The Attempted Assassination of Theodore Roosevelt

Loren Kantor
4 min readApr 8
Woodcut of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. President.

On the evening of October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt prepared to give a speech in Milwaukee. He was trying to regain the presidency as a candidate for the newly formed Bull Moose Party. He was exhausted from the long and brutal campaign and his voice was nearly gone. Against the advice of his doctor, he insisted on keeping a promise to speak to the voters of Wisconsin. He attended a banquet in his honor at the Gilpatrick Hotel then waited for a car to drive him to the auditorium where he would speak.

Thousands of supporters cheered his name as he approached the car. At that moment, a saloonkeeper named John Schrank approached Roosevelt and aimed a large pistol from point-blank range. The gun fired and a .32-caliber bullet hit the right side of Roosevelt’s chest. Roosevelt collapsed into the car. As Schrank prepared to take a second shot, Roosevelt’s stenographer Elbert Martin, a former football player, tackled the shooter and began to strangle him. “I wasn’t trying to take him prisoner,” Martin later said. “I was trying to kill him.”

Despite his wound, Roosevelt rose to his feet and yelled, “Bring him here. Don’t hurt him.” He stared directly into his would-be assassin’s eyes and asked why he did it. Schrank said nothing. Police arrested the man and Roosevelt collapsed into the car. He urged the chauffeur to drive straight to the auditorium, not the hospital. Though he felt a “knifelike pain in his ribs,” Roosevelt was not spitting up blood. He knew this meant the bullet had not reached his lungs.

At the auditorium, a doctor examined Roosevelt. He noticed a wound under Roosevelt’s right nipple and a blood stain on his shirt “the size of a man’s hand.” The doctor applied a bandage to Roosevelt’s chest. Roosevelt told the shocked crowd, “It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose.” He then reached into his jacket and removed his steel eyeglass-case and his 50-page typewritten speech. He noticed a hole in the pages and a dent in the case. If the bullet had not been deflected upwards, it would have gone straight into his heart.

Roosevelt spoke for an hour then was driven to the hospital. The bullet had fractured Roosevelt’s fourth rib on the right. Roosevelt knew he was lucky to be alive.

Loren Kantor

Loren is a writer and woodcut artist based in Los Angeles. He teaches printmaking and creative writing to kids and adults.