Suspicion of a conspiracy behind the shooting, in Buffalo, of President William McKinley, turned to Chicago. This was partly consequent to gun noises having emitted from the handkerchief of Leon Czolgosz in Buffalo. “We have a lot of bad anarchists here,” confirmed Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison II.
In July of 1901, at the Lakeshore train station in Chicago, Emma Goldman had been seen in conversation with Czolgosz. Leon Czolgosz had been struck by Cupid’s arrow earlier in Cleveland, and like a woebegone puppy dog had ever since trailed Emma Goldman. Anarchist associates of Ms. Goldman were suspicious. They thought Czolgosz might be a police spy or an agent provocateur. Abraham Isaak, publisher of an anarchist newsletter, printed a warning: Czolgosz was physically described and identified to be a spy. Beware! But other anarchists thought Czolgosz was just a gawky goober.
In fact, Leon had fallen in love with Emma Goldman. “I know nothing about anarchism, excepting what I know from one speech delivered by Emma Goldman in Cleveland,” Czolgosz ruefully admitted to anarchist Max Baginski.
Too quickly, Emma gave Leon the brush-off, something she later regretted. She had no doubt that Leon’s conversion to anarchism was sincere, but Emma was preoccupied with revolutionary ideas. She was too busy for love – or so she thought.
Cast off like yesterday’s news, farm boy Leon still was haunted by the sexual charisma of the city woman, young Emma Goldman. Czolgosz belonged to a secret society, the Knights of the Golden Eagle. The KGE was permeated with an atmosphere of rituals and ceremonies based on events and legends of the Crusades. The “impossible dream,” the unattainable Lady Fair, was all that was left to Leon of Emma Goldman. The knight errant soon found himself in Buffalo. “Once Czolgosz had shot the President and claimed he did it for admiration of her, [Emma] Goldman suddenly had a great deal of time for the man she now called ‘poor Leon.’”
Given “the third degree” by interrogators, Leon refused their pressure to betray Emma. Even up until moments before his electrocution, the heart of Czolgosz beat true for the woman of his inspiration. Only inches away from receiving illumination (being electrocuted), Leon Czolgosz was urged by the warden to finger his beloved damsel: “Leon, my boy, why do you shield that bad woman, Emma Goldman,” slyly insinuated Warden Mead. But even unto death, Leon remained true to his Lady Fair.
(Acknowledgement to Murdering McKinley, by Eric Rauchway. New York: Hill & Wang, 2003)