Never before in the history of the city of Buffalo did news spread with such lightening rapidity as that which announced that President McKinley had been shot. Never was this city thrown into such a state of excited sorrow, horror and indignation. Everywhere the people mourned the harm that had been done to the Chief Executive of the nation while he was a guest within the portals of Buffalo's Rainbow City.
At first, everyone thought that the news was a hoax. Yet there was about so much sincerity in the statement that invariably all persons asked if it were really so. The informant would invariably reply that it was. Deeper and denser the shadow of pain and sorrow drew itself across the faces of those down town who heard rumor after rumor, and their hearts beat more violently. With trembling voices many rushed up and down inquiring of all they met for further particulars. Like a fire spreading across dry grass, the news spread through every street, along every highway, out into the East Side, down in the south section, over in the West Side and doubly quick through the northern section of the city.
No telegraph wire, with its mysterious clicking, ever conveyed more shocking news to Buffalonians than that the President had been made the victim of a would-be assassin. At first it came as a dull shock to the credibility, then it grew into a fiery and insane indignation, mixed with abject horror, and at last it ripened into a deep, all-pervading sorrow. All manner of man and woman inquired to the President's condition. For a time all concluded that the deadly missile had found its way to a fatal spot and here and there wild rumors flew that the President was dead. Then there were the thoughts that the President was not dead, only wounded.
This hope was short lived, however, and shortly before 5:00 there came several wild rumors that President McKinley had passed away. Many flags on Main Street were hastily drawn to half mast. Then later extras of the Enquirer were on the street, giving many of the details of the shooting and the official bulletin announcing the President's condition after the first superficial examination.
PEOPLE WANTED NEWS
The people of Buffalo grasped the news eagerly and anxiously inquired for more details. When they received an inkling of the manner in which the shooting had occurred, there arose a mighty feeling of indignation against the would-be assassin.
"LYNCH HIM! LYNCH HIM!" could be heard on all sides, even among many of the staid and conservative people who lined the curbs of Main and other business thoroughfares. Quicker than lightening flashes over the skies the report seemed to fly through the city, and five minutes after the first rumor had gone afloat, Main Street was alive with anxious surging throng that sought information.
From the Exposition the news flashed outside the grounds and was caught aboard the street cars and carried along the line. Men shouted it, women screeched out anxious inquiries, and all soon knew of the awful news. Like a swarm of bees, all hurried home, each bearing the news as he went along. The frenzy rose to a fervent pitch.
"Lynching is too good," came back the answer in a chorus of voices on every side.
"Burn him over a slow fire," said some.
"Cut him up inch by inch," cried others.
"Make him suffer as no man has ever suffered before," was another exhortation.
Buffalo is a staid city, but it required no acute vision to see that more than half the street crowds would have been willing and glad to have seen a sudden and violent death meted out to the man who fired the shot, and many a man that before had spurned the thought of lynching as a punishment for crime, held his hands firmly clenched, itching to pull the rope that might have been thrown around the prisoner's neck.
In front of The Courier and Enquirer offices great crowds began gathering and the street was jammed to its capacity with anxious watchers who eagerly read the bulletins posted as rapidly as news could be gathered. No election night in Buffalo turned out such an interested crowd. At the Iroquois Hotel, the Tifft House, the Genesee, the Ellicott Square and other places on Main Street, great masses of people stood about and waited for the extras, while the whole length of Main Street, from Seneca to Tupper Street was literally jammed with people.
CROWD THREATEN VENGEANCE
The crowd compared in numbers with that of the most exciting Presidential campaigns. There was, however, no shouting, no bursts of enthusiasm. Instead, the people were hushed. As the full details of the awful crime became thoroughly known, threats of violence were heard again. Orders went forth to the policemen to command everyone to preserve order and to speak against possible violence. Every effort to preclude the possibility of mob violence. But the indignation grew in some sections, and when the news came that the assassin Czolgosz had been removed to Police Headquarters, a crowd gathered at the corner of Main and Erie Streets.
About 9:00 in the evening, the crowd in the vicinity of Main Street had grown to a thousand, and hot-headed men moved about suggesting lynching. Then there came a general rush as though something were happening, and the crowd moved toward police headquarters. Above the din and roar of the crowd could be heard sullen cries of "HANG HIM! LYNCH HIM!" and other violent words. Ropes were stretched about the station for a considerable distance and a strong guard placed about the Headquarters Building while the police officers passed through the crowds, and cautioned all against violence.
At 10:00, fully 10,000 people had gathered in the streets between Main, Erie and Niagara Streets and Delaware Avenue. Some one began a speech in front of the Columbia Bank in the Prudential Building at Pearl and Church Streets and the crowd went wild, many burst into applause, but the speaker's remarks could many time be heard above the roar of the crowds.
"TO NUMBER 1 AND LYNCH HIM," was one cry he made. The shouts of approval could be heard for blocks, each time with a more maddening frenzy. Then the speaker shouted, "THIS WAY," and turned toward Niagara Street, carrying part of the crowd with him. The big portion charged down Pearl to Erie Street and down toward Police Headquarters.
"TO NUMBER 1 AND LYNCH HIM," they shouted, shoving the police aside and crowding nearer the stationhouse. Some persistent disturbers were doing most of the yelling and the biggest portion of the crowd were following curiously. The police jumped into patrol wagons and started to force the crowd back. The police did not hesitate to perform their duties and the crowd fell back to Franklin Street, where several patrolmen and two mounted officers kept them in restraint there.