Recently discovered documents reveal new details about the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley and the unusual medical examination that followed his death.
The documents, which belonged to Dr. Herman Matzinger who conducted a bacteriological analysis after McKinley’s autopsy, show Matzinger injected bacterial samples from McKinley’s wounds into rabbits and a dog as part of his investigation into whether the assassin’s bullets were poisoned or infected.
Matzinger was attempting to quell widespread rumors that McKinley’s drawn out death was due to poison or bacteria-laced bullets fired by assassin Leon Czolgosz. His experiments on the animals are surprising and their purpose unclear, though he monitored the dog’s elevated temperature in subsequent days.
Additionally, the documents offer insight into Matzinger’s examination of the murder weapon and analysis of McKinley’s blood for toxins. They also reveal tension between Matzinger and the autopsy overseer in finalizing the report, which took 18 days after McKinley’s death.
Recently uncovered over a century later, the Matzinger collection provides an exceedingly rare look into the aftermath of a presidential assassination in the early 1900s. Historians are describing the find as an invaluable treasure.