Tag Archives: Niagara Falls

What I Learned on Spring Break, 2016

O Canada,

or: What I did (and learned) on my Spring vacation.

Niagara Falls!?!  Slowly I turned. Step by step.  Inch by inch.

My wife and I, along with two very good friends (Dan and Kristy Weprin) flew in to Buffalo.  We then took 13 days over the end of May to circumnavigate Lake Ontario, counterclockwise.

Niagara - American side, from below

Niagara Falls – American side, from below

Here’s a bit of we did.  And a bit of what we learned.

Niagara Falls is cool.  Very cool.  In fact, while we were there, it was cold.  Frigid even.  It snowed on us (May 15).

Niagara has three (3) A’s in it.  I did not know that.  I always thought it was “Niagra.”  See!?! I’m not perfect.

The Canadian side of the falls is way, way cooler than the US side.  That’s because 90% of the water flow goes over to the Canadian side, over Horseshoe Falls.  If you go, do the really dorky touristy thing and take the Maid in the Mist boat ride.  It takes you right up to the brink of the tremendous waterfall; you get covered in mist, … and sometimes snow.

Also, make the trip up to Niagra-by-the-Lake (Ontario side).  Just lovely and nice micro-brewery in an old Anglican church too.

Socks will wander.

What causes socks to go missing indefinitely? By an unintended experiment, I determined that this mysterious phenomenon has nothing to do with your own house.  It has nothing to do with your own hamper, nor you washer or dryer, nor the gremlins in your house.

May 9 is Lost Sock Memorial Day

May 9 is Lost Sock Memorial Day

Yes, I lost a sock on this trip.  Of course, I have no idea how.  As it has not reappeared, I deduce that this is a problem for socks in general, wherever they may be.

Socks just want to be free.

According to my research conducted to date on this subject, I’ve learned that May 9 is National lost sock Memorial Day. So the problem isn’t me — it’s the socks!! I guess we’re supposed to hang Wind Socks in front of our houses, in place of flags, in a sort of memoriam for all those who have served in sweaty, smelly, confined shoes. And then gone missing.

The Big Ditch. A Really, really big ditch. A 363 mile ditch.

Buffalo embraces its history as the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825 and changed the trajectory of North American History.  In the downtown area you’ll find a fun little micro-brewery called “Big Ditch”, which has a fine menu of foods as well as beers.  [Come to think of it: … is there a microbrewery that isn’t “fun”?]

If you don’t like feeling really cold, avoid Buffalo when the temperature is around 40F, the humidity is high, it’s cloudy or dark, and there’s a stiff breeze off the lake.  Must suck to be a Buffalo Bills fan.

Nearby is Lockport, where the westernmost locks on the canal are located.  They have a fun little museum and we were fortunate to see some pleasure craft pass through at the very start of tourist season.

Thousand Islands?  Is that the salad dressing?

At Lake Ontario’s eastern extent she gently drains into the St Lawrence River.  So gently that the transition is marked by a zillion islands of all manner of shapes and sizes.  Some with houses on them; some with castles.  Ok, there aren’t a zillion.  There are 1,864 islands.  Somehow it got the name Thousand Islands. Some are in Canada; the rest in the US.  The river’s main channel is the border.

It’s beautiful.  Do the dorky touristy thing and take the three hour boat tour, with the side trip to Boldt Castle on Heart Island.

Oh yeah…  Apparently the salad dressing does trace its roots to the 1000 Island area.  There are many unverifiable stories on how it originated, but the best bet is that this beautiful area is where it all started.

Canadian Beef is just the Best

Just trust me.  I’m not sure how they do it.  And if you can, get Dan Weprin to grill it for you.  Outside.  At sundown.  Then life is perfect.  We chowed down a lot of fine Canadian grain-fed beef.

Canadians are fat

OK, not to the same extent that folks are fat in the US; but disturbingly, a very large percentage of Canadians are … well … very large.

Muffin tops, jiggly arms, roly-poly bellies, ample behinds … Canadians have it all, and they don’t seem shy to show it off. It might have something to do with all that great beef. Sorry Canada, but we saw it in big cities like Ontario and Toronto, and small towns like Perth, Renfrew , Calabogie, Mamora and even Peterborough (where the world’s tallest hydraulic canal lift is located).  Of course, this is not a scientific study.  Just our observations based on about 10 days in Ontario.


