Category Archives: Contemporary History

Stories set in the time period ranging from 1900 to the present day.

“It Takes More Than That To Kill A Bull Moose!”

Teddy Roosevelt’s Speech Saves His Life

Teddy Roosevelt originally became president under the republican party when president William McKinley was shot on September 6th, 1901 and died 8 days later. He ran for president and won in 1904 giving Roosevelt a 2nd term. After his term was up he decided not to run again in 1908 and instead persuaded the republican party to nominate his friend, William Howard Taft for the next presidential race. Roosevelt retired in Oyster Bank, New York.  He also took that time to travel on a safari to Africa, funded by the famous steel industrialist, Andrew Carnegie to collect specimens for the Smithsonian.

Which is code for "killing elephants for their ivory".
Which is code for “killing elephants for their ivory”.

After enough animals were collected, Roosevelt decided to run again for president in 1912, which was legal considering the 22nd amendment had not yet been created, limiting the amount of times someone can be president to two terms. Before this amendment, sticking to two terms was simply a tradition started by George Washington. He failed to obtain the republican nomination. Two weeks later, he formed The Progressive Party, which became known as The Bull Moose Party when someone asked him if he was fit to run for president. He responded, “I am as fit as a bull moose.” Eventually, the party dissolved in 1916 but for the moment, the party was the backing for Teddy Roosevelt.

On October 14, 1912, Teddy Roosevelt stopped off at the Hotel Gilpatrick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during his campaign. After dining with local dignitaries, he left to go to the Milwaukee Auditorium to deliver his speech he had planned. While getting in his car, he was shot in the right side of his chest by John Schrank, a 36 year old unemployed, Bavarian immigrant who used to be a  saloonkeeper. Roosevelt’s aides, not understanding the bad-ass-ness that is Teddy Roosevelt, advised him to go to a hospital and seek medical help. Teddy refused and instead they continued on to the auditorium where Roosevelt would deliver an hour and a half speech.

Sometimes it helps to be long-winded and have bad vision as apparent here.
Sometimes it helps to be long-winded and have bad vision as is apparent here.

Now Roosevelt was not invincible, nor was he stupid. He was simply extremely lucky to have written such a humongous speech and need glasses. Before going into Roosevelt’s chest, Schrank’s bullet first went through Teddy’s eyeglass case and then through his 50 page speech. Roosevelt correctly deducted that since he was not coughing up blood the bullet most likely did not hit any vital organs.

Of course, Roosevelt improvised a bit of his speech:

“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose. But fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet – there is where the bullet went through – and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”

It might not have helped Taft's chances that his Vice President/Running mate (James Schoolcraft Sherman) died a week before the election.
It might not have helped Taft’s chances that his Vice President/Running mate (James Schoolcraft Sherman) died from Bright’s Disease a week before the election.

After the speech, Teddy was rushed to the hospital. An x-ray showed the bullet was lodged in his chest wall but doctors later decided not to remove it as it seemed to be doing no harm and removing the bullet could cause further damage. The bullet stayed with him the rest of his life. Both republican candidate, William Taft and democrat candidate, Woodrow Wilson halted their campaigns for the week that Roosevelt was in the hospital. In the end, Roosevelt ended up splitting the vote among republicans and democrat, Woodrow Wilson won the election. Roosevelt came in 2nd while Taft came in third, making William Taft the only incumbent president running for re-election to come in third place.

If Schrank hated that Teddy Roosevelt was running for a third term, he most certainly would've despised TR's fifth cousin, Franking Delano Roosevelt having 4 consecutive terms from 1933 to 1945 (whom by the way, is the president that sparked congress to enact the 22nd amendment in the first place).
If Schrank hated that Teddy Roosevelt was running for a third term, he most certainly would’ve despised TR’s fifth cousin, Franking Delano Roosevelt having 4 consecutive terms from 1933 to 1945 (whom by the way, is the president that sparked congress to enact the 22nd amendment in the first place).

As for the shooter, it seems John Schrank was staunchly opposed to any president running for a third term and saw Roosevelt as power hungry. Schrank believed that if Theodore Roosevelt won, he could possibly become an American Caesar and if he lost, he would say the election was rigged and the parties corrupt and it would plunge the country into another civil war.

Of course, there was also this passage found among Schrank’s writings:

“In a dream I saw President McKinley sit up in his coffin, pointing at a man in a monk’s attire in whom I recognized Theo. Roosevelt. The dead president said ‘This is my murderer, avenge my death.'”

So apparently, Schrank thought Roosevelt had President McKinley killed so Teddy, then Vice President could take his place.  Maybe he was right and TR had McKinley assassinated. Maybe Schrank wrote that letter to more easily make the insanity plea in court. Maybe Schrank really was downright crazy.

Either way, one thing is for sure. John Flammang Schrank was the enforcer of the 22nd amendment before it even existed.
Either way, one thing is for sure. Before the 22nd amendment, there was John Flammang Schrank



“I Am A Jelly Donut”

The Story of JFK’s Mistranslation.

Sometimes giving speeches in a foreign language can be a tricky thing.

It seems everyone was getting a piece of Germany except Germany.

On June 26th 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin in the wake of the creation of the Berlin Wall which was built by East Germany (back then a state under the Soviet Union) to keep it’s citizens from escaping into West Berlin. In West Berlin, he gave a speech meant to show the United States’ support for West Germany and it’s continuing fight against communism. In one part of the speech he said,

“Two thousand years ago, the proudest boast was civis romanus sum [“I am a Roman citizen”]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner!” [“I am a Berliner”]… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner!”

As inspiring as this is, there was a debate about whether the president misspoke. In German, if you were to say that you are from a particular place, you would not use the word “ein” after “Ich bin.”

“Ich bin Berliner” would be how you say, “I am from Berlin.”

“Ich bin ein Berliner would be how you say, “I am a jelly donut.”

Of course, this was received positively at the time.

But that’s only because the people of West Germany felt so strongly about pastries.

Of course, the argument in the President’s defense is that the “ein” in Ich bin ein Berliner was still needed because Kennedy was speaking figuratively and ultimately saying that he was aligned with the people of Berlin. The media has had fun with this story even up until the present but ultimately, they were making something out of nothing. A professional translator was hired and it turned out, JFK spoke flawlessly.

Even so, it’s still much funnier to think he told all these people he was a jelly donut.