Mental Floss has a new podcast with iHeartRadio called "History Vs." in which your favorite historical characters beat their biggest enemies. Our first season is all about President Theodore Roosevelt. Subscribe to Apple Podcasts here, and for more TR content visit History Vs.
It's October 14, 1912, and Theodore Roosevelt faces 10,000 spectators at the Milwaukee Auditorium in Wisconsin. The 53-year-old former president is once again campaigning for the highest office in the country and should make a typical election speech. But the speech he is going to hold is anything but typical.
"Friends, I will ask you to be as quiet as possible. I do not know if you really understand that I've just been shot.
The crowd does not quite believe it at first Someone screams "Fake!" But there is gasp and scream as Roosevelt pulls off his waistcoat and reveals a white shirt with a growing bloodstain.
Just before, Roosevelt had in An open car stood in front of his hotel and waved to the assembled crowd ̵
Roosevelt had fallen for a moment, but it was not long before he did Aides wanted to take him to the hospital, and most people would have left, but that's not Theodore Roosevelt's style, instead he said, "Take me to that speech."
And now, on stage, he assures the shocked crowd: "It takes more than that to kill a bull elk … I'll give you my word, I do not worry about a rap if you're shot, no rap."
And then, though the snail is still in it he gives a nearly 90-minute speech.
If this sounds like an extraordinary event, then that's it. Or it might have been someone else than Theodore Roosevelt, a man whose life was full of extraordinary events. This was a guy who attacked Kettle Hill on horseback and whizzed past him with the Rough Riders bullets. who, when he took office, became the youngest president in history and is still the youngest president we ever had; who contributed to peace mediation between Russia and Japan and won the Nobel Prize for his efforts; who paved the way for the Panama Canal; who went off the net to navigate a previously unknown river in the Amazon; who was immortalized on Mount Rushmore; and often considered one of the greatest presidents of all time.
But Roosevelt was not always strong enough to stop a bullet. In fact, as a child, he was afflicted with such a terrible asthma that his parents feared he would not live to see his 4th birthday. How has Roosevelt evolved from a puny, sick child to a person capable of delivering that incredible, unimaginable 90-minute speech? We will find out right away.
This is from Mental Floss and iHeartRadio History Vs. A podcast about how your favorite historical characters beat their biggest enemies. In the first season of the series, we focus on Theodore Roosevelt's incredible life using a convention he would have appreciated as a boxer.
In each episode, we will analyze how Roosevelt has taken on a particular challenge. From conflicts in his family to the conquest of the time of day to arguments with other presidents and the preservation of the world for the next generation. This episode is "TR vs weakness."
Before we start, let me tell you a little bit about how I was interested in Theodore Roosevelt. Yes, I'm the editor of Mental Floss, so history is my thing. But I did not properly understand until I got out Edmund Morris's excellent book from the stacks at The Strand Bookstore. I did not know then that it was the third book in a trilogy, so I had to go back and read the others. Nevertheless, I came out with great admiration for TR and, to be honest, a bit obsessed.
OK, a big obsession. My desk at work has more TR stuff than photos of my cats, husband, and best friends together. I even have a Theodore Roosevelt action figure! At home I have a crowded shelf dedicated to books about Roosevelt. When I got married, I tried to convince my husband to do a TR tour of the Dakotas for our honeymoon. As a wedding present, the staff of Mental Floss got me some books with TR's collected speeches in first edition, which is much better than a KitchenAid mixer … no offense against KitchenAid. And last year I disguised myself as Roosevelt for a Halloween costume contest … and won.
Once I talk about the incredible achievements of Theodore Roosevelt, I can not stop talking about them. Hence this podcast. Which finally allowed me to do this TR tour through the Dakotas … but more on that later.
