Helferich, Gerard. Theodore Roosevelt and the Assassin: Madness, Vengeance, and the Campaign of 1912. Lyons. 2013. 304p. photos. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780762782994. $28.95. HIST
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.
Kohn, Edward P. Heir to the Empire City: New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt. Basic: Perseus. Dec. 2013. 272p. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780465024292. $27.99. HIST
Kohn (American culture & literature history, Bilkent Univ., Turkey; Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt) views Theodore Roosevelt (TR) as a privileged product of New York City, where the challenges of urban change and corruption rendered him a reformer. Although an early sojourn as a North Dakota rancher energized TR, the American West did not essentially shape him; it only shaped his image. Furthermore, TR’s connection to another urban area, Boston, by marriage, friendship, and education, was stronger than his nexus with the West. He spent his political life as a New York City assemblyman, the city’s police commissioner, the state’s governor, and then vice president and president, addressing the often urban-centered by-products of industrialization, immigration, political machinery, and population density, such as the lack of amicable labor relations, adequate housing, grassroots democracy, food safety, and sanitation. TR also acknowledged pressing national issues in numerous articles and speeches, seeking a society of equal opportunity rather than one that claimed it could deliver equal results. VERDICT Focused and concise, this book is a solid choice for general readers of history not sufficiently aware of TR’s cosmopolitan background in contrast to his adopted cowboy persona. It details another side of a consequential, transformative rather than transitional president.