The Speech That Saved Teddy Roosevelt’s Life

Campaigning for president, Roosevelt was spared almost certain death when 50 pieces of paper slowed an assailant’s bullet headed for his chest

The first page of Theodore Roosevelt's speech that was damaged when a bullet tore through it. (Cade Martin)
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Schrank believed that he was acting on orders from the ghost of President William McKinley, whose assassination in 1901 had made Roosevelt president. After examination by five court-appointed psychiatrists, Schrank was committed to an insane asylum in Wisconsin, where he died in 1943.

When asked how he could give a speech with a fresh bullet wound in his chest, Roosevelt later explained that after years of expecting an assassin, he hadn’t been surprised. Like the frontiersmen and soldiers he admired, he was determined not to wilt under attack. As he put it to his English friend Sir Edward Grey, “In the very unlikely event of the wound being mortal I wished to die with my boots on.”


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