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The tale of the Bull Moose ...

October 12, 2010 - Lee Smith
I've always liked studying history. People who don't like it suggest it's all just names and dates. I've always seen it as interesting people and significant events. In college, I took history as a second major. The sub-plots that professors would add to their lectures to spice things up were interesting. One of these popped up again recently in a "Today in History" item that we receive regularly from the Associated Press. A few of these items end up in our "Almanac" box on the front page.

Teddy Roosevelt was a significant figure in American history. As president, he oversaw the prelude to the progressive era, in which the government established itself as preeminent over business and, therefore, much of American society. Roosevelt was known for taking on "trusts," which were cartels that controlled (or attempted to control) certain industries.

Roosevelt served as president until 1909. He was not enamored with his successor and fellow Republican, William H. Taft. So when the 1912 presidential election rolled around, Roosevelt got into the race. He aimed to defeat Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt ran under the Progressive Party banner.

On Oct. 14, 1912, Roosevelt was in Milwaukee to give a speech. On his way into the forum, Roosevelt was approached by a man named John Schrank, who believed "any man looking for a third term ought to be shot." He acted on his conviction, firing a .32-caliber bullet at Roosevelt from close range. The bullet spent part of its force going through the manuscript of Roosevelt's speech. The bullet then entered Roosevelt, who refused to allow doctors to examine him.

This is where it gets good.

As Schrank was subdued, Roosevelt went inside. He pulled the manuscript from his vest pocket. It showed torn pieces of paper, bloodstains and the bullethole. With blood staining his white vest, Roosevelt spoke to a huge crowd in the auditorium. "You see," he cried, holding up the papers. "It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose," a reference to his political "party" and his own hearty nature.

Roosevelt went on to deliver a speech shorter than he had intended, but longer than one might reasonably expect from a man with a bullet in his chest. Finally, he relented and went to the hospital.

All I can say is wow. Can't see any politician today doing that.

Roosevelt went on to lose the election. His participation hurt Taft, and Wilson was elected. And the Wilson era dramatically changed America. It included the founding of the Federal Reserve System, the federal income tax and prohibition, for starters.


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