginia.

(This artwork is in the public domain because the artist died more than 70 years ago. Smithsonian SIRIS information:

Library Volunteers, Rochelle and Thomas Haas

McKinley Presidential Library, Canton, Ohio