A Letter of Risk in 1901

Samuel Phillips, guest writer

 

 

3074 Fawn Circle

 

Sacramento CA

 

87629

 

December 25, 1901

Beloved Emma,

First of all, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy coming New Year. I haven’t written in awhile, so I thought I would write and tell you about how my year has gone. I am now living in Sacramento and have to constantly watch out for the law, but I have gotten on to another yacht racing team and am having a lot of fun while my stress levels go down. It has been almost a year since I last saw you, so let me tell you what has been going on.

As you know, I was going to law school last January at the University of Pittsburgh but I never told you what complications happened with that. One day I left campus for a few hours to go to town, but while walking home I was stopped by two niggers, they beat me up and took about five hundred dollars of my money. I ended up with a broken leg and a broken nose along with fluid in my lungs. I had to spend three months in the hospital which forced me to drop out of law school. From that day forward I promised myself I could never love another Negro.

Even more than law school I was extremely mad about missing the yacht race that my team and I had been preparing for, for months. I was on the team for the Columbia; I am sure you heard about us beating the Shamrock in the American Cup.

 

After the yacht race took place I proceeded with what I promised myself I would¬† do. I met a “Ol Jerry” who always sat in front of the Ken’s Drugstore at the corner of 3rd and 8th street. I talked with him awhile and he was able to get the Knights to send me an application. It went as follows;

AULIK or THE IMPERIAL WIZARD

Dear Sir:

IMPERIAL PALACE

. INVISIBLE EMPIRE

Knights of the Klu Klux Klan

(Incorporated )

Wehave been requested by one of your personal friends to get in touch with you, and inform you of this organization. And, in via.. of this request. we are sending you this form. When we receive this with all the questions below properly answered by you and if same is satisfactory we will impart to you the information your friend desires you to have. Without delay you will fill in, sign and return. You will find stamped envelope enclosed for this purpose. Very truly yours,

KNIGHTSOF THEKlUKLUXKLAN,

  1. What s your motive?
  2. What is your age?
  3. What is your occupation?
  4. Where were you born?
  5. How long have you resided in your present locality?
  6. Are you married, single or widow?
  7. Were your parents born in the United States of America?
  8. Are you a Gentile or Jew?
  9. Are you of the white race or of a colored race? (Slate)

After filling it out and sending it back I waited for a response to see if I had been accepted or not.

Now let me start telling you about the main event of my year. After being accepted into the Klan I met up with a fellow member in Chicago: Leon Czolgosz, who in fact used to be an old friend of mine from grade school. After settling into an apartment together we began to discuss our mindset toward President William McKinley and how neither of us liked him at all. We talked about the Klan and about what our plans were throughout the rest of the year. Then he happened to mention something about assassinating the president. At first I was astonished but as he told me his plan I began to like it. He told me he would need some help and if I would get on board with him. I agreed.

I am now going to tell you how the assassination went down. Leon came up with the idea to bandage his hand as if it were broken and conceal a gun inside the wraps. Then while McKinley was shaking hands Leon would wait until his turn then right as Mr. McKinley was reaching out he would shoot him in the chest twice and then turn and run for all he was worth.

September sixth roles around. That is the day we planned to meet Mr. McKinley. The President was going to be at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York so we caught the train early that morning and was at the Expo around 4:00 that afternoon. Leon went and got in line to shake his hand and I went into the building behind the whole party, to provide backup just in case Leon screwed up. 4:34 Leon was next in line. I was sweating like a fool inside an empty room with the window cracked open and the end of my musket sticking out. 4:35 Leon goes up and takes a shot! Immediately the security guard tackles him as he yelled “I have done my duty.” In a split second I noticed that Leon only took one shot and the the president was still crawling on the ground. Realizing he wasn’t dead I quickly took aim and shot him in the back. As I threw the gun to the side I noticed that two more guards jumped onto Leon. I leaped up and took off faster than I have ever run before.

I knew I couldn’t stay at our apartment because the cops would soon show up, so that night I spent the whole night in a field of half-picked corn. The next morning I decided there was only one thing for me to do and that was to run as far away as I could get. So I went by Leon’s apartment in Chicago and and got all the money I could find then started the long journey to California.

I arrived in Sacramento on the fourteenth of September, and as I stepped off the train a boy was selling newspapers for a nickel, I bought one and walked over to the hotel. Once I was inside my room I looked at the news and on the front page it read. President Pronounced Dead! I quickly opened it and read the article and found out that Leon’s shot was not a fatal one but actually the bullet I fired into his back was the one that had killed him. No one knows that but you and me, everyone thought it was Leon.

I settled into an apartment on the outskirts of Sacramento and began a normal life. Since there are no active Klan groups here I was forced to drop that hobby, and just look for friends with the same beliefs as me.

Leon was tried and found guilty of killing McKinley. Before being executed on twentieth of October, Leon remarked that.”I killed the President because he was the enemy of the good people – the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.”(Simkin)

Although  Leon and I did not complete our true goal of anarchy we did something that in our mind matters for the best interest of the American people and I am sure our act will be remembered for centuries.

My best wishes for the coming year.

Yours truly: Jack

Works Cited

Slate staff. “What Was On a 1920s Membership Application for the KKK?”slate.com. 8 April 2015. The Vault. 4/9/17

Simkin, John. “Leon Czolgosz.”spartacus-educational.com. Aug. 2014. Spartacus Educational Publishers Ltd. 4/9/17

Bibliography

Shi, David and Tindall, George. America: The Essential Learning Edition. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2015