Political · Wisconsin

Teddy Roosevelt shot during assassination attempt, goes on to give hour and a half long speech

October 14, 1912
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Former president Teddy Roosevelt is shot during an assassination attempt, though he finishes a 90-minute speech before seeking medical attention

Roosevelt was campaigning, as he was again running for president under a new party platform: the Progressive Party. The new party was a result of a split between the Republican Party, with the more conservative branch remaining Republican and the more liberal splintering into the Progressives.

Roosevelt’s would-be assassin, John Flammang Schrank, was carrying documents on his person suggesting he was instructed to kill Roosevelt in a dream, commanded by the ghost of William McKinley, Roosevelt’s predecessor assassinated while in office, to avenge him. As Roosevelt stood waving at the cheering crowd before being driven to give his speech, Schrank shot him in the chest. The bullet was deflected by a steel eyeglasses case and the 50-page speech Roosevelt had in his jacket, preventing the bullet from penetrating his vital organs. Schrank was tackled before he was able to fire a second shot. Roosevelt was a knowledgeable hunter and knew he did not have a punctured lung due to the fact he was not coughing blood, and so decided to wait for medical treatment as his injuries were not immediately life-threatening.

The crowd erupted in a frenzy, calling for Schrank to be lynched, but Roosevelt silenced them. He asked for Schrank to be brought to him so he could determine if he recognized the man. When he did not, he asked why Schrank had shot him. There was no answer, so Roosevelt instructed Schrank be handed to police, and ensure no violence befell the prisoner.

As Roosevelt began his speech, he admitted to the crowd he had been shot, and revealed his blood-stained shirt as proof. He added “The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will do my best.” He then proceeded to speak for 90 minutes before being taken to a hospital. Doctors confirmed via x-ray the bullet had not injured Roosevelt’s lungs and determined it was safer to leave the bullet where it rested rather than to remove it; it remained within Roosevelt for the remainder of his life.

Both of Roosevelt’s campaign rivals, William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson, suspended their own campaigns until Roosevelt recovered. Roosevelt did not win the 1912 election, the Progressive Party dissolved almost as quickly as it had formed, and he died in 1917 when a blood clot traveled to his lungs. Schrank was deemed insane and committed to the Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane where he stayed until his death in 1943.


The shirt Roosevelt wore when he was shot

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