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1930s & Earlier / Theodore Roosevelt - Near Fatal Carriage Accident
On September 3, 1902, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and several other prominent politicians came within inches of being killed by a speeding trolley car in Pittsfield, MA. The president, riding in a horse-drawn carriage, was on his way to deliver a speech when the accident occurred. The carriage was knocked about 40 feet upon impact. Secret Service agent William Craig was fatally injured, becoming the first Secret Service agent killed in the line of duty. Roosevelt was knocked from the carriage and landed face first upon the street. He suffered superficial wounds to his face and leg. (The seriousness of Roosevelt's injuries was probably understated. Roosevelt's leg wound became infected and abscessed. He required surgery and was confined to a wheelchair for a short time. Although the leg wound healed completely, Roosevelt was bothered by the aftereffects of his injury for the rest of his life.) David J. Pratt, the driver of the carriage containing the president, was severely injured. George B. Cortelyou, Secretary to the President, was severely bruised. Winthrop Murray Crane, Governor of Massachusetts, and George P. Lawrence, Representative in Congress from the First Massachusetts district, escaped with only a few bruises. All were in the carriage with Mr. Roosevelt. A newspaper account said, "Under the sunniest of September skies the distinguished party was driving through the Berkshire Hills in a landau drawn by four white horses, the reins handled by Pratt, the President and his companions going from Dalton to Lenox. The carriage was struck squarely just behind the box on which Pratt and Craig were sitting. The vehicle was hurled 40 feet across the road. Craig was instantly killed and ground under the heavy machinery of the car into an unrecognizable mass. The President was thrown into the air and landed on the right side of his face in the roadway. Mr. Cortelyou was thrown out and almost rendered unconscious. Gov. Crane, who, next to Craig, was the nearest to the immediate danger line, was thrown out, but...escaped with only slight bruises." No one on the trolley was injured. According to reports, the trolley was speeding in an attempt to get to its destination ahead of Roosevelt's carriage. Euclid Madden was the trolley car's motorman. He received a six-month prison term for his role in the accident. James Kelley was the trolley car's conductor. In 2002, on the hundredth anniversary of the accident, the Secret Service held a special ceremony at agent Craig's grave where a marker was placed.