The wonderful people of Sagamore Hill call TR enthusiasts like me TedHeads, and I'll borrow that nickname for this podcast. So, just a note to all TedHeads out there: This is no exhausting look from A to Z on TR's life. If we tried, there would be a million episodes in this podcast because Roosevelt did an amazing amount of things in his 60 years. We will dive into his life and miss some things. But we will visit some important Roosevelt sites and talk to really intelligent Roosevelt experts. Hopefully you will learn some more things along the way.
Okay, ready to go?
Bully. 19659003] Today, the East 20th Street between Park Avenue South and Broadway on Manhattan is a mix of shops, shops, and restaurants, and is packed with taxis, trucks, and cars.
But when Theodore Roosevelt was born in 1858 it was a much larger residential area where horse hooves clattered and wagon wheels rattled. Behind the brown stones was a garden, and around the corner, the Goelet family built a mansion among three plots of land where cows, peacocks, and exotic birds lived.
Theodore Roosevelt, junior, came to the world on the evening of October 27 in a bedroom on the second floor of Brownstone at 28 E. 20th Street. He was the second child of Martha Bulloch Roosevelt or Mittie and Theodore Roosevelt Senior or Thee; her first child, Anna or Bamie, had been born three years earlier. Later, Brother Elliott and Sister Corinne would come.
Today, the room of the older Roosevelt is covered with a cream-colored wallpaper decorated with flowers and filled with original furniture made of cherry-colored walnuts. Above the fireplace hangs a portrait of Mittie. But we do not know exactly if the room looked like the Roosevelt children were born there. The family owned the house until 1899 and then sold it and soon after it was either completely demolished or the top two floors were demolished – sources are somewhat unclear on this point.
1919, after the death of TR The Women's Roosevelt Memorial Association bought back the building and adjacent building that had belonged to TR's uncle and rebuilt the house as Bamie and Corinne remembered it , It is now the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt.
Shortly after his birth Mittie described TR as a "disgusting" baby that looked like a "pond turtle", but Teedie, as he was known as a boy, quickly became the center of his family's world.
As a child, he had a ton of energy, but from the age of 3 he was, in his own words, a "sick, sensitive boy" who "suffered" a lot from asthma. "He also had what the cholera morbus family called a type of nervous diarrhea.
Due to his illness, he was largely tutored by his aunt Annie at home, while his younger brother Elliot had to defend him against mobbers while in town Lots of time in the house and read insatiable.
According to the historian Kathleen Dalton, author of Theodore Roosevelt: An exhausting life when he was ill – and he was often – the adults "put the needs of other children in the second place, because Theodore's life was at stake. "
Alyssa: If you look at some of the documentary films, they describe how he lies in the family crèche where you still live today barely able to blow out its candle, it suffers so much from asthma.
This is Alyssa Parker-Geisman, the senior ranger at Theodore Roosevelt's birthplace.
She sa Well, the family almost tried it all to treat TR asthma. Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography that one of his memories was "that my father was pacing up and down the room with me in my arms at night when I was a very small person, sitting in bed gasping for breath while my dad and my mother tried to help me. "Sometimes, to force air into his son's lungs, Thee drove up and down the Broadway with the little tea woman in the family car.
But they also tried many remedies, although this was standard at the time, today would raise eyebrows.
Alyssa: David McCullough in his book Mornings on Horseback describes the use of Laudanum, which is mixed with wine-mixed opium. He also describes what is called Indian hemp; We call it marijuana today. Squill vinegar was used, a plant that I believe was used for rat poison. Whiskey and gin were used. Children were given enemas.
TR's parents did not exactly feed him with rat poison – supposedly the vinegar and processing would mitigate some of the plant's side effects. Later, TR remembered smoking cigars and drinking black coffee to keep his asthma at bay.
Alyssa: And I think it puzzles the mind if you think about it today. In hindsight, it's always 20. But I'm sure this was a kind of high technology of the day or a drug treatment of the day. If you see your child suffering, you will try to alleviate it in some way that they could afford.
