The Speech That Didn’t End with a Bang!

teddy-roosevelt-shot

A Brief History

On October 14, 1912, a certain badass former U.S. president was shot while giving a speech…and he continued to speak!?

Digging Deeper

Without any doubt, T.R., or “Teddy” Roosevelt, was just about one of the most manly of American presidents.  A war hero and big game hunter, T.R. had a forcefulness about him that few other presidents really matched.  Maybe George Washington who campaigned in fierce conditions in the French and Indian and American Revolutionary wars, Andrew Jackson who fought in duels, or Abraham Lincoln who was an accomplished wrestler merit recognition as physically imposing and brave individuals, but many other presidents, as with many politicians just lack the aura of badassery that surrounded T.R.

Consider what I wrote about T.R.’s life before becoming president back in May 2013 for a list at TopTenz.net: “Roosevelt participated in several of the most badass adventures of any American politician.  In the mid-1880s, Roosevelt worked as a deputy sheriff in the Dakotas.  In that capacity, he hunted down, and eventually captured, three outlaws who stole his riverboat and tried to escape north with it up the Little Missouri.  He not only took the thieves back overland for trial in Dickinson, but guarded them for forty hours without sleeping.  When the Spanish-American War broke out, Roosevelt resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, formed the famed ‘Rough Riders,’ and served with them in Cuba.”

Of course, even when he left office, he still demonstrated his determined nature in the aforementioned attempted assassination of 1912.  On this day, 101 years ago, T.R. campaigned in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A mentally-disturbed saloon keeper named John Schrank, used a revolver to fire a shot at the former president.  The bullet damaged T.R.’s speech and an eyeglass case before entering his chest.  Unlike if such an incident were to occur to a modern politician, T.R. decided to proceed with his speech rather than go to a hospital and spoke for roughly ninety minutes, telling the crowd, “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.”

T.R. lived another seven years, with the bullet never removed from his chest, a Bull Moose indeed!

  Both before and after, Roosevelt participated in several of the most badass adventures of any American politician. In the mid-1880s, Roosevelt worked as a deputy sheriff in the Dakotas. In that capacity, he hunted down, and eventually captured, three outlaws who stole his riverboat and tried to escape north with it up the Little Missouri. He not only took the thieves back overland for trial in Dickinson, but guarded them for forty hours without sleeping. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Roosevelt resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, formed the famed “Rough Riders,” and served with them in Cuba.
Read more at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-most-badass-politicians-of-all-time.php#FpgWU4QbB75iRpD9.99Both before and after, Roosevelt participated in several of the most badass adventures of any American politician. In the mid-1880s, Roosevelt worked as a deputy sheriff in the Dakotas. In that capacity, he hunted down, and eventually captured, three outlaws who stole his riverboat and tried to escape north with it up the Little Missouri. He not only took the thieves back overland for trial in Dickinson, but guarded them for forty hours without sleeping. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Roosevelt resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, formed the famed “Rough Riders,” and served with them in Cuba.Read more at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-most-badass-politicians-of-all-time.php#FpgWU4QbB75iRpD9.99
  Both before and after, Roosevelt participated in several of the most badass adventures of any American politician. In the mid-1880s, Roosevelt worked as a deputy sheriff in the Dakotas. In that capacity, he hunted down, and eventually captured, three outlaws who stole his riverboat and tried to escape north with it up the Little Missouri. He not only took the thieves back overland for trial in Dickinson, but guarded them for forty hours without sleeping. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Roosevelt resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, formed the famed “Rough Riders,” and served with them in Cuba.
Read more at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-most-badass-politicians-of-all-time.php#FpgWU4QbB75iRpD9.99
  Both before and after, Roosevelt participated in several of the most badass adventures of any American politician. In the mid-1880s, Roosevelt worked as a deputy sheriff in the Dakotas. In that capacity, he hunted down, and eventually captured, three outlaws who stole his riverboat and tried to escape north with it up the Little Missouri. He not only took the thieves back overland for trial in Dickinson, but guarded them for forty hours without sleeping. When the Spanish-American War broke out, Roosevelt resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, formed the famed “Rough Riders,” and served with them in Cuba.
Read more at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-most-badass-politicians-of-all-time.php#FpgWU4QbB75iRpD9.9

Historical Evidence

For a more in-depth book, please read Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912 (Globe Pequot, 2013) by Gerard Helferich.  And yes, we know Robin Williams also portrays him in Night at the Museum



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Love this image from the Smithsonian.

