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Theodore Roosevelt shot in Milwaukee

Theodore Roosevelt shot in Milwaukee


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Before a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt is shot at close range by saloonkeeper John Schrank while greeting the public in front of the Gilpatrick Hotel. Schrank’s .32-caliber bullet, aimed directly at Roosevelt’s heart, failed to mortally wound the former president because its force was slowed by a glasses case and a bundle of manuscript in the breast pocket of Roosevelt’s heavy coat—a manuscript containing Roosevelt’s evening speech. Schrank was immediately detained and reportedly offered as his motive that “any man looking for a third term ought to be shot.”

Roosevelt, who suffered only a flesh wound from the attack, went on to deliver his scheduled speech with the bullet still in his body. After a few words, the former “Rough Rider” pulled the torn and bloodstained manuscript from his breast pocket and declared, “You see, it takes more than one bullet to kill a Bull Moose.” He spoke for nearly an hour and then was rushed to the hospital.

Despite his vigorous campaign, Roosevelt, who served as the 26th U.S. president from 1901 to 1909, was defeated by Democrat Woodrow Wilson in November. Shrank was deemed insane and committed to a mental hospital, where he died in 1943.


Historic Milwaukee will attempt to assassinate Roosevelt . again

Historic Milwaukee, Inc. hosts "To Kill A Bull Moose: The Attempted Assassination of Theodore Roosevelt, 100 Years Later," Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Mayor Tom Barrett will take part in the event, which kicks off at 3 p.m. with a re-enactment of the shooting at the hotel's east entrance, where German immigrant John Schrank shot Roosevelt during a presidential speech at the Hotel Gilpatrick in 1912.

We often ask that before making a joke or quip about a terrible moment in our collective history.

Clearly, it's not too soon to create an historical event around the attempted assassination in Milwaukee of former President Teddy Roosevelt. Especially not in this case, because this isn't a celebration as much as a teachable moment.

Historic Milwaukee, Inc. hosts "To Kill A Bull Moose: The Attempted Assassination of Theodore Roosevelt, 100 Years Later," Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 333 W. Kilbourn Ave.

Mayor Tom Barrett will take part in the event, which kicks off at 3 p.m. with a re-enactment of the shooting at the hotel's east entrance, where German immigrant John Flammang Schrank shot Roosevelt during a speech at the Hotel Gilpatrick on Third Street.

Though he was shot in the chest, Roosevelt (who was campaigning for a third term) survived (obviously). Lore has it that the windy Roosevelt was saved by the thick wadded up speech text in his breast pocket. What's generally been considered quite amazing is that Roosevelt still went over to the Auditorium to deliver his 80-minute speech and upon finishing, went to be seen by a doctor.

That speaks volumes of Roosevelt's intestinal fortitude . literally and figuratively, I guess.

After the event, marking the centennial of this important moment in Milwaukee &ndash and U.S. &ndash history, there will be a walking tour up the street to the Milwaukee Theatre (which was formerly the Auditorium) and at 4 p.m. refreshments and readings of excerpts from Roosevelt's Oct. 14, 1912 speech, at the Theatre, 500 W. Kilbourn Ave.

Presumably NOT in celebration of Schrank's work as a bartender, there will be a cash bar and hors d'oeuvres served after the festivities (if that's the right word to use here).

Roosevelt, of course, lost his 1912 bid for the presidency to Woodrow Wilson. The Hotel Gilpatrick was razed in the early 1940s and Schrank died in Waupun in 1943 and his body was donated to science more specifically to the medical school at Marquette.

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Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy &ndash including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.

Get all the daily headlines in your inbox

Follow OnMilwaukee

More stories


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Wisconsin Historical Society Citation Wisconsin Historical Society, Creator, Title, Image ID. Viewed online at (copy and paste image page link). Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research Citation Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, Creator, Title, Image ID. Viewed online at (copy and paste image page link).


It Proves Just How Much of a Badass He Was

Roosevelt lived a life many fictional characters don’t even live. During his 60 years of life, Roosevelt did it all. He:

  • Hunted big game in the wild.
  • Wrote numerous books.
  • Marched up San Juan Hill.
  • And, oh yeah, served as President of the United States.

Roosevelt is a prime example that we shouldn’t live in fear, that we should make the most out of our lives. Even if it means giving a speech with a bullet in our chest.

