Not to worry – this wasn’t a recent try. Rather, Historic Milwaukee, Inc. staged a reenactment of the attempt on Theodore Roosevelt’s life one hundred years ago on Sunday. Roosevelt, affectionately called “TR,” had already served as President between 1901–1909 and jumped back into politics in 1912. The 1912 campaign was characterized by a serious split between conservative Republicans under President William Howard Taft and the liberals/reformers under ex-President Roosevelt. TR’s followers bolted from the party and ran their candidate on the ticket of the Progressive Party. To reporters, Roosevelt once remarked that he felt as fit as a “bull moose,” thus the nickname of his new party.
On October 14, 1912, TR made a campaign stop in Milwaukee. He rested and dined at the Gilpatrick Hotel (the present Hyatt is now on the site). Later, the ex-President was scheduled to deliver a speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium (now the Milwaukee Theater) a few blocks down the street. Would-be assassin John Schrank had followed Roosevelt from New Orleans to Milwaukee, went to the hotel, and made his move as TR was leaving to enter his car.
|Police - modern day and one from a century ago - monitored|
the crowd that had gathered to see Theodore Roosevelt in
Milwaukee. However, they didn't manage to stop the assassin.
Roosevelt would not be overcome. Not only did he refuse medical treatment, TR asserted that no one harm Schrank insisting that the man didn’t know what he was doing. Nor did TR blame Milwaukee for what one crazed man had done.
|Theodore Roosevelt letting the crowd know that he was still alive after|
the assassination attempt.
With a bullet still in his chest and blood soaking through his clothes, Roosevelt nevertheless addressed an audience of about 12,000 people in the Auditorium for nearly 80 minutes. He even joked at one point, "It takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose." His heavy coat and the 50-page speech that he held in the coat’s breast pocket were credited with saving Roosevelt’s life.
|The interior of the Milwaukee Theater today.|
Roosevelt received 88 Electoral College votes to Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s 435 and Taft’s 8 in the final tally. It wasn't enough to win back the Presidency but quite a showing for a third-party candidate and a resounding defeat for a sitting president.
I had to do some research to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt and the campaign that occurred 100 years ago. All in all, a fascinating story that was brought to life (and almost death) by Historic Milwaukee.