Indians are fat, too

A few of the places we visited were typical tourist attractions: Niagara Falls, Thousand Islands, Toronto, even airports.  Here we always crossed paths with many East Indians. I’m talking now about “India Indians”, like from India.

Indians are fat.  And I’m pretty sure it’s not the beef.  Maybe it’s a bit unfair: any Indian wealthy enough to travel from Mumbai to New York and Ontario probably has access to more than a few extra calories.  Still, my previous image of Indians built around old pictures of Mahatma Gandhi is seriously shaken.  I’ll try to say something nice: most of the weight seems confined to the mid-section and buttocks.

It’s not a big deal (sorry for the pun).  It’s just that I’m getting sick of hearing how fat Americans are when I’ve seen the same things in Canadians, Indians, British.  It’s more of a First World Problem.

Speaking of Indians.  The first leg of our flight home was spent with a group of about 40 very enthusiastic and excited Indians … probably part of their dream trip to America.  I was able to discern that they were from Mumbai.  I’ll stop now and just say this: Indians have a very, very different concept of “personal space” than do Americans.

By the way, through our son Aaron we have a friend who an Indian-Canadian.  For the record, he is not fat.

Moving along.

Joe has a body image problem

“But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for the Lord sees not as mortals sees; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7

OK, I admit it.  I practice appearance-ism.  Yes, that’s a real thing.  It’s not that I judge people on that, per se, it’s just that I can’t help myself but to notice it.  Yet, I have an excuse and a reasonable cause: I live in Colorado – probably the healthiest and thinnest population in the US.  The peer pressure here is subtle, yet intense.  Everyone’s always talking about their workout routine, recent bike ride, which 14-er* they’ve climbed or will climb.  There is a subtle persistent pressure here to stay fit and healthy. [*A 14-er is a mountain peak at over 14,000 ft in elevation; Colorado has 57 of them].

I need to get over this.  People get heavy.  They get a tummy.  Everyone is beautiful, created by God in his image.  (oh gosh, did I just say that? Is God really fat? Is God a “he”?  Yes … No … and, probably, No)

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez*: Ontario still has Town Criers

When we travel we prefer to not schedule every day from dawn to dusk.  We like to leave time for serendipity.  You never know what you might find. Plus that way, you don’t feel guilty for sleeping in late, taking a nap or turning in early.  {Those can be serendipitous too. 😉 <sly grin and wink>}

[*- Oyez is pronounced “OH-YAY” – it is apparently the old French imperative for “to listen.”  I guess it’s like “HEAR YE”, or “Listen up, y’all, I got something important for you to know.”]

Competitor at the Ontario Town Crier Championship. Perth, Ontario, 2016.

Competitor at the Ontario Town Crier Championship. Perth, Ontario, 2016.

One day we made a side trip to Perth.  Why?  I guess because we have a son who lives in Perth, Australia.  Perth (Ontario) is named for Perth, Scotland.  Turns out the Brits were eager to have the region settled and developed after the struggles of the War of 1812 – when those nasty Americans were beaten back.  In fact, we learned that Canadians have a very serious (and different) view of that war than we do.

A settled and economically developed area is easier to defend:  Put people in a position to gain and lose something and they’ll fight.  Britain and British Canada were so desperate to settle the area that they even permitted – in fact they recruited – Scots and Irish to settle the area.  That’s how Perth got settled and got its name.

Well it was Victoria Day Weekend. Even though Victoria was a British Queen, and died in 1901, this is a huge 3-day holiday Weekend in Canada.  Who knew?

Over these three days – in addition to fairs and shows and the shops opening for the season now that all of the big-city folks were getting out of Ottawa and Toronto – Perth hosted the Ontario Provincial Town Crier Championship.

Yes, the Town Crier Championship.

We watched much of round two (out of three). While the others in our group lay in the shade, I braved the 30C temps and sunny skies to sit in the front row.  What a gas.  There were other sites to see, coffee shops and micro-breweries to visit, so we moved on when the round was barely half over.

[Learn more about Ontario’s town crier guild here at http://www.towncrier.on.ca/]

Words: some spellings and pronunciations are different.

Part of this I had expected.  My mom, who started her schooling in Alberta, was always proud of the “u” in flavour, colour, and neighbour.

