Did William McKinley’s assassination start the “White House Blues?”

January 31, 2018

Charlie Poole with the North Carolina Ramblers - Monkey on a String / White House Blues

Record label of the 1926 recording of “White House Blues,” by Charlie Poole with the North Carolina Ramblers

We noted the birthday of William McKinley on Monday, January 29.

Long-time reader Ellie commented with the lyrics to a song called “White House Blues,” starting out with a lament about McKinley’s being shot. The song was new to me, so I asked about it. Ellie gave us a good encyclopedia entry.

Ellie’s first comment:

The pistol fires, McKinley falls
Doc says, “McKinley, I can’t find that ball”
In Buffalo, in Buffalo

Zolgotz, Zolgotz you done him wrong
You shot poor McKinley while he was walking along
In Buffalo, Buffalo

Well, Doc had a horse and he threw down the rein
He said to that horse, “You better outrun this train”
From Buffalo to Washington

Yeah, Doc come a-running and he tore off his specs
He said, “Mr. McKinley, done cashed in your checks
You’re bound to die, you’re bound to die”

McKinley he hollered, McKinley he squalled
The doc say, “McKinley, I can’t find that ball”
In Buffalo to Washington

Look here, little rascal, just look what you’ve done
You shot my husband with that Ivor Johnstone gun
He’ll be gone a long, long time.

Well hush up, little children, don’t you fret
You’ll draw a pension off your poor papa’s death
He’s gonna be gone a long, long time.

Roosevelt in the White House, he’s doing his best
McKinley’s in the graveyard, he’s taking his rest
He’s gonna be gone a long, long time

Roosevelt in the White House he’s drinking out of a silver cup
McKinley’s in the graveyard, he never will wake up
He’ll be gone a long, long time.

White House Blues – one of many versions

After I asked, Ellie elaborated:

I believe this is the oldest recorded version of the song:

But, there are many others. I first came across it back in the late ’60s – early 70’s, but I can’t remember where. I thought it was in Sandburg’s American Song Bag, but I just checked, and it isn’t. There have been many recordings, including Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, all with slight differences in the words. The first one I learned had a reference to Ida’s children having another Papa on another railroad line, but that was a later addition stolen from other songs. Ida and William appeared to have loved each other. Note the misspelling of Czolgosz. That was from the version I learned, and not my mistake. :-)

Here’s a slightly more contemporary version, but quite different.

This is the latest version I’ve found (hope I haven’t overloaded with links)

Nice “talking” to you.

Dear reader: Do you have a different version you recommend? Tell us in comments.

More:

 

Advertisements

115 years ago: September 14, 1901, President McKinley died

September 14, 2016

On the Threshold, illustration from Harpers Weekly, September 14, 1901

“On the Threshold,” illustration from Harper’s Weekly, September 14, 1901

On September 14, 1901, President William McKinley died in Buffalo, New York, from gangrene from gunshot wounds he suffered eight days earlier.

Teachers should be mining the “On This Day” feature at the New York Times, which usually features an historic cartoon or illustration from an antique Harper’s Weekly. It is a favorite feature, to me.

Some time ago “On This Day” featured the illustration from Harper’s upon the death of President William McKinley, on September 14, 1901.

At the Threshold

Artist: William Allen Rogers

his post-dated cartoon was published as President William McKinley lay dying from an assassin’s bullet. He had been shot on September 6, 1901, by anarchist Leon Czolgosz (pronounced chol-gosh) at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The president died on September 14. Here, McKinley is led to the Hall of Martyrs by grief-stricken personifications of the North and South. Between pillars topped by busts of the two previously slain presidents, Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield, the angel of death prepares to place a laurel wreath of honor upon McKinley’s head. (Images related to Garfield’s assassination also showed a reconciled North and South.)

There is much more at the Times site.

