1901 — US President William McKinley is assassinated

William McKinley was neither the first nor the last United States President to be assassinated while in office. But he was perhaps the most kindly. When he was shot, his first thought was that whoever told his wife do so gently; his second, that the mob be prevented from killing his attacker.

The attacker in question was Leon Czolgosz, a man who had turned to anarchist thought after witnessing the brutral strike-breaking practices of his era. Ironically, he was an outcast among other anarchists, who found his talk of violent action and general fanaticism disturbing – some even suspected him of being an agent provocateur.

Czolgosz was arrested, refused to cooperate with his own defence, and was convicted and executed. McKinley died from the wounds Czolgosz had inflicted. He was succeeded as President by Theodoore Roosevelt.

Referenced in:

White House Blues – Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers

1856 — John Brown and his sons flee Kansas

One of the best known Abolitionists in American history, John Brown was a staunch exponent of armed insurrection for the purpose of overflowing the institution of slavery. He commanded other abolitionists in struggles throughout Kansas in 1856 – his forces killed five supporters of slavery in one of these encounters. Naturally, this caused some pushback, and one of Brown’s sons was killed in the skirmishing on August 30.

Brown, not being entirely stupid, left the state with three of his sons after hostilities were narrowly avoided on September 14. Officially, he was fund raising for the cause, and he did indeed do some of that. But realistically, he was trying to save the lives of his remaining sons. It would be almost two entire years before he returned to Kansas.

Referenced in:

David Rose — Clutch