That Time Teddy Roosevelt Got Shot But Gave His Speech Anyway

Image Credit: WUNC

On October 14, 1912, two men’s destinies collided. One was the President of the United States. The other, a Bavarian-born saloon keeper from New York.

The former was on the campaign trail, seeking another term as a third-party Progressive – giving 15-20 speeches a day on the trail had nearly worn him out, and with a scratchy throat and bogged down by fatigue, he planned to make that day’s stop a short one.


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The latter had been experiencing strange, unsettling dreams in which he was visited by the deceased President William McKinley, who asked him to avenge his death to protect democracy from a three-term president.

When would-be assassin John Schrank and Teddy Roosevelt crossed paths in Milwaukee, it resulted in a memorable day, indeed.

Number 16

Photo Credit: Number 16

It happened as Roosevelt stood up in his car in order to wave to the crowds. Schrank, who had scored a seat in the front row, took aim – right at Teddy’s head. Then, 3 things happened all at once:

One, a bystander hit Schrank’s arm. Two, security spotted the gun and jumped out of the car. Three, Schrank took the shot.

Instead of hitting Roosevelt’s head, though, the bullet struck him square in the chest – a wound it’s said Teddy didn’t notice until he reached into his coat and ended up with bloody fingers.

And the reason he didn’t feel all of the pain turned out to be his tendency to give long-winded speeches.

The one in his breast pocket that day, alongside his steel eyeglasses case, was 50 pages long – quite a bit of material to slow down a bullet. As a result, it wasn’t traveling fast enough to reach his lungs or heart, a fact Teddy diagnosed himself after noticing he wasn’t coughing up blood. So, he decided the wound wasn’t severe enough to waste time in the hospital.

Image Credit: Mentalfloss

Photo Credit: Mentalfloss

He began his speech that day like this:

“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.”

Roosevelt spoke for somewhere between 55-90 minutes, wearing his bloody shirt the entire time. Afterward, he spent 8 days in the hospital while doctors tried to decide whether they could remove the bullet from where it was lodged in his chest wall.

Schrank was arrested right after getting his shot off. Roosevelt didn’t win the presidency, losing to Woodrow Wilson but beating the incumbent William Howard Taft – the only time in history a sitting president came in third place during an election.

You can pull this story out of your back pocket the next time someone tries to tell you that history is boring. You’re welcome!

h/t: Mentalfloss