The Speech That May Have Saved Teddy Roosevelt’s Life

Roosevelt’s blood-stained shirt.

Roosevelt continued to speak for another fifty minutes! He spoke for a total of 84 minutes before eventually relenting and going to a hospital. Later an x-ray revealed that the bullet which had been on an upward trajectory towards his heart had lodged in his fourth rib just below his chest, where it remained for the rest of his life.

While it is clear that the bullet which wounded Roosevelt was slowed by a combination of his heavy overcoat, steel reinforced eyeglass case, and the folded fifty-page speech, the x-ray proved that the fact the bullet became embedded in his rib prevented it from reaching his heart, and therefore becoming a fatal shot.

X-ray of Roosevelt’s torso following his shooting. wiki

Roosevelt’s shooting meant that he was unable to campaign for few weeks in the run-up to the election. He resumed campaigning just a week before election day. His shooting generated a great deal of sympathy for him and also added to his legendary status, but it did not prove to be a decisive factor for the former president on election day. While Roosevelt received the largest ever vote for a third-party candidate, the division in the Republican party was reflected in the election results.

Taft and Roosevelt split the Republican vote between them and Wilson was elected President.The Progressive Party only managed to elect a few candidates to office and Roosevelt knew it was doomed as a political party. However, he used his position as leader of the party as leverage to facilitate his return to the Republican Party. He went on to support the Republican candidate, Charles Evans Hughes in the 1916 presidential race, who narrowly lost out to Wilson for the presidency.

Roosevelt won back the support of the more conservative elements in the Republican Party due to his support for American involvement in World War I and his harsh criticism of President Wilson. Roosevelt was “odds-on favorite” to win the Republican nomination for the 1920 presidential race, but he died in January 1919, just three months after his 60th birthday.