The Roosevelts were a wealthy family, and that fact is key: Theodore Roosevelt's story could have been very different if he had not been born into a privileged life. It not only ensured that he got the care he needed when he was sick, but it also meant that his parents could show him the world. The Roosevelts spent summers outside the city and made family trips to Europe, where middies and tees visited the spas.
Alyssa: You can treat yourself in these spas. They sit in hot baths and immerse themselves in the hot water. You may be treated to a walk in the forest as part of the treatment. So that was all in this time and the health treatment then.
This is probably a good place for a break. We will be right back.
After her first European tour, which took place at the age of 12, a doctor recommended "lots of fresh air and exercise" to increase his chest to give his lungs room and relieve his heart
Then you asked his son, "You have the mind, but not the body," he said to his son, "and without the help of the body, the mind can not go as far as it should." You have to make your body . "Through clenched teeth, TR answered that he would do just that.
It was not a promise that he took lightly – TR worshiped his father, whom he described as the "best" man I have ever known. "The children of Thee called him Big Heart, and he had great influence on Roosevelt, who later told a journalist:" The thought of him was now and always a comfort. I could breathe, I could sleep when he had me in his arms. My father – he gave me the breath, he gave me lung and strength – life.
According to Dalton, TR's health would crater if his father was absent during the Civil War. It is important to note that you are not fighting – he has paid a replacement to fight for him, at least in part because Mittie, a Southerner, could not stand the thought that her husband was fighting her brothers. Instead, Thee was on the mission to bring troops to the frontline to sign up for what the author Deborah Davis describes as a "savings program" that allows soldiers to "set aside money for their families while they wage war." ,
It was just another expression of Thee's lifelong commitment to philanthropy. He took his son on a trip to visit missions such as the Newsboys' Lodging House, and in Dalton's words, gave TR a "loving example of how a man can use his privilege to improve society."
An advocate of what was known as Muscular Christianity – what was defined as a "Christian life of courageous and joyous physical activity" – he said to his son, "Illness is always a shame and often a sin."
Alyssa: His father was a role model for his son. I always try to teach his son good moral character, strength and masculinity. I think you saw a lot of vice happening in the city. And dodgy characters, dodgy places in the city. He does not want his son to succumb to it. He has this strong sense of morality. So he will infuse his son with this idea of muscular Christianity. So, in this belief, he challenges his son to overcome your weakness, overcome your fragility, and really build your body and ensure that you also maintain a strong morality.
And so Teedie started building his body. Corinne later wrote that he had often seen him train on the piazza overlooking the back garden, "between horizontal bars, widening his chest with regular, monotonous movements."
Alyssa: He trained there and Keeping a Diary How big his biceps gets, how big his chest gets.
Two years later he discovered that he was not progressing as fast as he would have liked.
1872, as a teae At nearly 14, he suffered a severe asthma attack, and his father sent him – for the first time alone – to Moosehead Lake in Maine. It was a life changing experience.
In his autobiography, Roosevelt wrote that he met two boys his age on the carriage ride to the lake and that they found him an easy victim, instead of finding friends – and quickly made his life miserable:
– The worst thing was when I finally tried to fight them, one of them could handle me not only with slight contempt, but also with me so as not to hurt and injure me nor to prevent me from doing any damage in return. … I decided that I had to try to learn so that I would not be in such a helpless position again. "
And so Teedie learned at his father's suggestion with ex-prize boxing fighter John Long as his coach. To her great surprise, Teedie was tough – he was able to pocket hits for hits and keep fighting.
Later that year, the Roosevelts started another Grand Tour. There, Mittie and Thee Teedie, Elliott and Corinne deposited with a family in Dresden. And although TR was much healthier than he, he still has not quite conquered his illnesses.
During a mumps attack, he wrote to his mother that he resembled "an antiquated woodchuck with cheeks filled with nuts". Her unfortunate son had his third asthma attack, accompanied by a severe headache. " To his father, he said that an asthma attack made him unable to speak, "without blowing up like an abridged edition of a hippopotamus."