Robert Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln, was present when McKinley was shot. Accounts I have read but not confirmed say that Robert Lincoln had been invited to attend Ford’s Theatre with his father and mother, the night his father was shot. As a member of President James Garfield’s cabinet, Robert Lincoln had been awaiting Garfield’s arrival at Union Station in Washington, D.C., when Garfield was shot.

And as a visitor in Buffalo, Robert Lincoln had as a matter of respect lined up to shake President William McKinley’s hand.

Astounding if true. Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated. Robert Lincoln was close to the first, the assassination of his father, and present for the next two. Where can we confirm that story? U.S. National Archives publishes a magazine, Prologue, which detailed the unusual, and sad, case of Robert Lincoln and his brushes with presidential assassins and assassinations.

McKinley’s death catapulted the do-gooder, Theodore Roosevelt, into the presidency, probably to the great chagrin of corrupt Republican politicians who had hoped that by getting him nominated to the vice presidency they could get him out of New York politics, banishing him to the eternal ignominy of Vice Presidents of the U.S. who never went on to achieve much more in their lives.

The rest is history.

More:

 


September 6, 1901: President McKinley shot, in Buffalo

September 6, 2016

From the University of Buffalo site on McKinley and his visit to the Buffalo Exposition:

From the University of Buffalo site on McKinley and his visit to the Buffalo Exposition: “President McKinley Greeting Well-Wishers at a Reception in the Temple of Music. September 6, 1901 (minutes before he was shot). Photographer: Undetermined. Source: The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.”

Buffalo, New York, hosted the deaths of two presidents. Long-time Buffalo resident and ex-President Millard Fillmore died there of natural causes on March 8, 1874. And on September 6, 1901, President William McKinley was shot at the Buffalo Pan American Exposition, what passed for a world fair at the time. McKinley died in Buffalo 8 days later.

President Andrew Jackson survived a knife attack. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Charles Garfield were both assassinated within the previous 36 years of the attack on McKinley. This was the third fatal attack on a president, and the fifth time a president had died in office.

Fortunately for McKinley, there was a new X-ray machine on display at the Exposition, which could be used to find bullets for extraction. Unfortunately for McKinley, attending physicians did not use the machine. Operations to remove bullet fragments were not wholly successful. Worse, the surgeries exposed McKinley to bacteria that infected him. He died of gangrene on September 14.

Had antibiotics, modern surgical instrument sterilization, and modern surgical methods been used, McKinley might have survived to serve out his term. Would Vice President Theodore Roosevelt then have had a chance to succeed him? A great history what-if.

Here’s another. McKinley’s first Vice President, Garrett Hobart, died during the first term, of heart disease in 1899. Six months earlier, there was no Vice President to succeed McKinley.

In an election year, we may want to revisit presidential succession in tough times. Our votes may count more than we know.

More:

From the University of Buffalo's Pan Am Exposition site:

From the University of Buffalo’s Pan Am Exposition site: “President McKinley’s Speech at the Pan-American Exposition. September 5, 1901. Photographer: Frances Johnston. Source: Photograph from the Johnston Collection in the Prints and Photographs. Division of the Library of Congress. Also in Pete Daniel and Raymond Smock. A Talent For Detail : The Photographs of Miss Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1889-1910. New York : Harmony Books, [1974], p. 73.” The day before McKinley was shot.

Save


Strange crossings: Booth asked the president for an umbrella

November 17, 2015

This is just so odd that it merits our attention, something I found a while ago researching about presidents and umbrellas.

On November 17, 1864, John Wilkes Booth wrote to President Abraham Lincoln asking for money to purchase an umbrella.

Yes, Booth, the man who would eventually assassinate that same Abraham Lincoln.