But there is a bit more.  The Business center of a city is the “City Centre.”

The “pro-“ in process rhymes with the “pro-“ in professional.  But the “pro-“ in produce rhymes with the “pro-“ in product.  Or something like that. It could also be like “aw”.

And then there’s “out”; as in about, outside, let’s go out.  It would take a while for a US English speaker to get this one right, but the “OU” in Out is somewhere between “OH” and the “OO” in “food”.

The word “again” is often, although not always, more like “ah – gain” (rhymes with “a- grain”).

When in a restaurant or pub, do NOT ask for the bathroom.  Do you take a bath there?  And don’t ask for the restroom either.  It’s simply the washroom.  I kind of liked that.  I don’t intend to bathe or rest there; just relieve myself and wash up.  It’s a washroom.

If you mess up and ask for the bathroom or rest room, a Canadian will smile and politely say something like: “The *WASHROOM* is just down that hallway, on your left.” And they KNOW you are from “the States.”

In casual conversation, it’s polite to turn a statement into a question with a form of Canadian “up-speak”.  For example, “It’s lovely weather today, eh?” It conveys a sort of coziness and a “it’s nice to be around you, even though you might be a stranger” sort of feeling.

Which reminds me of the old joke on how Canada got its name.  They put all the consonants in a hat and started pulling them out.

“C – eh?

“N – eh?

“D – eh?”

“Sounds good.  C-A-N-A-D-A”

The use of “The”

There is only one future.  Canadians say “in future I will try harder”.  No need for “the.”

When someone is injured and they need hospital care, then “someone is in hospital”.  No need to say “the”, unless you know specifically which hospital, then you may use the definite article. “Joe is in the St Albert Hospital.”

They may over use the letter U, but save by using less of “the”.

Toronto is a big, big city.

Canada is a really, really big country; more than 20% larger in land mass than the lower 48 United States.  Yet it has a population of only about 35 million. The US is pushing 320 million.

The population of the Toronto metro area is over 6 million.  That’s kind of insane.  That would be like if the largest city in the US (New York, New York – so big they had to name it twice) had a metro population of well over 50 million!! JEESH.  All of California only has 38 million.

And Toronto is really, really crowded.  Difficult to get around due to density.  I don’t need to go there again.

Airports in Canada

I once wrote an essay about O’Hare Airport in Chicago, saying it was one of the very few airports that had an IATA* code wherein none of the letters reflected either the name of the city it served, or the name of the airport. [http://girardmeister.com/2015/03/14/ord/]
– [*IATA: International Air Transport Association].

Well now I know of another one.  Toronto’s main international airport, Pearson International, goes by YYZ.

Turns out codes for Canada’s airports have a curious history, connected to radio, telegraph and weather station history.

Almost all Canadian airports start with “Y”, and the history is as quirky as it is Canadian.

Weather is important in Canada.  It can be violent, swiftly changing and also life changing.  As communication improved (first telegraph, then radio), weather stations were attached to each telegraph, then radio transmit/receive station.  These generally had two letters.

When airports came along, they tacked on the weather identification.  If a weather station had an airport, it got a “Y” in front (for Yes); if there was no airport, it got a “W” (for Without). “X” and “Z” came along for places that are rail stations, marine stations, or where confusion with a US airport could occur. Seems to me the opposite of YES (Y) should be (N); oh, those Canadians.

The original commercial airport in Toronto, Billy Bishop Field, is on an island out in the harbor, oops, harbour.  It’s IATA identifier is YTZ.  So the middle “T” is for Toronto; the “T” for Toronto was taken.

Pearson International is named after former Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, who’s also the winner of the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize.  It is the very large international airport that most Toronto commercial passengers and cargo pass through – which is actually in the municipality of Mississauga, a “small” Toronto suburb of about 725,000.

Pearson got the designation YYZ. Turns out that “YZ” is the old Morse station code for the town of Malton, which is now incorporated within Mississauga, and where Pearson Field is located.  In fact, Pearson Field was originally known as Malton Airport, from its opening in 1939.

When Malton Airport arrived, it simply became a telegraph/weather station with “Why, YES, [“Y”] it does now have an airfield”, so another Y was just attached to the front of pre-existing “YZ”. It became YYZ, which Pearson simply inherited for simplicity. I have no idea how – and cannot find out why – the YZ somehow stood for Malton.