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Matthew Zarzeczny

Matthew graduated with a B.A. in French and history from Baldwin-Wallace College. At BW, Matthew minored in political science. He earned a Master’s in History at Kent State University and a Ph.D. in History from the Ohio State University. He teaches history at Ashland University, John Carroll University, and Kent State University at Stark.

  • rcurton .

    Greatest President in the history of the United States! Would be called a socialist by today’s standards. Crazy!

  • Breann G.

    I think it was both brave and foolish. He stood up there and continued to speak to the people as the shooter was probably still in the crowd. This makes him very brave and courageous. On the other hand, I think it was very foolish because he could have had some serious damage done to his body by that bullet. He should have gotten medical attention right away.

  • A Byers

    A true man indeed! An avid hunter who did more for conservation than any other president who has ever served. I think its awesome that he finished his speech and done out of pure bravery rather than foolishness.

  • Mallory M

    I think it shows the foundation that America was based on. That it will take a lot more than a single gun shot to damage the American spirit. This brave badassery is something that has been lost over the years by many, if not all politicians.

  • Noelle C

    A total American Badass! I think Roosevelt showed America’s strength in this one act alone, but I really believe he should have had the bullet removed after his speech! An infection could have spread systemically. But still…. an incredibly tough and strong willed man,

  • Brooke K.

    Even though it probably was foolish, I think it was awesome that he continued to give his speech! Like this great nation, it will take more than a bullet to bring him down!

  • CB

    I agree with Brooke, it was foolish to not seed advanced care, I believe he made his message clear that he is tough and did not let any greased up politician boss him around in office or anywhere for that matter.

  • T Harvey

    I think that this was very interesting to read. I think that he should have received medical attention. Everyone who knew him or knew about him knew he was a strong man. But being shot and not getting medical attention is just dumb.

  • Andrea O.

    I believe it was both brave and foolish. He should have went and received medical attention because something worse could have happened and he could have died, but he wanted to make a point. He was not going to back down out of a situation no matter how hard or scary it might have been.

  • Jillian S.

    After reading the article I have to classify T.R. as a foolish badass! He should have gone to seek medical attention right away, but I think that T.R. wanted to prove a point, and that he did!

  • Kathryn R.

    From the perspective of a future nurse I definitely think that T.R. should have sought medical attention immediately. However, any American can see the dedication and determination he had as a leader to continue speaking to his people. He was definitely a tough man!

  • Lynnette B.

    While I do admire T.R.’s bravery and his stubbornness, I do believe that he should have gotten medical attention right away. Because the bullet went into his lugs, it could have done some serious damage. He is very lucky than it was not worse than it was, because other wise he could have died while he was giving his speech either due to the bullet or due to the effects of being shot.

  • RSiburt

    This kind of makes me chuckle a little bit. I certainly hope that the topic of the speech warranted his badassery. I imagine that he had a reason for continuing on with the speech, but he definitely proved that he couldn’t be taken down lightly. Amazing.

  • Alexandra D.

    T.R, first off, is one amazing individual with a high pain tolerance that can withstand tremendous amounts of pain. As a nursing student, I know how much pain and danger he was in and of course I think he should have went to the hospital. He is certainly was an amazing individual .

  • Ethan R.

    Of course he should have seeked emergency medical treatment. In my humble opinion, as a student, a bullet to the chest isn’t something you take lightly. Stories like these make me proud to be an American. Do you really need anymore proof that this man was actually willing to lay down his life for his country? Maybe a little bit of his ego came into play here, but it’s wavering on the brave side if you ask me. I can only hope we have more men such as President Roosevelt to lead this country in the future.

  • Ethan R.

    I also think everyone’s new favorite word after reading this article is badassery.

  • Kelly Fruth

    The EMT in me says that he was foolish not to seek immediate medical attention. However, that is also the same side of me that would continue to stand and speak if it had been me. He made the right choice for him, and ultimately that is life.

  • Cody B

    It was nice for Roosevelt to continue speaking and show bravery, however wouldn’t he have been bleeding everywhere? He should have sought medical attention after, I don’t think he was proving anything special by keeping the bullet inside-only gives the shooter something to brag about.