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The Attempted Assassination of Theodore Roosevelt

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The Attempted Assassination of Theodore Roosevelt
photo © Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection

One little-known facet of Milwaukee history, and one that would be extraordinarily well-known had it been successful, is that of the assassination attempt on Theodore Roosevelt here on October 14, 1912.

This near-calamity happened when Roosevelt was in town campaigning on the Progressive, or Bull Moose party ticket, seeking to regain top office again after a four-year hiatus. He stopped for the afternoon at the Hotel Gilpatrick, and after dining with local dignitaries, readied to leave for the Milwaukee Auditorium (now the Milwaukee Theatre) to give a campaign speech.

As he was getting into his vehicle, Roosevelt paused on the floorboards to turn and wave goodbye to well-wishers. Unfortunately, this moment cleared the way for would-be assassin, John Schrank, to take the shot he had been plotting for more than three weeks as he followed Roosevelt's campaign across eight states. Schrank fired his .38 revolver from close range, hitting Roosevelt in the chest.

In the ensuing melee, in which Schrank was immediately caught, Roosevelt's car left, but it was supposedly several moments before Roosevelt fully comprehended that he had been hit. The tenacious Roosevelt insisted, however, on continuing on to his speech anyway. (It could be that he felt he owed the speech it's day -- it was the speech's thick manuscript, folded in his breast pocket along with a metal glasses case, that absorbed most of the bullet's force.)

Upon entrance to the Milwaukee Auditorium, Roosevelt announced to the stunned audience that he had been shot, proclaiming: "It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!" He then proceeded to speak for 80 minutes before reluctantly going to a Milwaukee hospital for treatment.

Because the bullet posed no threat to internal organs, doctors decided to leave the bullet where it was. Roosevelt carried the bullet inside him the rest of his life.

Today, the Hotel Gilpatrick is long gone -- it's now the site of the Hyatt -- but the new hotel still honors this historic spot with a plaque located inside their lobby.

More about Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States. He became president on September 14, 1901 when President McKinley died after being shot on September 6, 1901. At just 42 years old, he was the youngest man to ever become president. In 1904, he was chosen as the Republican nominee, and went on to a second term in office.

Read on for more of Theodore Roosevelt's biography by Martin Kelly, About.com guide to American History: Theodore Roosevelt Biography

Need some inspiration? Read some words of wisdom spoken by Theodore Roosevelt himself, in this list of quotes compiled by Martin Kelly: Quotes from Theodore Roosevelt

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