Must make sense to someone. I hope it’s a little less confusing for you now.

The Canadian Healthcare system is not all Rainbows, Lollipops and Unicorns

Sorry to dump this disappointment on you.  While on vacation I was in steady communication with my cousin who lives in Edmonton.  He suffered an aggravated assault in mid-March and has been trying to get treated for some very serious shoulder injuries.

In talking to other Canadians and locals, I’ll say this. First, if you have basic needs like stitches, a physical, a bad cold or flu, a sprain, a strain, then you can get great treatment almost right away.  Second, for non-serious and non-basic needs, you will definitely get the care you need if you can wait for your deviated septum repair or knee-replacement for several months, or years.  But, thirdly, if you have serious needs that require medical attention right away, well – good luck unless you are rich, are a famous hockey player, or are in parliament.

My cousin waited over 10 weeks for the MRI that confirmed his injuries.  Ten days later the surgeon said “good luck, get PT*” and never asked for a follow-up visit. [* PT = Physical therapy, which Canadians prefer to call Physio Therapy]

Seven weeks after that his special-needs PT finally began.

Subsequently he has incurred new damage, largely due to the slow diagnosis and treatment.

Still, it’s a great country. They are our faithful, peaceful and mostly civilized neighbours to our north. In fact, I’ve been back since and will likely visit often in future …

I wish you peace and hope you have a safe rest of your summer.

Joe Girard © 2016



Various sites chime in on IATA codes in Canada, eh?



Take Care at the Fair; Meet me in Upstate NY


Upstate New York is the setting for this fourth essay on the Edwardian and pre-war period.  The winsome town of Auburn, at the end of Owasco Lake, is a particularly unlikely nexus of circumstance. Although it is the home of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, and the William Seward museum – he who negotiated the purchase of Alaska – (and those two share some common history) – that is not the reason it appears here. It does, however, serve as the site of a maximum security penitentiary. [0]

Expositions are the timekeepers of progress.

They record the world’s advancement.

They stimulate the energy, enterprise, and intellect of the people; and quicken human genius.

They go into the home. They broaden and brighten the daily life of the people.

They open mighty storehouses of information to the student.

Every exposition, great or small, has helped to some onward step.

. Comparison of ideas is always educational and, as such, instructs the brain and hand of man.  [1]
– Wm McKinley, Sept 5, 1901


In 1901 the world, and the President, went to Buffalo for the 1901 World’s Fair, also known as the Pan-American Exposition. Since London’s “Crystal Palace Exhibition” in 1851 [2], fairs had been extravagant venues of social construct for promotion and inspiration: snapshots in time of the human race’s views and sociology, of its scientific and technological advancements, of its geopolitical constructs.  The ideologies of technological progress and nation-state expansion were on display: evidence that people and nations had, through technology and expansion, achieved great things.

Implicit and inspirational was that even greater accomplishments were yet to come. Also implicit was that fairs afforded each nation forums and opportunities to “show off” their achievements, cultures and pride:  “(to) juxtapose its prowess in any and all fields against that of all other participating nations.” A justification for World’s Fairs was that “that they promoted peace by bringing the world together and through education of its citizens by their educational content.” [3]

The 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition certainly had some technological advancements on display, especially electricity and X-rays.

Electricity and Lights: Situated in Delaware Park [4] toward Buffalo’s northwest side – about 2 miles from the Niagara River and a 20 minute trolley ride from the center of town – the Fair had the world’s first significant display of hydroelectric power.  With power coming from Niagara Falls, some 25 miles away “… at dusk 240,000 eight watt bulbs came on at once, not in a brilliant flash of light, but in a gradual increase in brightness until every building was adorned in a bath of light. Since the Electric Tower was the focal point of the Exposition, it was studded with 44,000 lights. A powerful searchlight was mounted at the highest point of the tower that allowed it to be seen from Niagara Falls and Canada.” [5] [6]

X-rays: To German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen is ascribed the distinction of “discovering” X-Rays, in 1895. Although their effects had been observed before, he was the first to study them in detail. In December, 1895, he presented his findings to the Würzburg Physical and Medical Society. [7] By mid-1896, X-Ray machines (Röntgen Rays in many places; still Röntgen Strahlen in Germany) were in limited medical use: seeing “into” the body to detect bone breaks, and even famously, metal objects in or on the body. [8]

People came to the Fair to see the new and exotic, including electric lights and X-ray machines making pictures of what lies within the body, covered by skin and flesh.


