[McKINLEY, William--ASSASSINATION.] CZOLGOSZ, Leon F. (1873-1901), Assassin. Document signed ("Leon F. Czolgoz"), HIS LAST SIGNATURE, SIGNED WHILE EN ROUTE TO PRISON in the custody of Otto F. Welker, Deputy Sheriff, Erie County, 26 September 1901. 1 page, small 8vo (5¾ x 3½in.), ruled notepad paper, chipped at edges.
LAST KNOWN SIGNATURE OF LEON F. CZOLGOSZ, WRITTEN EN ROUTE TO THE DEATH HOUSE AT AUBURN, NEW YORK. At 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon of 26 September 1901, Judge Truman C. West pronounced a death sentence upon Czolgosz for the murder of President William McKinley. We know of only two surviving examples of Czolgosz's autograph, his confession (sold Christies, New York, 12 June 2008, lot 90) and the present document, signed some eight hours after the judge passed sentence upon him. Ever since his arrest--when he was badly beaten by the men who subdued him--mobs itched to get a lynch rope around Czolgosz's neck. Erie County police therefore took extra precautions in transporting him this evening from Buffalo to Auburn Prison where he was to be electrocuted. A contingent of sixteen armed guards rode with him on the train. The man seated directly behind Czolgosz was Otto F. Welker, a deputy sheriff, and during the journey he reached into his pocket, took out his notepad and a pencil and thrust them over Czolgosz's shoulder, asking him to sign his name. The prisoner complied. Welker then noted the time and date, wrote "signed by Czolgosz" and signed his own name. Another mob awaited at the train station at Auburn, raining blows down upon Czolgosz, who collapsed in a hysterical fit when he was delivered to the warden's office.
It was a remarkably swift but tumultuous course that carried Czolgosz from arrest, to trial and execution in less than 60-days. In his confession, made before trial, Czolgosz claimed to have acted out of anarchist, political motives. "When I shot him I intended to kill him and the reason for my intention in killing was because I did not believe in presidents over us. I was willing to sacrifice myself & the president for the benefit of the country." At his arraignment he pled guilty, but the judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf and appointed two distinguished former judges to act as his counsel. But Czolgosz refused to cooperate with them or even speak with them. He would not speak with anyone he deemed part of the capitalist power system. He made no defense. No witnesses were called on his behalf. The jury convicted him after less than an hour of deliberation, and on the 26th Judge West passed sentence. After the execution, the prison denied the request of Czolgosz's brother to take away the body for burial. The crowd would tear it apart, the authorities warned him. Instead, his body was subjected to a hasty autopsy then buried in the Auburn grounds and treated with quick lime and sulfuric acid to speed decomposition. A similar urge to rid any trace of his presence was applied to his clothing and personal effects--including documents--which were immediately burned. NO OTHER MANUSCRIPTS SURVIVE. The dean of American autographs, Charles Hamilton, included this document in his authoritative compilation, American Autographs, 2:511.