For Edmund Morris, Roosevelt's tutor "openly admired his ability to focus on his books and his specimens, excluding physical suffering." (One of these tutors first predicted that he would become president by the way.)  The Roosevelt returned to the States in 1873, and the next summer they moved to a place of great importance to Roosevelt: Oyster Bay, New York, where his grandfather and other Roosevelt families were vacationing.  28] Tyler: TR, the president, is 15 years old when he comes to Oyster Bay.
This is Tyler Kuliberda, an education technician at the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site on Long Island.
Tyler: The wealthy New Yorkers spend their summers out here. It is a place to escape New York City. For the family that comes out this is the land. We no longer think of Long Island as the country, but it was for this family. It was a flight from the heat of New York City, New York City, and it was a place to come out and have a good time.
There could have been one more advantage: The air could have been cleaner than the air in the city, which would have been better for TR's asthma.
Tyler: TR Senior would have taken him out of town as often as possible, especially if he had those really terrible asthma attacks. I think that's probably part of the family's time outside New York.
So the family spent a lot of time swimming. Roosevelt liked to row. He rowed over the Long Island Sound and the various bays and necks on Long Island's North Shore. He would explore her. And Roosevelt is interested in taxidermy and learning natural history as a little boy. The way you do it today is to shoot birds. So Roosevelt goes in search of various specimens and collects them for his Roosevelt Museum of Natural History, which he keeps in his parents' home in New York. Horseback riding, hiking and just enjoying nature.
Roosevelt loved Oyster Bay so much that he would eventually buy land to build a house on it – the house that was to be called Sagamore Hill. Incidentally, there is a story behind this name.
Tyler: Sagamore Hill, Sagamore Mohanis was essentially a chief or a sachem. Sachem is the Algonquin word for chief and Sagamore is a minor Sachem or Lieutenant Sachem. And this was apparently a place where they met. Mohanis is apparently the native who has marked off the country. Roosevelt decides to call it Sagamore Hill. This is the highest point in Cove Neck. Here they would have met.
But we come to ourselves.
Before this could happen, Roosevelt had to go to college. He came to Harvard in 1876, where he studied natural sciences.
In his first years at Harvard he was the biggest nerd. He was just that person you would see, and he would only be in his room, he would essentially do taxidermy. He would have animals in drawers and such things, and you can imagine that this did not make him very popular with humans. But then he suddenly broke out. At some point he joins all these clubs. He becomes friends with people across the campus.
When he was not in class, studying or at his clubs, TR kept pace with his boxing and rowing and started wrestling as well. Every free moment was filled with some activity.
That was doubly true when Roosevelt experienced a kind of trauma. In his second year, Thee died, and when Roosevelt returned to school, he threw himself into his work, a rush of activity, as if relieving his pain.
According to historian Douglas Brinkley, TR was not afraid Instead of taking a tram, TR would run three or four miles, and he would skate a long time in icy temperatures after everyone else had gone home. A friend from Harvard, Richard Welling, believed that TR overcompensated for his weakness: "Roosevelt … had neither health nor muscle," he later wrote that this nervous vitality had been given to help him get the other two things.
Between the years at Harvard, Roosevelt spent as much time as possible outdoors, often in Oyster Bay and Maine, where he lived with hillbilly Bill Sewall, who would become a lifelong friend, but his initial opinion of Roosevelt He was not exactly intoxicating: he called him a "thin, pale boy with bad eyes and a weak heart" and said he was "mighty Pindlin."
But Roosevelt quickly changed Bill's opinion: One day in summer, they ran 40 kilometers and Bill later recalled that, "I do not think I'll ever remember being" crazy. "Sometimes he did not feel well, but he never admitted it."  On later trips to Maine chased caribou in the snow for 36 hours without any tents or blankets, and with Sewall and his nephew, Wilmot Dow, he would climb Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in the state, and 5268 feet Travel partially into moccasins after losing a shoe in a stream – whereupon TR wrote in his journal, "I can endure fatigue and hardship pretty well like these lumberjacks."
