110 years ago today, President McKinley was shot in the abdomen while welcoming visitors at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo. At the time, McKinley’s vice president Theodore Roosevelt was on an island in Lake Champlain, about to make a speech at the annual gathering of the Vermont Fish and Game League.
Upon hearing the news of the shooting, Roosevelt immediately took action and made an effort to reach the president’s side in Buffalo.
The Shapell Manuscript Foundation has on display a message scrawled in Roosevelt’s own hand, addressing the institute which treated McKinley’s injury. The note, written in the back on a railroad timetable, read:
“Director of Hospital or House at which President lies Buffalo NY.
Wire me at once full particulars to Van Ness House Burlington Vermont.
Another anonymous historian recorded Roosevelt’s initial reaction to the news, and later, his misplaced hope in the president’s recovery. The record quotes Roosevelt as saying:
“I am so inexpressibly shocked and horrified that I cannot say anything,” and, later, “Everything is going on most satisfactorily with the president. I feel assured not only that he will recover, but that his recovery will be so speedy that in a very short time he will be able to resume his duties.”
Sadly, Roosevelt’s prediction was proven wrong when President McKinley died on September 14th. Roosevelt was then named president, and he served in that role for eight years.