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John Flammang SCHRANK






The Attempted Assassination of Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt
Classification: Attempted assassination
Characteristics: He claimed to have shot Roosevelt as a warning to other third termers and that it was the ghost of William McKinley that told him to perform the act
Number of victims: 0
Date of attempted murder: October 14, 1912
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1876
Victim profile: Theodore Roosevelt (United States ex-President)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Status: Found insane. Sentenced to the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin, in 1914. He remained there for 29 more years, until his death from natural causes in 1943
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The Attempted Assassination of Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt

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John Schrank Biography

John Schrank was born in Bavaria in 1876. In 1889, he moved with his family to New York City, where his parents soon died. To support himself, Schrank got a job working for his uncle, who owned a tavern in New York. However, his uncle and aunt died not long after, causing him great emotional distress. They left Schrank all of their possessions, which he promptly sold and began traveling the east coast.

On an anniversary of President McKinley's death, Schrank had a dream in which he saw the dead president lying in his coffin. Suddenly, the corpse rose and pointed to a figure in the robe of a monk who, upon closer examination, was none other than Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States. President McKinley turned to face Schrank stating, "This is my murderer! Avenge my death!"

On September 14, 1912, John Schrank was writing poetry in his home when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned around to see President McKinley behind him, stating "Do not let a murderer sit in the president's chair." Schrank packed up his things and a .38 pistol before departing New York City by train. He then took several random train trips through the south before turning north and going between cities in the midwest.

On October 14, 1912, Schrank reached Milwaukee, where he checked into a hotel under the assumed name, "Albert Ross". He then proceeded to the Hotel Gilpatrick, where Teddy Roosevelt was dining with his campaign advisors. At 8PM, Roosevelt moved out of the hotel towards his automobile, where he stood on the vehicle's floorboard to wave to the cheering crowd.

At this moment, Schrank raised his pistol, aiming it at the former President's head. A spectator, Adam Bittner, saw the move and struck his harm downwards. The gun went off, firing a bullet that struck Roosevelt in the chest and knocked him down. A mob tackled Schrank and began beating him brutally, while some people ran off to grab ropes to lynch him in the street. Roosevelt managed to rise to his feet and said, "Don't hurt the poor creature" as policemen ran into the crowd and dragged Schrank into the hotel.

After the assassination attempt, Roosevelt proceeded to go to the Milwaukee Auditorium and make his speech stating, "I'm going to make that speech if it's the last thing on earth I do." It was later discovered that the bullet had struck his eyeglasses case and his speech manuscript before entering his chest, most likely saving his life. Roosevelt survived the wound, but the bullet was never extracted since it was not in a dangerous area.

Schrank, on the other hand, was never tried for the attempted assassination. Instead, he was sent to the Northern State Hospital for the mentally disturbed in Oshkosh. Later, he was transferred to the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin. He was not allowed to receive any visitors or communications from the outside world for the next thirty years, until his death on September 16, 1943.

Schrank told doctors of the dreams that he was having and that he had also wanted to shoot Roosevelt since he was running for a third presidential term. He had hoped that shooting him would send a warning message to any other presidents that wanted to try for a third term. The doctors declared him insane after some examinations, declaring that he suffered from grandiose and insane delusions. His ultimate mission obviously failed since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to not three, but four terms, of presidency shortly after.

Jonathan Dunder


John Flammang Schrank (1876-1943) was a saloon-keeper from New York, best known for his attempt to assassinate Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Schrank was born in Bavaria, and emigrated to America at the age of 13. His parents died soon after, and Schrank came to work for his uncle, a New York tavern owner and landlord. Upon their deaths, Schrank's aunt and uncle left him these valuable properties, from which it was expected he could live a quiet and peaceful life. But Schrank was heartbroken, having now lost not only his second set of parents, but his first and only girlfriend, in a ferry accident in New York's East River.

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's watering holes and public parks. He wrote spare and vivid poetry. He spent a great deal of time walking around city streets at night. He caused no documented trouble.

Assassination attempt

The 1912 Presidential election campaign was one of the more exciting ones of recent years. The excitement was based, in no small part, in a serious split in the Republican Party between the conservative wing under President William Howard Taft and the liberal/reform wing under ex-President Theodore Roosevelt. After a bitter confrontation at the Republican Convention, Taft won renomination. Roosevelt led a bolt of his followers, who held a convention and nominated him for President on the ticket of the Progressive Party, nicknamed the "Bull Moose Party". Taft and his supporters attacked Roosevelt for being power-hungry, and seeking to break the tradition that U.S. Presidents only served up to two terms in office.

On October 14, 1912, while Theodore Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Schrank attempted to assassinate him.

It is unclear when his interest in domestic politics so flared that he would attempt to kill Roosevelt. It is known that he was an opponent of a sitting President's ability to seek a third term in office.

According to documents found on Schrank after the attempted assassination, Schrank had written that he was advised by the ghost of William McKinley in a dream to avenge his death pointing to a picture of Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was at the Gilpatrick Hotel at a dinner provided by the hotel's owner, a supporter. The ex-President was scheduled to deliver a speech at the Milwaukee Auditorium. News had circulated that Roosevelt was at the hotel, and Schrank (who had been following Roosevelt from New Orleans to Milwaukee) went to the hotel. The ex-President had finished his meal, and was leaving the hotel to enter his car when Schrank acted.

Schrank did shoot Roosevelt, but the bullet lodged in Roosevelt's chest only after hitting both his steel eyeglass case and a 50-page copy of his speech he was carrying in his jacket. Roosevelt decided the bullet could not have penetrated to his lung because he coughed no blood, and declined suggestions that he go to the hospital, and delivered his scheduled speech. He spoke for ninety minutes, but sometimes managed no more than a whisper. His opening comments to the gathered crowd were:

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.

Theodore Roosevelt, Address at Milwaukee, Wis., October 14, 1912

Afterwards, doctors determined that he was not seriously wounded and that it would be more dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet than to leave it in his chest. Roosevelt carried it with him until he died. In later years, when asked about the bullet inside him, Roosevelt would say, "I do not mind it anymore than if it were in my waistcoat pocket."

Both Taft and Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson suspended their own campaigning until Roosevelt recovered and resumed his. Roosevelt made only two more speeches in the campaign. Although Roosevelt won more votes and electoral votes than Taft, Wilson bested both of them and won the Presidency.

Schrank maintained, later, that he had nothing against the man himself, and he did not intend to kill 'the citizen Roosevelt', but rather 'Roosevelt, the third termer.' He claimed to have shot Roosevelt as a warning to other third termers and that it was the ghost of William McKinley that told him to perform the act. When Roosevelt died in 1919, Schrank conceded that he was a great American and was sorry to hear of his death.

Doctors soon examined him and reported that he was suffering from 'insane delusions, grandiose in character' and they declared Schrank to be insane.

Schrank was sentenced to the Central State Mental Hospital in Waupun, Wisconsin, in 1914. He remained there for 29 more years, until his death from natural causes in 1943.


Schrank died on September 16, 1943 of bronchial pneumonia. His body was donated to the Medical School at Marquette University (now the Medical College of Wisconsin) for anatomical dissection.


While John F. Schrank was incarcerated, he wrote several letters to the doctor he was consulting at the Mental Hospital, Dr. Adin Sherman. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington possesses twenty of them. The letters are dated between 1914 - 1918 and document the correspondence. The accession number in the Manuscripts Collection is 148.


  • Donovan, Robert J., The Assassins, New York, Popular Library, 1962, ch. 101-117: "The First Pillar".

  • Gores, Stan, The attempted assassination of Teddy Roosevelt, The State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1980.



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