TODAY in History

Milwaukee, Wisconsin – October 14, 1912

A saloonkeeper named John Schrank shot Teddy Roosevelt while he was campaigning for the presidency. The bullet did lodge in Teddy’s chest; but only after it had passed through a steel eyeglass case and a 50-page folded copy of the speech he was carrying in his jacket.

Roosevelt, an experienced hunter and anatomist, correctly concluded that since he wasn’t coughing up blood the bullet had not completely penetrated his chest wall into his lung – so he declined suggestions that he go to the hospital immediately. Instead, he delivered his scheduled speech with blood seeping into his shirt. His opening comments to the gathered crowd were, “Ladies and gentlemen, 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.”

He spoke for 90 minutes.

Afterwards, an x-ray showed that the bullet had lodged three inches into in Roosevelt’s chest muscle but did not penetrate the pleura. As it would have been more dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet Roosevelt carried it with him for the rest of his life.

Roosevelt was taken off the campaign trail in the final weeks of the race because of the wound; but, out of respect, the other two candidates also stopped their own campaigns while Roosevelt was in the hospital. The bullet lodged in his chest caused his chronic rheumatoid arthritis – which he had suffered from for years – to get worse and it soon prevented him from doing his daily exercise routine.

Roosevelt would soon become obese (but not nearly as large as Taft).

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