McKinley Autopsy Archive Sold to the University at Buffalo

Buffalo, New York, the site of President McKinley’s assassination in 1901, will now also be a place to study the original autopsy report and related notes that Raab offered for sale earlier this year


A collection of newly discovered documents related to the assassination of President William McKinley has joined the illustrious Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection at the University at Buffalo (UB). The archive, consisting of the original autopsy report, unpublished lab notes of Dr. Herman Matzinger, and related ephemera, had been kept by the surgeon’s heirs in a shoebox for nearly a century before its rediscovery by The Raab Collection.

McKinley Autopsy Archive

Matzinger graduated from Buffalo Medical College, UB’s predecessor, in 1884, and became clinical assistant at the Buffalo State Hospital in 1888. When President McKinley was killed at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, Matzinger was called upon to perform the autopsy and analyze samples taken from the body and the weapon in order to determine a precise cause of death. His resulting “Report of the Bacteriologic Examination in the Case of the Late President McKinley” helped put rumors to rest about initial infection or poison-tipped bullets.   

When one of Matzinger’s descendants found a box full of her ancestor’s papers, which included a draft manuscript of that report, a notebook full of his observations, and other historical documents, she contacted Raab. We examined the collection, conducted our own research, and then acquired it in the belief that some collector or institution would find it as fascinating and important as we did.

Raab’s public announcement of the archive featured widely in the media, which caught the attention of Dr. Keith C. Mages, Curator of the Robert L. Brown History of Medicine Collection, Abbott Library, UB. Dr. Mages promptly acquired the archive, an addition to the library’s special collections that not only complements its existing collection of medical history, but serves as a basis for future scholarship on the McKinley assassination in particular. 

We are sharing this news with the permission of Dr. Mages, who commented: “This collection represents an incredibly important piece of Western New York’s history. We are thrilled to be able to bring these unique materials back to Buffalo and look forward to making them available to those interested in further exploring the McKinley assassination, the Pan-American Exposition, and the rich cultural heritage of our region.”

To learn more about the archive, watch our video:

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