Teddy Roosevelt and the Hunter of Bull Moose
By the time Theodore Roosevelt became President in 1901, three U.S. Presidents were shot dead by assassins. Teddy himself ascended to the presidency after William McKinley was assassinated. Now, it was Teddy’s turn to be the focus of a murder’s bullet. In the midst of one of the most contentious campaigns in presidential history, Roosevelt was furiously campaigning throughout the country for a third Presidential term. Teddy emerged from a hotel in Wisconsin on October 14th, 1912, and was met by a throng of admirers. As he stood up in his touring car to wave to the crowd, a flash from a gun was seen. A bullet traveled just five feet to enter Roosevelt’s chest. Immediately, an adoring crowd turned violent, clawing at the assailant, some yelling “Kill him!” It was Roosevelt himself that saved the man from the angry crowd.
Roosevelt coughed into his hand and seeing no evidence of blood, felt his injuries were minor. A doctor with Roosevelt naturally wanted to the president to go to the hospital, but amazingly Roosevelt strongly declined, saying instead: “You get me to that speech!” No one dared to defy the former President, instead of taking him to the auditorium where the speech was to be given. Miraculously, the bullet that lodged itself between his ribs was dramatically slowed by his thick military jacket, a steel-reinforced glasses case and a 50-page speech, folded in half.
Though Roosevelt dismissed his injuries, he looked unstable and pale. Stepping up to the podium, he gave instructions to the crowd: “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible…I have just been shot—but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” The crowd was shocked, gasping at the news. Roosevelt pulled back his jacket and showed the crowd his bloodied shirt. Amazingly, he spoke for 90 minutes adding: “I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot; not a rap…” Though his voice weakened, sometimes able only to speak at a whisper, Roosevelt completed his speech and was finally taken to a hospital.
Although Teddy recovered quickly, there was still the question of his assailant. Who was he and what compelled him to shoot a man he did not know? As it turns out, he was just another man with a tendency towards mental illness. His name was John Flammang Schrank, an unemployed man who stalked Roosevelt for weeks before striking. Schrank was a bright but troubled man, who, despite inheriting a valuable saloon and a home from relatives, sold it all in favor of a drifter’s life. He wandered the east coast for years but did not seem to cause any trouble. That all changed in 1912. After the shooting, a letter was found in Schrank’s person, which revealed the inner thoughts of his disturbed mind.
He claimed a dream instructed him to shoot Roosevelt. An excerpt from the letter states: “In a dream, I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theodore Roosevelt. The dead president said—This is my murderer—avenge my death.” Later, during a trial, a group of doctors conclude Schrank was insane. Schrank spent the rest of his life in mental institutions but remained unrepentant. As he was being taken to a mental institution after his trail, someone asked him if he liked to hunt. He replied, “Only Bull Moose.”