That was not the end of the excursions: he, Sewall and Dow also made a six-day trip on a river in a shelter canoe through a series of rapids, and then marched 100 miles in pouring rain for three days.
Back at Harvard for his senior year, Roosevelt became engaged to his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, and eventually settled for a career in politics.
This year, he also had an appointment with a doctor at the university, and the news was not good: the doctor told him that his heart was dangerously loaded. The only way to live a long life is to have a quiet, sedentary life.
Roosevelt's reaction was clear. "Doctor, I will do anything you tell me not to do, if I have to live the way you described it, I do not care how short it is."
For decades, he was silent on the advice of Doctor and lived on as if he had never heard it The only reason we know about it is that the doctor wrote about the encounter, which is confirmed by Harvard's notes.
Later this year He married Alice on his birthday, and on the honeymoon he boarded Pilatus, the Rigi-Grindelwald, and the Virgin within 10 days, after which Amateur TR boarded the Matterhorn, a mountain that was so deadly that many experienced mountaineers lost their way to the attempt He told Sewell that some English climbers he met in the lobby of his hotel should prove that "a Yankee can climb as well as she does."
Roosevelt has his asthma never completely In fact, his sister Corinne once said that he suffered "all his life, though in later years only at long, separated intervals."
And he never stopped being active: when he was governor of New York, he had a wrestling mat installed in the governor's mansion. (Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography that the auditor fussed over the purchase: "[He] declined to examine an account I submitted for a wrestling mat, and stated that I could have a pool table, with Billard as a recognized A true gubernatorial amusement, but a wrestling mat symbolized something unusual and unknown, which was not allowed. ") When he learned that President William McKinley was dying, then-vice president Roosevelt had just climbed Mount Marcy, the highest peak in the state of New York.
In the White House, he kept punching, at least until a hard punch took the view in his left eye … then he picked up Jiu Jitsu. And then he had a tennis court installed, although his playing style was … unconventional.
Tyler: His method of playing tennis was interesting. He would take the grip and get him into the ball.
According to Michael Cullinane, author of Theodore Roosevelt's Ghost: The History and Memory of an American Icon TR was not actually that good at tennis … or sports in general.
Michael: He was terrible in sports. I mean, there's a really funny story about this boy who played tennis with the … He was, TR was then president, he was playing tennis in Sagamore Hill, I think, or maybe it was the White House. I do not remember, but this kid who is like a teenager, like, "This guy is terrible in tennis and he's the president and I admire him so much, but he's like the worst tennis player in the world."
Erin: What he lacked in skills, he made good with energy.
He would also devote himself to other physical activities – those of his daughter Alice calling endurance tests – in Sagamore Hill. Tyler: It was a place where you could do those long point-to-point walks, where Roosevelt asked the kids to walk in a perfectly straight direction to a specific location that was their goal. In this way, no matter what was on your way, you either had to go over it or over it. So if it was a bush, you had to go through it. If it were a body of water like a pond, it would have to be waded through. If it was a wall, you had to climb over it.
This was his life "the exhausting life". Her idea of rest was not what most people thought, sitting on the veranda drinking soda and caring for their servants. For Roosevelt it went out and was really exhausting. Most people who did not know him well did not understand what they were looking for when they came to Sagamore Hill.
Let's take a short break and we'll be right back.
For Roosevelt, working up sweat was not just a way to stay healthy – it was also an integral part of his life philosophy: "Physical strength as a method to gain that power of the soul without the power of the soul Body counts for nothing ", as he described in his autobiography.
He wrote: "Without hard work and my best judgment and careful planning and working long hours, I have never gained anything in advance. Since I was a rather sick and awkward boy, as a young man I was both nervous and suspicious of my own abilities at first, and had to laboriously and laboriously train not only in my body but also in my soul and mind ,  But the fact that he was born into wealth and privilege had much to do with his success.