Hopefully that won’t happen, but the former president should be inspiration to a well-lived life. This story is only one part of an even greater one: the story of his life.


Who Shot T.R.?

Listen to the compelling story of what happened to TR during a campaigning trip to Milwaukee in 1912!

John Flammang Schrank

On October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt set out to give a campaign speech in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He spoke to his supporters, but things did not begin exactly as planned. Roosevelt was struck by an assassin's bullet. But unlike any president before or since who met the same fate, Theodore did not go directly to a doctor. or an undertaker. He soldiered on and delivered a ninety-minute speech.

His fateful journey began when a rift occurred in the Republican Party between Theodore Roosevelt's liberal/reform wing and William Taft's conservative wing. At the 1912 Republican Convention, President Taft won re-nomination and ex-President Roosevelt led a group of his followers to run for an unheard of third term on the Progressive, or 'Bull Moose' Party ticket. On October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee. He finished his dinner and stepped out of the Pfister Hotel to enter a waiting car. An assassin stepped out of the crowd. Raising a gun, the man fired one bullet at Theodore. It passed through T.R's overcoat, a fifty-page manuscript, a steel eyeglass case, and lodged in his chest.

Theodore coughed into his hand, and seeing no blood, determined that the bullet had not entered his lung. He then prevented a mob that gathered from killing the assassin until the police arrived. Refusing medical attention, Theodore Roosevelt went on to deliver the speech in which he said, "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." Doctors later examined him and decided it was safer to leave the bullet in his chest. It remained there for the remainder of his life. So, who was the man that shot T.R.?

John Flammang Schrank was born in 1876 and emigrated from Bavaria to America at the age of three. As a child, he experienced the deaths of his parents, and then his aunt and uncle who raised him, as well as his first and only girlfriend, Emily Ziegler who had died in the General Slocum disaster on New York's East River. Schrank inherited property and a tavern, where he had become its saloon-keeper, but he was heartbroken. Schrank sold the properties, and drifted around the East Coast for years. He became profoundly religious, and a fluent Bible scholar whose debating skills were well-known around his neighborhood. He wrote poetry and spent a great deal of time walking around city streets at night, yet caused no documented trouble.

It is known that Schrank opposed a sitting President's ability to seek a third term in office. But would Roosevelt's bid to do just that provoke Schrank to attempt murder? It doesn't seem likely. But soon after, Schrank had a bizarre dream. In this dream, he was advised by the ghost of William McKinley to avenge his death while pointing to a picture of Theodore Roosevelt. Schrank followed Roosevelt on the campaign trail from New Orleans to Milwaukee and then the Pfister Hotel where he fired the shot.

After his arrest, doctors examined Schrank and reported that he was suffering from 'insane delusions, grandiose in character' and declared him to be insane. In 1914, John Schrank was sentenced to the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin. He remained there for 29 more years, until his death in 1943. His body was donated to the Medical School at Marquette University (now the Medical College of Wisconsin) for anatomical dissection.

View a letter found on John Schrank's person after he shot Theodore Roosevelt that alludes to his reasoning for doing so.

Watch a brief documentary/interview with a park ranger from Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace about the incident.


The Time Teddy Roosevelt Was Shot in the Chest, Then Gave a Speech Anyway

On October 14, 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was on the campaign trail in Milwaukee, running for another term. It was a tough race: Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson proved to be a formidable opponent, and William Howard Taft, while unpopular, was the Republican incumbent. Roosevelt was running as a third-party Progressive, and in order to keep pace with his big-ticket rivals he had to work hard. By this point in the election season, he was giving 15 to 20 speeches per day, most of which stretched on for an hour or sometimes more. But this day, TR didn't feel too well. His throat was scratchy, he was tired, and so he planned a relatively quick stop.

What Roosevelt and his security team didn't know was that a man with a .38 caliber revolver had been trailing the campaign since they departed New Orleans. For a thousand miles, he rode quietly, just waiting to get his shot at the Colonel.

John Schrank was a Bavarian-born saloon-keeper from New York. He'd had some strange and troubling dreams in recent months, mostly about President McKinley, whose assassination resulted in Roosevelt's first term. In his dreams, Schrank said that President McKinley asked him to avenge his death and protect democracy from a three-term president. All Schrank had to do was kill Roosevelt before he could be reelected.