Page 1 of John Wilkes Booth's 1864 letter to President Abraham Lincoln

Page 1 of John Wilkes Booth’s 1864 letter to President Abraham Lincoln

Booth to Lincoln, page 2

Booth to Lincoln, page 2

Booth to Lincoln, page 3

Booth to Lincoln, page 3

Booth to Lincoln, page 4

Booth to Lincoln, page 4

Booth to Lincoln, page 5

Booth to Lincoln, page 5

Booth to Lincoln, page 6

Booth to Lincoln, page 6

The letter is in the collection of Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress, described as “John Wilkes to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, November 17, 1864 (Congratulations; request that Lincoln send him money to buy an umbrella).”

I have found no official transcript of the letter.

Of all the richochets of umbrellas in the history of the American presidency, this must be the strangest.

Tinfoil hatters, conspiracy nuts, historical psychanalyzers, and the rest of us, might wonder if this played any role in the sad crossing of these two people almost exactly six months later, in Ford’s Theatre.

More:

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Presidents and umbrellas, continued: Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth

May 20, 2013

This is just so odd that it merits our attention, so long as we’re talking about presidents and umbrellas.

In 1864, John Wilkes Booth wrote to President Abraham Lincoln asking for money to purchase an umbrella.

Yes, Booth, the man who would eventually assassinate that same Abraham Lincoln.

Page 1 of John Wilkes Booth's 1864 letter to President Abraham Lincoln

Page 1 of John Wilkes Booth’s 1864 letter to President Abraham Lincoln

Booth to Lincoln, page 2

Booth to Lincoln, page 2

Booth to Lincoln, page 3

Booth to Lincoln, page 3

Booth to Lincoln, page 4

Booth to Lincoln, page 4

Booth to Lincoln, page 5

Booth to Lincoln, page 5

Booth to Lincoln, page 6

Booth to Lincoln, page 6

The letter is in the collection of Lincoln papers at the Library of Congress, described as “John Wilkes to Abraham Lincoln, Thursday, November 17, 1864 (Congratulations; request that Lincoln send him money to buy an umbrella).”

I have found no official transcript of the letter.

Of all the richochets of umbrellas in the history of the American presidency, this must be the strangest.

More:


September 14: President McKinley died, 1901

September 14, 2011

On the Threshold, illustration from Harpers Weekly, September 14, 1901

"On the Threshold," illustration from Harper's Weekly, September 14, 1901

Teachers should be mining the “On This Day” feature at the New York Times, which usually features an historic cartoon or illustration from an antique Harper’s Weekly. It is a favorite feature, to me.

Yesterday, it featured the illustration from Harper’s upon the death of President William McKinley, on September 14, 1901.

At the Threshold

Artist: William Allen Rogers

his post-dated cartoon was published as President William McKinley lay dying from an assassin’s bullet. He had been shot on September 6, 1901, by anarchist Leon Czolgosz (pronounced chol-gosh) at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. The president died on September 14. Here, McKinley is led to the Hall of Martyrs by grief-stricken personifications of the North and South. Between pillars topped by busts of the two previously slain presidents, Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield, the angel of death prepares to place a laurel wreath of honor upon McKinley’s head. (Images related to Garfield’s assassination also showed a reconciled North and South.)

There is much more at the Times site.

Robert Lincoln, the son of Abraham Lincoln, was present when McKinley was shot. Accounts I have read but not confirmed say that Robert Lincoln had been invited to attend Ford’s Theatre with his father and mother, the night his father was shot. As a member of President James Garfield’s cabinet, Robert Lincoln had been awaiting Garfield’s arrival at Union Station in Washington, D.C., when Garfield was shot.

And as a visitor in Buffalo, Robert Lincoln had as a matter of respect lined up to shake President William McKinley’s hand.

Astounding if true. Four U.S. presidents have been assassinated. Robert Lincoln was close to the first, the assassination of his father, and present for the next two. Where can we confirm that story?

McKinley’s death catapulted the do-gooder, Theodore Roosevelt, into the presidency, probably to the great chagrin of corrupt Republican politicians who had hoped that by getting him nominated to the vice presidency they could get him out of New York politics.

The rest is history.

(This is an encore post.)


%d bloggers like this: