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Presidential Politics Circa 1912 On Exhibit At the Koenig Center

Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party run for president documented

A visit to the TR in ’12 exhibit at the Koenig Center will not only inform you as to the presidential election campaign of Theodore Roosevelt, but it will illuminate the drama of the assassination attempt he survived. An exhibit case at the Koenig Center brings together — for the first time in his hometown — the revolver, the metal eye glass case from Meyerowitz with a bullet hole through it, the speech that took some of the bullet’s impact and a digital image of the X-ray (which belongs to the Library of Congress) showing where the bullet remained throughout TR’s life. Only the bloodied shirt is missing.

There are several firsts in the exhibit said Nicole Menchise, Oyster Bay Historical Society (OBHS) librarian and archivist. She said, “Those three original items, the gun (belonging to the Chapelle Manuscript collection), the glass case (belonging to the NPS) and the speech (belonging to the Chapelle Manuscript collection) were put together for this traveling exhibit for the first time since the day of the shooting, 100 years ago, and after the exhibit closes they will be disbursed to their individual owners.” Ms. Menchise, Philip Blocklyn OBHS executive director and Jacqueline Blocklyn curated the exhibit.

Mr. Blocklyn, explained that the shirt was part of the exhibit when it was first shown this summer at the TR Birthplace in NYC. “That was because the National Park Service (NPS) owns the Birthplace. They self-insure their things. No one else could afford the insurance.

“To get it here would have cost an exorbitant amount of money,” he said. FYI: all art exhibits include extensive insurance for the one of a kind items when they are being transported and shown.

The revolver was carefully guarded as it was brought to Oyster Bay. He said, “The U.S. Park Police brought the gun to the Nassau County Police and they installed it here. It’s a real gun, a 38 caliber Colt and you can still buy ammunition for it. So the gun is considered real.

“If it was a gun Julius Caesar used that might be different, but this is 100 years old and it can still be used. It has not been disassembled or tampered with since it is historical. It has to be handled like any modern gun,” explained Mr. Blocklyn.

The Sept. 21 opening was a gala affair with Theodore Roosevelt Association Executive Director Terrance Brown and TRA Treasurer Shawn Thomas in attendance. Sagamore Hill National Historic Site Superintendent Thomas Ross and his artist wife Kerrie were there as well as Oyster Bay Cove artist Mort Künstler, his wife Deborah, Brookville Village Historian Laura V. Dougherty, Bayville Museum Director David Rapelje and TR impersonator James Foote.

Superintendent Tom Ross said, “I just think it’s a great exhibit. I had an opportunity to see the exhibit in NYC at the Birthplace and I’m so glad we are able to travel it to Oyster Bay so the residents can see it. I hope the residents not only find it interesting, but inspirational too, as we are in another presidential election year.

“The election of 1912 was very interesting. There were three parties running, and also, our native son was essentially the third party candidate, and this is the 100th anniversary of that event.  Hopefully people will be inspired to take on their civic responsibility and to participate in the election process this fall, which TR would advocate for. I think that the exhibit can get people interested in the presidential election process.

“TR was big on people exercising their civic duties, and voting,” said Mr. Ross.  

Mr. Blockyn’s overview of the exhibit is that, “It is a review of the 1912 election year, beginning with the split in the Republican party and going through the primaries and convention and then the election itself. The emphasis is on TR and the Bull Moose Party or the Progressive Party as it was actually known.

“The assassination attempt is a whole sidebar including a photograph of the would-be assassin John Schrank of Brooklyn. He was a bartender who was apparently obsessed with the idea that TR was breaking that great American tradition of a two-term presidency,” he added.

The exhibit runs now through Nov. 11 at the OBHS Koenig Center at 20 Summit Street in Oyster Bay. Please call 922-5032 for more information.