October 16th, 1909 – Assassin Attacks the President(s)


On October 16th, 1909, William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz held a summit, a first between a U.S. and a Mexican president, and only narrowly escaped assassination.

Taft and Díaz

Taft and Porfirio Díaz planned a summit in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Diaz requested the meeting to show U.S. support for his planned eighth run as president, and Taft agreed to support Diaz in order to protect the several billion dollars of American capital then invested in Mexico.


William Howard Taft (September 15th, 1857 – March 8th, 1930) the 27th U.S. President.

Both sides agreed that the disputed Chamizal strip connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez would be considered neutral territory with no flags present during the summit, but the meeting focused attention on this territory and resulted in assassination threats and other serious security concerns. The Texas Rangers, 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals were all called in to provide security. An additional 250-person private security detail led by Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, was hired by John Hays Hammond, a close friend of Taft from Yale and a former candidate for U.S. Vice-President in 1908 who, along with his business partner Burnham, held considerable mining interests in Mexico.

On October 16th, the day of the summit, Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route. Burnham and Moore captured and disarmed the would be assassin within only a few feet of Taft and Díaz.

No foreign affairs controversy tested Taft’s statesmanship and commitment to peace more than the subsequent uprising in Mexico against the authoritarian regime of the aging Díaz, which had attracted billions in capital investment for economic development, much of it from the U.S. Anti-regime (and anti-American) riots began in 1910 and were reported by Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson to Knox, who failed to pass the information on to the President.

Some months later Wilson met with Taft (Knox was out of town on vacation), and upon hearing the information, the President immediately and unilaterally ordered a mobilization of 25,000 troops to the Mexican border as well as naval maneuvers in the Gulf of Mexico. Taft publicly directed that no intervention of troops into Mexico was to occur without Congressional authorization. The President’s restraint in the name of peace was difficult to maintain; in Arizona two citizens were killed and almost a dozen injured as a result of the uprising; but Taft would not be goaded into fighting and so instructed the Arizona governor.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


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