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On This Day



On This Day… The Modern Secret Service

Written by: George Chittenden : 31 May 2019

It was on this day, 6th Sept, back in 1901 when American President William McKinley was shot twice at point blank range whilst visiting the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York. His assassination helped create the Secret Service we have today. At the time they were largely a branch of the Treasury Department that investigated counterfeiting, but they were also responsible for the President’s protection.

McKinley’s assassination came as a wake-up call for the need to protect the President, but McKinley of course wasn’t the first President to be targeted, as both President Lincoln and President Garfield had met similar fates. Obviously, he wasn’t the last either, with John Kennedy’s assassination years later. McKinley’s shooting though resulted in the Secret Service formally becoming the protector of the President and their first assignment was guarding Theodore Roosevelt.

The man who shot McKinley was a Polish immigrant named Leon Czolgosz, who claimed to have killed McKinley because he was the head of what he thought was a corrupt government. Czolgosz was given the electric chair on October 29th, 1901. President McKinley initially survived the attempt on his life but died eight days later from gangrene that had gone undetected in the internal wound.

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