"BUT FORTUNATELY I HAD MY MANUSCRIPT"

Roosevelt stood in the seat of his automobile to wave at the crowds and Schrank, who was standing in the front row of the crowd, had his shot. He took aim: point-blank, right at Roosevelt’s head. Then three things happened at the same time. A bystander hit Schrank’s arm Roosevelt’s security detail spotted the gun and leapt from the car Schrank pulled the trigger. The shot landed squarely in Roosevelt’s chest just as Schrank was tackled and put in a headlock by the bodyguard. Roosevelt is said not to have noticed he was hit until he reached into his overcoat and felt the blood on his fingers.

But it turns out that Teddy’s long-winded speeches saved his life that day: The bullet traveled through a 50-page copy of his prepared speech and the steel eyeglasses case he carried in the same pocket. The bullet was slowed enough not to reach his lung or heart, which Teddy deduced from the absence of blood when he spoke or coughed. He refused to go to a hospital and insisted on giving 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,” he began. He spoke for at least 55 more minutes (though some estimates say 90), still wearing his blood-soaked shirt. (You can read a stenographer’s report of his speech here.)

The pages of the speech that saved Roosevelt's life were later bound into a book, which—along with the eyeglasses case and the shirt TR was wearing—can be seen at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site in New York City. Erin McCarthy

Roosevelt would spend the next eight days in the hospital. The bullet had lodged in his chest wall and removing it was deemed too unsafe. The wound healed and he never reported trouble from the injury again. Despite having lived through his assassination attempt, the presidency would not be Teddy’s again: Woodrow Wilson’s 41 percent of the vote meant the office would be his, though Roosevelt did beat out incumbent Taft, marking the only time a sitting president has come in third place in a reelection bid.

Schrank, in the meantime, was apprehended immediately. He lived the rest of his life in an insane asylum, and died of pneumonia in 1943.

Mental Floss just launched a new podcast with iHeartRadio called History Vs., and our first season is all about Theodore Roosevelt. Subscribe here!


Most Wisconsinites Don’t Know About The Failed Presidential Assassination Attempt That Took Place Here

In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt had served two terms as a Republican president and decided to seek a third term, this time as a member of the newly-formed Progressive Party. That wasn’t necessarily the most popular choice as it angered the Republicans that he was challenging their candidate, William Taft, who’d been Roosevelt’s vice president. He was also up against Woodrow Wilson. However, Roosevelt had been a popular president and still had plenty of supporters. He set off across the country, making speeches and rallying support for himself and the new Progressive Party.

On October 14, 1912, a man who’d been following Roosevelt for at least eight stops on this journey saw an opening and took his chance.

Despite what should have been a near-death experience, Roosevelt was barely fazed. He continued on into the car and headed to the auditorium where he went on to deliver a speech that lasted more than 80 minutes. The President walked in and informed the gathered crowd what had just happened.

According to the Theodore Roosevelt Association, he said, "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."


The Bauman Story

Teddy Roosevelt writes in “The Wilderness Hunter”, that he counts himself lucky to have hunted every type of game in the United States. He writes also about a fatal encounter with a Bigfoot creature.

Roosevelt writes that he was impressed by a story he once heard.

It was told by a grisled, weather-beaten old mountain hunter, named Bauman, who was born and had passed all his life on the frontier. He must have believed what he said, for he could hardly repress a shudder at certain points of the tale but he was of German ancestry, and in childhood had doubtless been saturated with all kinds of ghost and goblin lore

The Wilderness Hunter by Theodore Roosevelt

In the mid 1900s Bauman and a companion decided to set traps on a trail near Montana Wisdom River. The remote trail had an evil reputation. Another trapper had been found half-eaten by mining prospectors along this pass.

They then discovered that the creature had destroyed their camp site the next day upon returning to camp, as if out of contempt for their shooting at it the night before. The creature was nowhere in sight, but it left many visible tracks during its fit of rage while destroy their camp.

Bauman was awakened at midnight, to a foul “wild-best odor”. Still delirious from just waking, he saw what was described as a “great body”, in the distance lurking in the shadows where moonlight could not find it.

He stood up and fired a shot from his rifle into the dark shape. The thing rushed away making a loud noise as it fled. The incident shook the two men as they did not sleep much for the rest of that night.

