This Day in Indiana History - September 23, 1902 - President Theodore Roosevelt Undergoes Surgery In Indianapolis After Giving Speech
|A Day in Indiana History - September|
President Theodore Roosevelt had begun an eighteen-day speaking tour of Midwestern cities to help elect Republican candidates to Congress during the 1902 off-year elections. A street car accident in Pittsfield, Massachusetts had given him a severe leg injury. By the time the President reached Indianapolis, doctors decided he needed surgery after he gave his scheduled speech.
The day of September 3 had dawned bright and beautiful. Roosevelt decided that he wanted to take a carriage ride through the streets to enjoy the city and the day. City officials had ordered the streetcar lines to halt operations as a safety measure. Roosevelt boarded the carriage in company with Massachusetts governor Winthrop M. Crane, his secretary and a Secret Service agent driver. As the carriage rolled peacefully alongside the trolley line that ran down the middle of the street, a streetcar came careening down the street as a high speed. The trolley smacked into the carriage, killing the FBI agent driver, William Craig. Craig was the first Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty. The accident injured Roosevelt's leg and bloodied his face.
Continuing the Tour
The stoic Roosevelt continued the tour, traveling to New York by train, and then to Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon his arrival at Cincinnati, Roosevelt was having trouble standing. At his next stop, in Detroit, he left suddenly left a press conference to go to his hotel room to go to bed. He continued the tour, giving speeches to enthusiastic crowds in Logansport, Indiana and then in Noblesville. By the time he got to Noblesville, it was apparent that he was seriously ill. Noblesville officials notified Indianapolis authorities that Roosevelt needed medical attention, so when he arrived in Indianapolis there were four surgeons waiting to meet him at the train. He managed a brief speech at the Columbia Club on Monument Circle before authorities rushed him to St. Vincent Hospital for surgery.
The abscessed wound had swollen to a lump the size of a man's hand. Roosevelt refused anesthetic for the painful surgery and endured the pain while surgeons scraped and poked the wound until it drained. The doctor had to penetrate the injury three times before he had successfully emptied the pus from the wound. During the procedure, Roosevelt had only asked for a glass of water.
Canceling the Tour
The surgery was a success; however, the doctors advised that he rest for two weeks to recover. Roosevelt canceled the remainder of the tour and returned to Washington DC to recuperate.