President McKinley came to the Fair at the very height of his popularity. He had been recently re-elected in another electoral drumming of Democrat William Jennings Bryan. [9]

The economy, after several years of slumping due to the Panic of 1893, was humming along; unemployment had dropped from near 18% to under 5%. [10]  GDP was growing: the US economy had just grown to be the world’s largest [11] and the third largest GDP per capita – surpassed only slightly by Australia and New Zealand. [12] The US had become the world leader in wheat, steel and cotton production. [13]

On average, standard of living was high and climbing rapidly; the US was indeed the “land of opportunity” and the world was excited at any friend’s or relative’s opportunity to go to America: the population swelled past 75 million; more than each Germany, France and Britain – behind only China, India (part of the British Empire) and Russia. [14]

Politically, McKinley’s presidency marked the ascendancy of the United States to the role of major player on the world scene.  Fresh from a victory over a centuries-old international power in the Spanish-American War, the United States now had new territorial reach: from Cuba and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean to the Philippines in the Far East.

The international prestige seemed to have no bounds; the Hay-Pancefote Treaty of 1900 empowered McKinley to announce that the US would be taking on the world’s most impressive and audacious engineering feat: building the Panama Canal. The US had secured from Britain exclusive rights to build and operate such a canal. [15]

McKinley had moved away from his hardcore business and capitalist roots. As now in the 21st century, a wide chasm between the privileged industrialists and the common laborer had opened up, apparent for all to see. McKinley moved toward progressivism, no longer supporting the unconstrained lassaiz faire expansion of big business and protective tariffs. He now understood that, long term, these hurt American competitiveness and drove prices up for average consumers, hampering the economy.



The Panic of 1893 officially ended in November 1893, as bank runs fell off to near zero, and stock markets bottomed out. However, economic stability and sustained growth, both in the US and abroad, were not realized until ’97.  Even at the time of the 1901 Buffalo Fair, ripples were felt; the economic lives of all Americans had not returned to “normalcy”, if ever there is such a thing.

Some lessons of the Panic: Runs on banks are devastating; without a central bank, the economy is actually dependent on the good will of the uber-wealthy (a large gold loan from JP Morgan saved the Treasury from a run on its gold); over building and limited competition (as happened in the railroads) can lead to a crash; the world economy is interconnected: economic instability in Argentina, political instability in Brazil and low crop yields in Europe all contributed to the crash.

We now turn our attention to the lives of two people, both US citizens, who were affected by the Panic. Still aggrieved, they found their way to upstate New York, at the time of the Buffalo World’s Fair, in 1901.  Otherwise completely unrelated, and unknown to each other, their names were Annie and Leon.


Annie Edson Taylor

Annie Edson was born and raised in Auburn, NY, in the famous and beautiful Finger Lakes region.  She became Annie Edson Taylor when, in 1854 at the age of 17, she married David Taylor.  One of 8 children, her father – a flour mill owner and operator – died when Annie was 12. He left her enough money to live in a modicum of comfort and to acquire a good education.

With a solid basic education, Annie became a school teacher. Eventually she bore Mr Taylor one child, a son, who died in infancy. She became a widow only a few years later, a sacrifice endured by many, thanks to the US Civil War.

After that, Annie showed her brave heart and big ambitions: she moved around chasing a teaching career and starting small businesses, including a dance school in Bay City, Michigan, and a music school in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. She also tried teaching in San Antonio, as well as Mexico City.

During the ‘90s, partly on account of the Panic and subsequent Depression, Annie fell on hard times.  She despaired about her situation; she had always perceived of herself as an independent and self-sufficient woman.

In 1901 she hit upon an idea to make enough money to take care of herself for the rest of her life. Reading about the vast crowds showing up for the Fair, she moved to Buffalo and hired a promoter.  She had a custom-built wood barrel constructed, based on a pickle barrel design.  It was reinforced with iron bands and fitted with a mattress and ballast on the inside.  The ballast was to ensure that it would float with one side always “up.”

Just a few days before the Fair ended, on her 63rd birthday, October 24, 1901, Annie climbed into the barrel.  The barrel was then filled with compressed air and the hole was immediately tightly sealed with a cork.  Then, gently, the barrel was slid into the current of the Niagara River.

