Prologue How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosvelt

Mar 27, 2017 by

Forging a President Book Cover by William Hazelgrove

Forging a President

1912

Teddy Roosevelt had just finished dinner at the Gilpatrick Hotel in Milwaukee and was walking to his car—he was to give a speech in the Milwaukee Auditorium. The election of 1912 had been vitriolic with Roosevelt bolting the Republican Party and forming his own third party, the Bull Moose Party. Roosevelt was sure he could beat the incumbent William Howard Taft and the Democratic candidate, the former Princeton President, Woodrow Wilson. He reveled in giving speeches and attacking Taft as incompetent, and Wilson as an egghead who had the demeanor of a “druggist.” He now planned to deliver another rousing speech and had the fifty-page manuscript stuffed in his coat pocket, folded twice behind his steel glasses case.

John Schrank, a thirty-six-year-old psychotic and former New York saloonkeeper, approached Theodore Roosevelt. Schrank believed that deceased President McKinley had spoken to him in his dreams, proclaiming that no man should run for a third term. Schrank had bought a fourteen-dollar Colt .38 and fifty-five cents worth of bullets, and had been following Roosevelt through New Orleans, Atlanta, Charleston, and Tennessee, ever since the dead McKinley had risen in his coffin and pointed to him and said, “Avenge my death.” While waiting to shoot Roosevelt in Milwaukee, he had passed the time drinking beer in a local bar and smoking Jack Pot cigars. Now his opportunity came. Roosevelt had just sat down in an open car in front of the hotel. Schrank approached him and Roosevelt rose to shake his hand when the assassin raised the .38 caliber pistol and fired.

Roosevelt fell back into the car as the bullet entered his chest after piercing the steel glasses case and the folded manuscript pages of his speech. The bullet entered under his right nipple and lodged in his ribs. The ex-President immediately took out a handkerchief and dabbed his mouth to see if his lungs had been hit. He then proclaimed he wouldn’t go to the hospital, but would deliver his scheduled speech. Dr. Terrell, his physician, insisted he go to the hospital. Roosevelt would have none of it. “You get me to that speech. It may be the last one I shall deliver, but I am going to deliver this one!”

Theodore Roosevelt went to the auditorium and spoke for more than ninety minutes while bleeding under his coat—thundering to the crowd the immortal line, “It takes more than a bullet to stop a bull moose!”1 The crowd loved it. And when Roosevelt went to the hospital, the doctors opted to leave the bullet lodged in his chest. He sent a telegram to his wife Edith, informing her that he was not nearly as badly hurt as he had been falling from a horse. He boarded a train for a Chicago hospital and changed into a clean shirt and asked for a hot shave. He hummed as he shaved and then climbed into the train compartment bed and fell asleep, sleeping like a child. In the press, people expressed astonishment that a man who had been shot at point-blank range could give a speech for an hour and a half. But they truly expected no less from Teddy Roosevelt. The sickly, asthmatic son of a rich man in Manhattan was born in the East; the Bull Moose who spoke for an hour and a half with a .38 caliber bullet lodged in his chest, well, he was born in the West.

Forging A President How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt

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Born in Richmond, Virginia, and carted back and forth between Virginia and Baltimore, I blame my rootless, restless personality on my father. He was and is a traveling salesman with a keen gift of gab, great wit, a ready joke, and could sell white tennis shoes to coal miners. [read more...]

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