The Assassination of President William McKinley
The Pan American Expo
It was a miracle. When people first saw the fantastic lights of the Pan American Exposition of 1901 at Buffalo, that's what they thought: it was a miracle. The buildings at the Expo were constructed according to a Spanish Renaissance motif, painted in bright pastel colors and covered with thousands of colorful lights. At night, the fairgrounds lighted up the entire sky and could be seen for miles. The Expo was a glimpse into the future world that few ordinary people had ever seen. During that era, there was a passionate interest in new scientific discovery. At the fair, there were exhibitions on science, agriculture, transportation, history and much more. Science was the highlight of the exposition and everywhere, it seemed, there were new advancements in knowledge and learning.
In the center of the Exposition, amidst of a sea of color and fantastic shapes, the massive Electric Tower rose up like a glowing obelisk, a dazzling technological achievement that had spectators gasping in amazement and awe. It was said that electricity would carry America out the darkness of the past and into the light of a better future.
Each day, tens of thousands of people from all over the world lined up at the front gates eager to tour the fabulous sights of the Pan Am Expo. They ate chocolate at the Baker's Chocolate Building, saw the latest in the arts at the Graphic Arts Exhibit, sampled fragrant soaps at the Larkin Soap Building and dined at any one of the 36 restaurants on the fairgrounds. Robert Grant, writing for Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1901 said, "Among the great fairs of the world the Pan American will hold an honorable place...It's unique and compelling feature is its electric light illumination, which is a superb and masterly achievement." By the time the Expo closed its gates in the fall of 1901, over 11,000,000 people passed through the turnstiles.
Somewhere in that multitude, in early September, a young man grasped a .32 caliber revolver concealed in his pocket. He was 28 years old, of slim build, wore a slight mustache and had a pale complexion. He roamed the exhibitions only mildly interested in their content and was curiously unimpressed at the wonders of the Expo. Drifting from one display to another, he walked the grounds ruefully with a growing anger at almost everything he saw. Convinced that the government was designed to keep people like him down, he raged within himself and swore that something had to be done to change things. Something had to be done to help the poor workingman break the bonds of poverty. His name was Leon Franz Czolgosz, the son of Polish immigrants. And soon, this disturbed, enigmatic loner, a disciple of the anarchist movement and devoted follower of the political radical, Emma Goldman, would change the course of American history.