That night by campfire, the two highly experienced trappers determined together that the tracks they inspected under torch-lit view were made by human nor bear.

Coming back to the fire, he stood by it a minute or two, peering out into the darkness, and suddenly remarked : “Bauman, that bear has been walking on two legs.

The Wilderness Hunter by Theodore Roosevelt

The two men eventually decided to give up their trapping expedition, with little luck in finding furs during that trip. They went to collect their traps and go back to camp to retire.

Bauman returned to camp himself to find a horrible sight. There he found his friend’s dead body. His neck was snapped, and there were four fang marks in his companion’s neck.

Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature with which he had to deal was something either half human or half devil, some great goblin-beast, aban- doned everything but his rifle and struck off at speed down the pass, not halting until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.

The Wilderness Hunter by Theodore Roosevelt

The howling of the night could be the familiar call of the wolf pack, or could it be something more sinister and ancient with a history of hunting the homo sapien?


Helferich's book recounts attempt to kill Roosevelt in Milwaukee

Gerard Helferich's recent book, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin," published in hardcover by Lyons Press, is one of the few to really dig into the attempt to kill former President Teddy Roosevelt outside the Gilpatrick Hotel in Milwaukee in 1912.

Last October, Historic Milwaukee staged a reenactment of the attempted assassination of former President and then-presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt in Milwaukee on the site, at 3rd and Kilbourn, of the 1912 shooting.

A photo of the recreation of the moment the bullet left John Schrank&rsquos .38 caliber pistol and penetrated the chest of Roosevelt outside the Hotel Gilpatrick was convincing, except that many in the picture are smiling.

This struck me as odd, until I saw a photo in Gerard Helferich&rsquos recent book, "Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin," published in hardcover by Lyons Press.

That photo shows Schrank standing alongside a policeman, with another officer behind them. All three are wearing huge grins.

People were tougher back then, maybe. Cops and would-be presidential assassins could share a chuckle. "The wound is a trivial one," Roosevelt told his wife in a telegram.

We might be tempted to think he said that simply to prevent his wife from excessive worry, but Roosevelt, despite the bleeding wound, made his speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium anyway and talked for nearly an hour and a half before heading over to the hospital.

No doubt about it, the story of Roosevelt&rsquos shooting in Milwaukee is an odd one. And, says Helferich, it&rsquos a rarely told one, too.

"The incident is mentioned only in passing in other books about Roosevelt, but no other work focuses on the assassination attempt and dramatizes it," says Helferich, a non-fiction author who has written books on a variety of subjects, including the Maya, the Mississippi Delta and Latin America. "As you can imagine, I&rsquove spoken to a lot of people about the book, and very few were familiar with the incident."

"The opportunity to shed light on a largely forgotten corner of American history was definitely part of the appeal."

Helferich says the idea for the book grew out of a workshop he taught at Columbia University in New York.

"The students suggested the idea," he recalls. "Like most people, I wasn&rsquot familiar with the assassination attempt, but it immediately grabbed my imagination because I realized it was an opportunity to weave a compelling narrative, cutting back and forth between Roosevelt on the campaign trail and Schrank, who stalked him over the course of a month through seven Southern and Midwestern states, waiting for an opportunity to kill him."

The book brings the story to vivid life by not only chronicling the extremely bitter battle for the White House in 1912, but also Schrank&rsquos daily movements. His chapter on Schrank&rsquos arrival in Milwaukee and his route from the train station on Everett Street to the Gilpatrick Hotel on 3rd and Kilbourn will be especially interesting reading for Milwaukeeans.

The 1912 campaign pitted two-term former President Teddy Roosevelt against incumbent Wiliam Howard Taft -- who had been Roosevelt&rsquos vice president and friend before a falling out &ndash and Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Adding further interest was the fact that when he failed to receive the Republican nomination, Roosevelt formed his own progressive Bull Moose party and ran as a third party candidate. Plus, socialist Eugene Debs was on the ballot, too, and nabbed nearly a million votes.

"I think the thing that surprised me most was how little has changed over the past century," says Helferich.

"During the election campaign of 1912, the major issues included the growing divide between rich and poor, the overwhelming influence exerted by the corporations in the political process, a feeling that the political system was broken and needed to be fixed and a split in the Republican Party. Does any of that sound familiar?"

