100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Attempted Assassination Of Theodore Roosevelt In Wisconsin

When Theodore Roosevelt left office in 1909 he selected William Howard Taft his Secretary of War to succeed him as President. Taft easily won the 1908 presidential election. Taft alienated Roosevelt when he used the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to break up US Steel, a trust Roosevelt approved of as a “good” trust. On the other hand, Taft let American Tobacco Company structure its own dissolution, a move Roosevelt saw as too lenient. Taft represents the conservative wing of the Republican party and has said Roosevelt is “the greatest menace to our institutions that we have had in a long time.” Roosevelt advocated the recall of judicial decisions through popular vote whereas Taft had held up the recognition of Arizona as a state until popular recall was taken out of the state constitution. To Taft, Roosevelt and his attempt at a 3rd term as president Roosevelt has made him a dangerous radical “because of his hold upon the less intelligent voters and the discontented” with policies that bordered on Socialism. The two contested each other at the Republican National Convention in Chicago but Taft had the delegates all sewn up. Roosevelt saw this as a theft and started his own party. Roosevelt has been campaign hard since the Democratic convention, traveling the country by rail and making speeches.

John Schrank was born in Germany but emigrated to America as a child. He had a troubled life as his parents died, his aunt and uncle (his adoptive parents) died and his girlfriend died in the GENERAL SLOCUM disaster. He has been stalking Roosevelt since New Orleans and has followed him across 8 states. He thinks he’s in communication with the ghost of assassinated president William McKinley.

John Schrank

On October 14, 1912 Roosevelt was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to make a campaign speech that evening at the Milwaukee Auditorium. He stopped at the Hotel Gilpatrick, dined with local dignitaries and was to leave by automobile for his evening speech. Jubilant crowds awaited him outside and he jumped up on the running board of the auto to greet them. This presented Schrank with the opportunity to step forward and shoot Roosevelt at close range in the chest with a .38 revolver.

The would-be assassin’s .38 revolver

A 50-page speech folded over twice in Roosevelt’s breast pocket and a metal glasses case slowed the bullet which still penetrated 3 inches into Roosevelt’s chest.

The breast-pocket articles that saved Roosevelt’s life

Roosevelt yelled out, “Quiet! I’ve been shot.” Schrank was immediately subdued and apprehended. Roosevelt was not coughing up blood so assessing his lungs weren’t damaged, Roosevelt insisted on speaking to the crowd.

“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. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”

With blood seeping through his shirt, Roosevelt spoke for 90 minutes.

Roosevelt’s blood-soaked shirt

Roosevelt was rushed to a local hospital for treatment. There are no immediate plans to remove the bullet.

Roosevelt’s x-ray showing the bullet lodged in his chest

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