On October 14, 1912, the Milwaukee Police Department was involved in crowd control and protection detail as the former 26th U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was scheduled to come into the city to deliver a campaign speech. The city was humming with excitement as Theodore Roosevelt was campaigning to run for a third term for President.
In 1912, Roosevelt had declared he was forming a third party ticket named the National Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. During one of his speeches, Roosevelt had boasted he was “fit as a Bull Moose,” and this name stuck with him. When giving speeches, supporters would make moose calls and they also used a campaign song of “Oh, You Beautiful Moose.” The other candidates running in the 1912 presidential election were William Howard Taft on the Republican ticket, Woodrow Wilson on the Democratic ticket, and Eugene Debs on the Socialist ticket. Roosevelt was running on the issues of desegregation and women’s suffrage. For the times, these were highly controversial issues and Roosevelt received numerous assassination threats.
President Roosevelt had started his day on October 14, 1912 in the City of Chicago and then traveled to the City of Racine to give another campaign speech. Once done in Racine, Roosevelt traveled to the City of Milwaukee by train and had dinner at the Hotel Gilpatrick, located on Third Street and Kilbourn. Milwaukee Police worked with Roosevelt’s bodyguards to keep him safe while in the city. Roosevelt was to leave the Hotel Gilpatrick by vehicle to deliver a campaign speech to supporters at the Milwaukee Auditorium at Fourth and Kilbourn.
Around 8:00 PM, Theodore Roosevelt left the lobby and walked out the front doors of the hotel to an awaiting vehicle. A crowd was waiting for the president to exit the hotel and a pathway was made from the hotel entrance to the vehicle. President Roosevelt stood up in the back seat area of the car to wave his hat to the crowd and a man standing alongside the car pulled out a revolver and fired one shot into the chest of President Roosevelt. Bodyguards, police officers, and citizens moved toward the lone gunman. The gunman was subdued and turned over to four Milwaukee Police Officers. Roosevelt was driven away from the hotel entrance after being checked for injuries.
President Roosevelt had an entrance wound from a single bullet into the right side of his chest and was bleeding profusely. President Roosevelt demanded that he be driven to the Milwaukee Auditorium so he could deliver his speech to his supporters. While backstage of the auditorium, several physicians examined President Roosevelt. The bullet had traveled through his Army coat, metal glasses case, and 50 page manuscript for this speech. Upon completion of his medical exam, President Roosevelt gave over an hour long speech to the audience. During the speech, President Roosevelt explained that he was just shot and showed his bloody shirt to audience. He told them “it takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose.”
After the speech, President Roosevelt was taken to Johnston Emergency Hospital located on the corner of Third and Sycamore (currently named Michigan Street). Johnston Emergency Hospital was owned by the City of Milwaukee and was built in 1894. This hospital was an emergency medical facility with twenty-four beds to serve the ill. The x-rays showed that the bullet was lodged in President Roosevelt’s rib and that it would be too dangerous to remove the bullet.
Police investigated the assassination attempt and identified the lone gunman as John Flammang Schrank, an unemployed saloonkeeper in New York. Schrank used a .38 caliber Colt Police Positive Special revolver and fired one round at President Roosevelt. Detectives talked with Schrank and he told them he was acting on orders from the ghost of President William McKinley to shoot Roosevelt. President William McKinley had been assassinated in 1910, which made Theodore Roosevelt president. The ghost of McKinley told Schrank to avenge his death.
Prior to the shooting, Schrank had been drifting around the east coast after living in New York for awhile. Schrank had been following Roosevelt from New Orleans to Milwaukee. The court had five psychiatrists conduct examinations on Schrank and he was determined to be insane. The court ordered him to be committed to the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, WI. Schrank died at the hospital in 1943 and his body was donated to the medical school at Marquette University for research purposes.
In November 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was defeated by Democrat Woodrow Wilson, even though he campaigned in more states than his competition. President Roosevelt had a constant reminder of his visit to Milwaukee from 1912, as the bullet stayed lodged in his rib until his death in 1919 at the age of 60.
In the early 1940’s, the Hotel Gilpatrick was razed, leaving only the ground floor. In the 1970’s, the remaining building was torn down and the Hyatt Regency Hotel (333 West Kilbourn Avenue) was built. The current hotel has a historical display and historical marker of the events of October 14, 1912.