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Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest at a rally, he gave his speech anyway

Goran Blazeski

Theodore Roosevelt had left politics in 1909 when his presidency ended, but he soon became very disappointed with the performance of William Howard Taft, his chosen successor, and formed the National Progressive Party.

It was a tough race and if Roosevelt wanted to keep pace with his rivals he had to work hard. This meant that he was giving 15-20 speeches a day.

The Republican incumbent was William Howard Taft and the Democratic candidate was Woodrow Wilson. It was October 14, 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt set out to give a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Roosevelt campaigning for president, 1912

Roosevelt campaigning for president, 1912

He was wearing his Army overcoat and carrying a 50-page speech – folded double to fit into the breast pocket where he had also tucked his metal spectacles case.

He left Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and he was on his way to give a speech. As he stood to wave his hat in thanks he was shot by disgruntled saloon-keeper, John Schrank. But what was the reason for this Bavarian-born saloon-keeper to shot Roosevelt?


John Schrank

John Schrank

Apparently, John Schrank had a bizarre dream where the ghost of William McKinley advised him to avenge his death while pointing to a picture of Theodore Roosevelt.

He followed Roosevelt on the campaign trail from New Orleans to Milwaukee, where he finally got the chance to pull the trigger but failed to mortally wound the former President.

Schrank was arrested and when doctors examined him it was clear that he was suffering from “insane delusions, grandiose in character” and declared him to be insane.

Roosevelt’s 50-page speech and his metal spectacles case saved his life that day. The bullet was slowed and didn’t reach his lungs or heart.

X-Ray of Schrank's bullet in Roosevelt's chest

X-Ray of Schrank’s bullet in Roosevelt’s chest

Roosevelt coughed into his hand and, seeing no blood, he knew that the bullet didn’t enter his lungs. He suffered only a flesh wound from the attack, refused medical attention and went on to deliver the speech.

“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot – but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.

He spoke for 90 minutes still wearing his blood-soaked shirt, until he agreed to go to the hospital.

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He would spend the next 8 days in the hospital where doctors examined him and X-rays determined that the bullet had lodged in a rib. Doctors decided it was safer to leave the bullet in his chest and it remained there for the rest of his life.

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News