The current carried Annie-in-the-barrel over to the Canadian side, and over Horseshoe Falls.  Twenty minutes later the barrel appeared, bobbing, at the bottom of the falls, drifting slowly toward Lake Ontario.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Annie Edson Taylor: at 63 years old, the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, and survive. [16]


Leon was another person whose already unstable life was adversely affected by the Panic and the Depression that followed. Although the subject of a difficult life and times, this could hardly portend his end; his death was one of the very first to be preserved on film for posterity.

Born to immigrants of Polish heritage in Detroit in 1873 – his father, Paul Czolgosz (pronounced like Chawl-gosh); his mother, Mary Nowak (as Novak); both probably from Polish regions in or near Belarus – the family moved often.  First to Cleveland, then to other cities in the upper mid-west, each with strong Polish communities. [17]

Leon lost his mother to childbirth at an early age; his father remarried shortly thereafter.  This probably sparked his lifelong detachment from just about everything: his family, his faith, and – ultimately – the American way of life and dream to which the Polish community had come for opportunity and refuge.

Czolgosz became an avid reader, even after ending his formal education at about age 10. After beginning work in factories at age 15, his experiences drew him first to literature about labor and socialist movements; later he was drawn to writings of anarchists.

Perhaps embarrassed by his culture and name, he started going by pseudonyms, usually Freddie Nieman (which is German for “no one”). [18] He left the Catholic faith (most Poles are Catholic, a la Pope John Paul II – Karol Józef Wojtyla). He started hanging out with Socialist and Revolutionary organizations, but even there he did not fit in.

Unable to find steady work during and after the depression, Nieman/Czolgosz found his way to Buffalo in late August of 1901, perhaps thinking that the buzz of the Fair would provide some labor opportunity.

Before moving to Buffalo, Leon met with anarchist activist and political radical Emma Goldman on at least two occasions: once in Cleveland at a lecture in May 1901, and once when he went to Chicago to meet her, in July.

There is little chance that Nieman/Czolgosz knew of McKinley’s planned trip to Buffalo for the Fair, on September 5 & 6 at the time he moved there.  But there is little doubt that he knew after the president’s plans were made public soon after he arrived; Czolgosz was a faithful reader of newspapers and pamphlets. Here, he was presented by this coincidence: he and the president were in the same city.  This coincidence, he hoped, was his opportunity to tell and show the president exactly how he felt about the unfair labor-capitalist relations in the US.

On September 5, the day of the speech, Leon was unable to get close enough to get the president’s attention.  Fortunately, the president would be at the Fair again, on the 6th, eager to meet-and-greet, to shake hands – he was a popular president after all, and he was eager to oblige a populace that was just as eager to see him in public.

At the Temple of Music, with an ensemble providing a Bach sonata [21] as a mellow background, Czolgosz found himself at the front of the crowd, with the president working his way toward him.

The president moved quickly from person to person, smiling.  He extended his hand to Czoglosz, whose right hand was covered by a handkerchief, as if nursing some sort of injury. Instinctively, the president reached for Czoglosz’ left hand instead. Their hands met at 4:07PM.

Pop! Pop! Two shots.  Bullets pierced first the handkerchief, then the president’s body. The first hit and glanced off his collar bone. The second lodged somewhere in the 58-year old president’s generously sized abdomen.

Czolgosz was quickly wrestled to the ground, giving himself and his weapon up with little fight.  Security officers pummeled him with blows and kicks. He considered his mission on earth complete.

As McKinley was being moved to a stretcher, and to the Exposition hospital, he expressed concern for Czoglosz (they should not beat him; he couldn’t have known what he was doing) and for his wife (please tell her where I’m going and that I’ll be fine).

At the hospital, it was an hour or more before a doctor qualified to perform surgery on McKinley could be located.  Daylight started to dwindle.

A surgery that evening was unable to locate the bullet. It is horribly ironic to note that the fabulous X-Ray machines on display at the Fair could have helped immensely — the bullet would have showed up clearly.  So, too, could the wonderful electric lights that lit up the Fair’s Temples and towers every night have helped.  To light the surgery room, doctors held up mirrors to the windows in order to reflect the waning sunlight to the surgery table. To find the bullet, they guessed… and failed to find it.