But there was one major difference between 1912 and 2012, the author says.

"In terms of differences, it struck me how freewheeling campaigns were in those days. Only the President was assigned Secret Service agents, and police protection was spotty, so the candidates&rsquo staff members had to double as bodyguards," he says.

"There was very little separating the candidates from the crowds. Roosevelt barnstormed the country by train, stopping at small towns and speaking from the platform of his railroad car. In the larger cities he would speak at an auditorium, routinely attracting 8,000 or 10,000 people. Since there was no radio or television, the candidates debated each other in the pages of the newspapers Woodrow Wilson would make a speech one night, for example, and Roosevelt would read about it in the next day&rsquos paper, then refute it in his own speech that night."

Helferich has no immediate plans to visit Milwaukee as part of a book tour, and perhaps surprisingly, he didn&rsquot come to do his research.

"(I&rsquove been to Milwaukee) only vicariously, through reading Milwaukee newspapers from the period," he says.

"One of the real pleasures and challenges of the project was the chance to do original research, combing through newspaper articles, court records and other documents from that time, piecing together the story like a detective. And several times I found that details that had been published &ndash such as information on Schrank&rsquos family background and his route as he tracked Roosevelt &ndash were incorrect. So it also gave me pleasure to be able to correct the historical record."

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Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy &ndash including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.

Get all the daily headlines in your inbox

Follow OnMilwaukee

More stories


The Speech That May Have Saved Teddy Roosevelt’s Life

While running for an unprecedented third term as U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt was shot at close range by a would-be assassin. Roosevelt not only survived but the wounded former president pressed ahead with a prearranged speaking engagement in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that same evening, prior to going to a hospital to receive medical attention. The bullet fired from the gunman&rsquos weapon had passed through a steel-reinforced eyeglass case as well as a fifty-page speech which had been folded in half inside Roosevelt&rsquos overcoat pocket.

The 1912 Presidential race had been a highly confrontational one. Former President Theodore &ldquoTeddy&rdquo Roosevelt had challenged his friend and chosen successor William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination which had only served to deepen the divide between the progressive and conservative elements among the party. When Roosevelt lost out to Taft for the Republican nomination, he formed the Progressive Party, better known as the Bull Moose Party, and ran as a third-party candidate.

Roosevelt&rsquos actions drew much criticism from his political opponents and also from the media who described him as a &ldquopower-hungry traitor willing to break the tradition of two-term presidencies.&rdquo

Roosevelt ran on a platform of what he coined as &ldquoNew Nationalism,&rdquo which proposed greater government regulation of the economy to promote social justice and the economic welfare of the underprivileged. Roosevelt had been campaigning hard to win an unprecedented third campaign as President. He had embarked on a grueling schedule which would result in him campaigning in more states than any of his rivals, a remarkable 38 states in total.

Theodore Roosevelt. history.com

On the evening of October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was on the campaign trail in Milwaukee. He had just left the Gilpatrick Hotel shortly after 8 p.m. to travel to a speaking engagement. He got into an open-top car and rose to wave to a crowd of supporters and well-wishers that had gathered to catch a glimpse of him when suddenly a man burst from the crowd and shot Roosevelt from five feet away.

A stenographer on Roosevelts presidential campaign team managed to restrain the gunman. In the ensuing commotion, some members of the crowd began to attack the gunman. Despite having just been shot, Roosevelt remained the calmest man at the scene. He urged the crowd to stop, asking instead that they bring the gunman closer to him so that he could see him. Roosevelt asked the man who he was and why he had shot him but the gunman remained silent. Realizing the futility of his attempts to ascertain the gunman&rsquos motives, Roosevelt said, &ldquoturn him over to the police.&rdquo

Roosevelt&rsquos eyeglass case shows where a bullet passed through. history.com

Roosevelt raised his hand to his mouth and coughed three times. Seeing that there was no blood in his hand he concluded that the bullet had not passed through his lungs. Despite the advice of an accompanying doctor to immediately go to a hospital, Roosevelt insisted on pressing ahead with his prearranged speaking engagement. In the inside pocket of Roosevelt&rsquos heavy overcoat was a fifty-page speech folded over with two fresh bullet holes through each page. The bullet had also passed through his steel-reinforced eyeglass case in the same pocket.