Recently discovered documents from an autopsy on President William McKinley shed light on unorthodox experiments conducted by a doctor after the president’s assassination. Following Leon Czolgosz’s attack on McKinley at the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, the president underwent surgery by Dr. Matthew Mann, who faced criticism for leaving the bullet inside McKinley and not properly cleaning the wound. McKinley initially showed signs of recovery but later died due to pancreatic necrosis.
To address rumors of poison or bacteria-laced bullets, a bacteriological examination was ordered alongside the standard autopsy. Dr. Herman Matzinger, an expert on blood analysis, conducted this examination and concluded that the necrosis resulted from the initial shooting. Recently listed on the Raab Collection auction site for $80,000, Matzinger’s personal papers include a notebook, letters, and telegrams related to the examination.
Matzinger’s notes unexpectedly detail experiments in which he injected bacterial samples from McKinley’s wound into rabbits and a dog. The purpose and outcome of these experiments remain unclear. The documents also reveal Matzinger’s examination of the weapons used by Czolgosz, analysis of McKinley’s blood for signs of poison, and the correspondence between Matzinger and Dr. P.M. Rixey, who oversaw the autopsy.
The collection offers a rare insight into historical autopsy procedures for high-ranking figures, providing valuable documentation on a significant event in American history. According to Raab representatives, such documents are “virtually impossible to find” and constitute a unique historical treasure.