McKinley began making a remarkable recovery, even with the bullet remaining in him.  President Andrew Jackson had lived decades with bullets in his chest and abdomen, taking at least one bullet – from a dual in 1806 – to the grave.

McKinley also took the bullet to the grave, although not lasting decades: on September 13 things turned bad. Internal wounds had grown too infectious and McKinley passed away, from gangrene, on September 14, 1901. A four hour autopsy also failed to find the bullet.



The plan, if there was one, was never for Teddy Roosevelt to become president.  Making him vice-president was a compromise: New York needed to get rid of a pesky, highly-energetic progressive governor; McKinley needed a running-mate, as Vice President Garret Hobart had died in 1899. The Vice Presidency was a safe place to “park” Roosevelt – and he was a nice addition to the ticket: he was enormously popular thanks to his recent Spanish War experiences, leading the Rough Riders and charging up San Juan Hill.

At 42, Roosevelt is still the youngest person ever to take the oath of the presidential office (Note: Kennedy was the youngest elected president, at 43).  Roosevelt’s presidency, and subsequent election in 1904, brought the nation into the Progressive Century.  He fought for great expansion of the National Park system and Public Lands holdings. His vigorous enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act broke up monopolies and price-fixing collusion rings, leading to a more competitive nation, lower prices and – at least the perception – of less influence by big-corporations over government.

He reinforced America’s image as a world power with his gun boat diplomacy, sailing the navy around the world, to put in at great harbors and “show the flag.”  America’s role in the world, he said, is “to speak softly, but carry a big stick.”

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt is still considered the most popular president of all time. He pulled away from a certain re-election in 1908: there were safaris to go on and jungles to explore.  His bust is one of the four carved into Mt Rushmore.



Annie Taylor went on few speaking tours, making speeches about her over-the-falls experience.  These did not make her much money. Eventually, her promoter ran off with most of her funds and her pickle barrel. Although not well off, she managed to eke out a living, making enough money from Niagara tourists to get by: posing with them for pictures, fortune telling and selling magnetic heath devices.

When Annie was safely on land after her falls plunge she said “No one should ever do that again.” [19] Despite that advice, and laws against it in both the US and Canada, fourteen people have successfully duplicated the feat.  Over 5,000 dead bodies have been recovered from the falls, many of them thrill seekers.

She lived her remaining 19 years near Niagara Falls.

Leon Czolgosz was, of course, rapidly tried and convicted for the murder of McKinley in the first degree. Very rapidly.  The conviction came down on September 24; just 10 days after McKinley’s death and 18 after the shooting. The next month, Czolgosz was executed by electric chair – the first to be re-enacted on film. [20] Coincidentally, the execution was at Auburn Prison, in New York – in Annie Edson Taylor’s childhood home town.

McKinley was buried in his native Ohio, at Canton; there is a monument to him there.  Roosevelt’s hand-picked presidential successor – William Taft – never really wanted the job, preferring a seat on the Supreme Court, which he eventually got in 1921.  Taft was ineffective as president, leaning back toward the party’s big business interests, causing Roosevelt to enter the 1912 election as a 3rd party candidate; this led to an easy victory by Woodrow Wilson (Democrats’ first since Grover Cleveland of the Bourbon Democrats 20 years before).

It’s impossible to know how the country and the world would have turned out had Leon Czolgosz – alias Freddy Nieman – not elbowed his way to the front of the crowd that day at the Temple of Music, in Buffalo, at the World’s Fair.  At a minimum, it’s FAIR to say that Teddy Roosevelt would never have become president. Looking a little further, perhaps the US would not have entered the Great War – WW1 – which began 100 years ago.

Wishing you a Fair and Peaceful month.

Joe Girard © 2014

[0] Tubman-Seward connection, Auburn, NY: http://www.nyhistory.com/harriettubman/home.htm

[1] –- President McKinley’.s last speech.  Delivered in Buffalo at a reception in his honor, at the World’s Fair on September 5, 1901. Full text here: http://www.bartleby.com/268/10/27.html

[2] The 1851 Fair, held in Hyde Park, London, was more formally known as “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations”; http://www.ndl.go.jp/exposition/e/s1/1851.html

[3] “Indescribably Grand”, Introduction, Edited and assembled by Clevenger, Martha – Diaries and Letters from the 1904 World’s Fair. Title taken from diaries of Edward Schneiderhahn.

