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Teddy Roosevelt Once Gave A 90-Minute Speech After Getting Shot In The Chest

Here at Dusty Old Thing, we’re big fans of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. His life is like something out of a movie; he was a tough-as-nails lawman who also won the Nobel Peace Prize, and once scaled the Matterhorn (you can read more about him here). Yet perhaps the most impressive, unbelievable thing about Roosevelt involves a speech he gave on October 14, 1912, while campaigning for the Progressive Party (better known as the Bull Moose Party).

Outside of the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, John Schrank, an unemployed saloonkeeper, shot Roosevelt in the chest with a Colt .38 revolver. Schrank was apprehended instantly, and when Roosevelt’s aides began to take him to the hospital, he refused. Roosevelt was intent on delivering his speech.

Two photos depicting assassination bullet damage to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech manuscript and steel eyeglass case, via Wiki Commons

Two photos depicting assassination bullet damage to Theodore Roosevelt’s speech manuscript and steel eyeglass case, via Wiki Commons

Roosevelt was quickly examined by doctors backstage, who confirmed that the bullet had been slowed down by the thick 50-page speech he was about to deliver and the spectacles case in his coat pocket. Still, there was a dime-size hole in his chest. When Roosevelt stepped on stage, his first words were: “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. 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.”

After finishing the 90-minute speech, Roosevelt finally agreed to go to the hospital. While the bullet would remain lodged in his ribs for the rest of his life, Roosevelt did return to his campaign a week before Election Day. When asked how he was able to deliver a speech after being shot, he replied that years of expecting an assassin allowed him to not be caught by surprise. As he told his friend, Sir Edward Grey: “In the very unlikely event of the wound being mortal I wished to die with my boots on.”

A photo of Roosevelt's secretary Elbert Martin holding the speech pierced by Schrank's bullet, via Flickr/ The Library of Congress

A photo of Roosevelt’s secretary Elbert Martin holding the speech pierced by Schrank’s bullet, via Flickr/ The Library of Congress

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