Roosevelt did not only work for the stressful life for himself, but for others. At the end of his second term, he ordered that military officers walk 80km in three days or ride 100km on horses. Later, he declared this to be an "exam that many healthy middle-aged women could face. When the officers and the press contradicted the demand, he demonstrated how easy it was by doing it himself.
And in his autobiography, TR advised, "A man whose business is sedentary should get some sort of exercise if he wishes to be in physical condition, like his brothers doing manual labor. When I worked on a ranch, I did not need any movement other than my job, but when I worked in an office, it was different. "
He also expected that his children would lead the stressful life. Especially his children. "I'd prefer one of them to die than become weaklings," he once said.
Sein ältester Sohn Ted, der wie sein Vater Asthma hatte und später unter Kopfschmerzen litt, wurde von ihm besonders hart getroffen und Depressionen. Irgendwann hatte er einen sogenannten „Nervenzusammenbruch“.
Alyssa: Die Ärzte sagen: „Theodore, weißt du, er war überfordert oder hatte einen Zusammenbruch. Und vielleicht liegt es daran, dass du auch drängst hart. “
TR war zerknirscht und sagte dem Arzt:„ Ich werde Ted nie wieder unter Druck setzen. “Er sagte, er sei so hart für den Jungen gewesen, weil Ted hätte„ all die Dinge sein können, die ich gerne gewesen wäre und nicht gewesen wäre und es war eine große Versuchung, ihn zu schubsen. "
Aber Dalton schreibt, dass er nie ganz nachlassen konnte, wie er versprochen hatte. Später schrieb Edith an Ted:„ Da ich zurückblicke, ging es dir am schlechtesten, weil Vater hat versucht, Sie zu „zähmen“, war aber glücklich zu beschäftigt, um den gleichen Druck auf die anderen auszuüben! “
Laut Dalton hatte der schwächelnde TR ihn als Kind unwohl und beschämt gemacht: Weil„ er den Invaliden verabscheute er war ", schreibt Dalton, er blickte zurück auf seine Kindheit" mit einem Gefühl der Distanziertheit. "Roosevelt hasste Schwäche.
Es ist nicht schwer, eine Linie von diesem zurück zu verfolgen zu seinem Vater, den Roosevelt verehrte und der so viel Wert darauf legte, stark und männlich zu sein; Roosevelt fühlte sich Great Heart immer unterlegen. Und er wollte nie, dass seine Kinder die Art von Schwächling waren, die er gewesen war.
Sowohl Roosevelt als auch sein Vater hatten sich Sorgen gemacht, dass die amerikanische Gesellschaft aufgrund der „Überzivilisation“ schwächer würde. Die Idee war, dass Männer an modernen Komfort gewöhnt waren dass sie die Verbindung mit einigen Dingen verloren, die sie männlich machten. In einer Rede von 1899, die im Hamilton Club gehalten wurde, als er Gouverneur von New York war, erläuterte Roosevelt seinen Plan, sein Land und seine Menschen so stark wie möglich zu machen.
Er verwendete die Rede, die er wollte Rufen Sie später "The Strenuous Life" (Das anstrengende Leben), um für US-Militarismus und imperiale Expansion einzutreten – worauf wir in einer anderen Episode eingehen werden – und um sich gegen ein Leben mit "unedler Leichtigkeit" auszusprechen.
von unedler Leichtigkeit, aber die Lehre vom anstrengenden Leben, dem Leben der Mühe und Anstrengung, der Arbeit und des Kampfes “, sagte Roosevelt.
Er forderte die wohlhabenden Väter auf, ihre Söhne zu ermutigen, sich Zeit zu nehmen, um nichts zu verdienen arbeiten, wie sein Vater es mit ihm getan hatte, und bemerkte: „In diesem Leben bekommen wir nichts außer durch Anstrengung. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past.”