[4] Delaware Park, so named for its proximity along Delaware Avenue, is on the registry of National Historic Places.

[5] Buffalo History Works: http://www.buffalohistoryworks.com/panamex/buildings/buildings.htm

[6] The Electric Tower, like Eiffel’s tower to the 1879 Paris Fair, was the technological and vista centerpiece of the 1901 Fair. 375 feet tall and lit with 44,000 lights, climbing to its top provided a spectacular panoramic view of the fair and surrounding landscape.


Electric Tower, at Night — 1901 Fair — Buffalo

[7] Roentgen’s presentation, Über eine neue Art von Strahlen (On a new kind of Rays):  http://www.xtal.iqfr.csic.es/Cristalografia/archivos_10/Uber_eine_neue_art_von_strahlen_ocr.pdf … translated here: http://web.lemoyne.edu/giunta/roentgen.html

[8] Röntgen’s famous X-Ray picture of his wife’s hand, clearly showing that the metallic wedding band does not allow the rays to penetrate.


[9] McKinley’s victories over Bryan, 1896 and 1900. http://www.270towin.com/1900_Election/; http://www.270towin.com/1896_Election/

[10] The “Social Democracy” site seems to have the best economic data at present for this era. http://socialdemocracy21stcentury.blogspot.com/2014/02/weir-on-historical-estimates-of-us.html

[11] The US economy is generally credited with becoming the world’s largest in either 1899 or 1900.  Here is one source: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/08/history-of-world-gdp/

[12] World economies, GDP per capita, http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Economy/GDP-per-capita-in-1900

[13] US Production, 1900: http://pages.ucsd.edu/~jlbroz/Courses/POLI142B/lecture/1800-1900.pdf

[14] Population by Country 1900.  Oddly Russia is scarcely bigger now (2014) than then.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_in_1900

[15] Panama Canal: US History with Britain, and the Isthmus Canal.  http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h929.html; the failed Hay-Herran Treaty with Columbia eventually led to a US backed – and organized – revolution to cleave Panama from Columbia.  Upon Panama’s independence, the US/Panama Hay-Bunau-Varilla treaty granted the US rights to build and operate the canal.  http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h931.html); Hay was Secretary of State for McKinley and Roosevelt.

[16] Some sources on Annie Taylor

[a] http://www.biography.com/people/annie-edson-taylor-195766

[b] http://forgottennewsmakers.com/2010/02/09/annie-edson-taylor-1838-1921-first-person-to-go-over-niagara-falls-in-a-barrel/

[c] http://www.legacy.com/news/legends-and-legacies/annie-edson-taylor-heroine-of-niagara-falls/260/

[17] Some sources on Leon Czoglosz

a) http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAczolgosz.htm

b) http://library.buffalo.edu/pan-am/exposition/law/czolgosz/#who


[18] On pseudonyms: Sarah Vowell (2005), Assassination Vacation, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-8253-6 (p214); available here: http://books.google.pl/books?id=XdJid7UW9PEC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

[19] Carolyn Thompson. “Seeking out Death – or Defying it for Niagara Falls, It’s a busy Season for Tourism, Suicide and Daredevils”, Sun Sentinel – Fort Lauderdale, July 2, 2000, pg3A

[20] Film: Execution of Leon Czolgosz.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYSxfyIqrjs;
this is not the real execution.
It was a re-enactment based on supposed first-hand testimony done as an Edison publicity stunt.


Library of Congress; http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?ammem/papr:@field(NUMBER+@band(lcmp001+m1b38298))



[21] Bach Sonata during the assassination: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2001-09-06/news/0109060175_1_william-mckinley-james-garfield-assassination


[ii] Biography of Leon Czolgosz.  By John Simkin. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAczolgosz.htm

Murderpedia: http://murderpedia.org/male.C/c/czolgosz-leon-frank.htm

[iii] The gun used by Czolgosh was a .32 caliber Iver-Johnson “Safety Automatic” revolver, serial number 463344, purchased for $4 on September 2, 1901. This pistol is currently on display at the Pan-American Exposition exhibit of the Erie County Historical Society in Buffalo.
It is the only US Presidential assassination weapon which is not in federal custody.