Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912by Gerard Helferich
A New York Times Bestseller!John Flammang Schranka lonely Manhattan saloonkeeperwas obsessed with the 1912 presidential election and Theodore Roosevelt. The ex-president's extremism and third-term campaign were downright un-American. Convinced that TR would ignite civil war and leave the nation open to foreign invasion, Schrank answered what he believed… See more details below
A New York Times Bestseller!John Flammang Schranka lonely Manhattan saloonkeeperwas obsessed with the 1912 presidential election and Theodore Roosevelt. The ex-president's extremism and third-term campaign were downright un-American. Convinced that TR would ignite civil war and leave the nation open to foreign invasion, Schrank answered what he believed to be a divine summons, buying a gun and stalking Roosevelt across seven Southern and Midwestern states, blending into throngs of supporters. In Chattanooga and Chicago, he failed to act. In Milwaukee, on October 14, Schrank crossed TR's path againBANG!Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin is the dynamic unfolding account of the audacious attempt on Roosevelt's life by a lone and fanatical assailant. Based on original sources including police interrogations, eyewitness testimony, and newspaper reports, the book is above all a fast-paced, suspenseful narrative. Drawing from Schrank's own statements and writings, it also provides a chilling glimpse into the mind of a political assassin. Rich with local color and period detail, it transports the reader to the American heartland during a pivotal moment in our history, when the forces of progressivism and conservatism were battling for the nation's souland the most revered man in America traveled across the country campaigning relentlessly against Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, and Socialist Eugene V. Debs in what historians agree was the first modern American presidential contest.
The 1912 presidential campaign had four party candidates—Teddy Roosevelt (Progressive), Woodrow Wilson (Democratic), Eugene V. Debs (Socialist), and President William Howard Taft (Republican). Consulting police reports and newspaper articles, Helferich (Humbolt's Cosmos) shows how John Schrank (termed the "assailant," contrary to the title) stalked Roosevelt across several states before making an attempt on his life in Milwaukee on October 14. Crosscutting between the two men's travels, Helferich gives nearly equal attention to Roosevelt and to the naturalized American who thought he was divinely appointed to avenge President McKinley's 1901 assassination and save his adopted country from the tyranny of another presidential term for Roosevelt, who'd become president after McKinley's death. The attempt put the campaign on hold for a couple of weeks, but Helferich states that it probably had no effect on the election results (or on Roosevelt's health). VERDICT There are books on the assassination attempts on FDR, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, but this is the first modern investigation of the assault on Teddy Roosevelt, albeit not when he was president. Helferich writes with the general reader in mind. Those intrigued by Candice Millard's Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, on the Garfield assassination, or Scott Miller's The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century, on the McKinley assassination, may well wish to read this work.—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr., Lib. of Congress, Washington, DC
A lively account of Theodore Roosevelt's would-be murder reveals the roiling issues and personalities of that key campaign. Not many people know the name of John Flammang Schrank (1876–1943), a German-American New Yorker who tracked Roosevelt's stops on the railroad campaign circuit of late summer and early fall of 1912 and resolved to shoot him. The actual shooting on October 14 in Milwaukee was superficial, unlike that 11 years earlier of President William McKinley, assassinating him and thus leaving Roosevelt as president. Yet Roosevelt's shooting certainly yanked American politics into the modern era and revealed the courage of the irrepressible victim. In this light-pedaling, accessible study, Helferich (Stone of Kings: In Search of the Lost Jade of the Maya, 2011, etc.) creates several wonderful character studies: of Roosevelt, whom he calls either the Colonel or "the third termer," to designate the focus of Schrank's rage against him in putting himself up for election to a third (nonconsecutive) term; of the much-maligned incumbent President William Howard Taft, Roosevelt's handpicked successor who was so cowed by the anxiety of influence that he could not exert his own will in his own term and, when the wildly popular Roosevelt resolved to challenge him for the Republican nomination, fell out with him in an ugly, public battle; and of Schrank, a friendless landlord with accumulated grievances who believed Roosevelt's hubris and unchecked ambition to run for a third term was a gross abuse of tried-and-true democratic institutions. Moreover, Helferich examines a dream that Schrank supposedly had that convinced him of Roosevelt's conniving in McKinley's murder and lent some truth to the court's assumption that Schrank was delusional. Outsized personalities within a blistering campaign render this work a rollicking history lesson.
- Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
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- 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)
Meet the Author
Gerard Helferich is the author of the widely praised Humboldt's Cosmos, which was a Discover magazine Science Bestseller; High Cotton, which received the 2008 Authors Award for nonfiction from the Mississippi Library Association; and Stone of Kings, an Indie Next List "Great Read."
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