Men should use that freedom to explore different kinds of work, whether it be in politics or exploration. But if a man used that freedom just for enjoyment, “he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth’s surface … A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world. … As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation.”
He finished by saying that living that life of ease, and seeking peace when war was called for, would doom America to be left behind:
“The 20th century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we stand idly by … then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.”
According to one of Roosevelt’s friends, he had a “policy of forcing the spirit to ignore the weakness of the flesh,” and I think there’s no better example of that than when he was shot in 1912.
Alyssa: John Schrank was the man who fired the bullet.
Schrank would later say that he was against a third-term president, but that wasn’t his only reason for pulling the trigger as TR stood outside the Gilpatrick Hotel.
Alyssa: He was advised by the ghost of William McKinley to avenge McKinley's death, while pointing to a picture of Theodore Roosevelt. So, Schrank followed Roosevelt on the campaign trail from New Orleans to Milwaukee. When Schrank fired at Roosevelt, he was tackled to the ground. Roosevelt didn't bring Schrank up. But the gentlemen around him did. And he actually asked Schrank, "Why did you do it?" And obviously realizing, there's not going to be an answer to that. He's like, okay, fine. Cops, take him away.
Later, Schrank would be examined and deemed insane; he spent the rest of his life in a mental hospital and died there in 1943.
After Schrank was hauled away, Roosevelt went on to give his speech.
Alyssa: As a hunter he knew to check yourself, and if you're coughing up blood that probably means a lung is punctured and you're in trouble. But he checked, and he was like, "You know, OK, it doesn't hurt to breathe this way, so I'm going to go on."
According to Morris, the whole right side of Roosevelt’s body had turned black, but the wound was bleeding slowly. So TR slapped a handkerchief over the bullet hole and went out on stage. He didn’t realize until after he pulled out his speech, unfolded it, and began to read that the bullet had gone through it, at which point he joked, “You see, I was going to make quite a long speech.”
And make a long speech he did.
Alyssa: Who gets shot, point blank, and can then go on to carry out about an approximately 90 minute speech? Wow.
But it wasn’t as though Roosevelt was unaffected. He spoke in a voice Morris writes was “no longer husky but weak … a knifelike pain in his ribs forced him to breathe in short gasps. Two or three times, he appeared to totter.” Party aides stood below the footlights in case he fell.
But Roosevelt didn’t fall. Still, by the time he was finished speaking, he had lost a lot of blood, and was taken to Milwaukee’s Emergency Hospital.
Doctors there did an X-ray and found that the bullet had hit his fourth rib on the right side. It had been headed straight for the heart, but had been slowed by Roosevelt’s speech and his eyeglasses case before it hit, and cracked, his rib.
Today, you can see the speech, eyeglasses case, and shirt TR wore on the day he was shot on display at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site.
Alyssa: I mean, they did the X-ray. They saw that the bullet was lodged into his rib. And they decided not to take it out.
Erin: So he carried that bullet with him for the rest of his life?
Alyssa: Yup. To his death.
Even more incredibly, Roosevelt gave his next speech at Madison Square Garden a mere 16 days later. Ultimately, weakness was no match for TR.
History Vs. is hosted by Erin McCarthy.
This episode was written by Erin McCarthy, with additional research by Michael Salgarolo and fact checking by Austin Thompson.
Field recording by Jon Mayer.
Joe Weigand played Theodore Roosevelt in this episode.
The Executive Producers are Erin McCarthy, Julie Douglas, and Tyler Klang.
The Supervising Producer is Dylan Fagan.
The show is edited by Dylan Fagan and Lowell Brillante.
Special thanks to Alyssa Parker-Geisman, Tyler Kuliberda, and Michael Cullinane.
To learn more about this episode check out our website at mentalfloss.com/historyvs
History Vs. Is a production of iHeart Radio and Mental Floss.