Theodore Roosevelt and the Western Experience

The following program is a production of
KSPS TV Few men have had as much action in their
lives as Theodore Roosevelt his name conjures up images of big-game hunting,
Rough Riders the Panama Canal, glasses and a grin, speak softly carry a big
stick and more images that make him seem
larger than life but he was not simply an icon of his time he was a very real
man who touched the hearts and minds of very real people. At the beginning of his
second term when he stood in the White House and shook hands with 7,000 fellow
citizens newspapers called him the most popular man in America his critics
termed him that damned cowboy in a prime example of americanus egotisticus, he was
a devoted happy father and husband yet his years were torn by tragedy. His
presidency was the first that could be called Imperial. Theodore Roosevelt often
ignored Congress to pursue his vision of the country’s destiny
he was the first media conscious politician the nation had ever seen his
picture was everywhere, his likeness appeared in countless cartoons, his
quotes passed from citizen to citizen and his activity filmed for posterity
flickered from every screen. He used the Oval Office as a bully pulpit to preach
the virtues of vigorous physical activity and social reform. He bellowed
against corporate greed and crooked politicians he was in short a pistol or
as his enemies pictured him a loose cannon, but he often hit what he aimed at
– the cheers of almost every American. Theodore Roosevelt was born in this bed
October 27th 1858 in New York City. That same year a peasant girl in France
claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to her and in
London a company was formed to dig the Suez Canal.
Roosevelt’s father Theodore senior was the scion of a long-established line of
Dutch merchants his mother Martha Bullock of Georgia was considered one of
the most beautiful women in New York. While beyond the family walls the nation
ground slowly toward civil conflict TD as he came to be called grew up in safe
and sheltered surroundings a necessary environment considering his fragile
health and a frail body subject to ominous attacks of asthma. He was so
sensitive his father bought him a velvet covered chair the horsehair upholstering
of regular furniture irritating his delicate skin. One of his favorite
memories of the house in New York centered around the parlor. “The sunday
evening family gathering was the redeeming feature in a day which
otherwise we children did not enjoy chiefly because we were all made to wear
clean clothes and keep neat the ornaments of that parlor I remember
included a chandelier decorated with a great quantity of cut glass prisms of
peculiar magnificence, one of them fell off and I hastily stowed it away passing
several days of furtive delight in the treasure a delight always alloyed with
fear that I would be found out and convicted of larceny.>>He was surrounded
by total adoration and love from his siblings who adored him and his two
sisters worshiped him and his parents and he was sheltered because he was ill
he couldn’t go to school so he didn’t come into the contact with rough boys of
his own age really so he was in a kind of hothouse environment.>>When the Civil War erupted the household
divided as did the country TR senior was staunchly Union his wife true to her
Georgia background actively supported the Confederacy with money and supplies.
While Theodore senior never served in the military he hired another man to take his
place he was in action behind the scenes.>>I think the divisions in his household
over the Civil War affected him deeply I think it made him realize that you had
to make moral choices I think he realized that early on he loved his
mother and he had greatly admired his Confederate uncles but as far as he was
concerned they were wrong, he always spoke of his uncles as being very brave
men but being very reactionary men. To him the right side the progressive side
was the Union cause and to him that meant giving your all and he never said
that anything about his father’s war record obviously his father had not
taken part in the war because you know he found it difficult to take up arms
against his in-laws and it would have been unbearable to Mrs. Roosevelt. >>He
spent most of the war as I understand it involved in various kinds of things
perhaps the most notable was that during the Civil War
soldiers were paid directly in cash on the front and very little of the money
tended to flow back home to their families and wives and so there was a
very serious situation where wives and children were having difficult economic
troubles and the soldiers in the front were gambling the money away or spending
it or whatever and TR senior and others saw this as a problem and they spent
quite a bit of time lobbying Congress and various other government agencies to
establish a system where soldiers could sign papers that would allow a good
chunk of their pay to go directly to their families perhaps young Theodore’s
most vivid impression of the war was the death of Abraham Lincoln. There’s a
photo of the assassinated presidents cortege passing TD’S grandfather’s home
in New York the future president is believed to
one of the two boys in the upper window looking down on the solemn procession.
Lincoln was to become one of Roosevelt’s most admired national leaders. Those
years of conflict and family division had little effect on the boy except
perhaps to foster his feelings of ambivalence toward some situations. He
carried on with his studies and developed a deep love of nature during
summers spent on Long Island with the family. Romping in the meadows, fishing in
the bay, collecting specimens for his assembly of what was called by the
family the Roosevelt Museum of Natural History. >>Robert Barnwell Roosevelt an uncle of TR himself had written books about wildlife
fishing and hunting TR could read his uncle’s own books he had the influence
of others like his uncle who were very very interested in the subject matter TR
was a natural naturalist you might say who skinned the specimens and saved
various bugs and birds and so on that he got out in the in the forests and he was
lucky enough to be able to leave the the city, but he had a laboratory and their
home on 20th Street in New York and his his room stunk regularly from all the
chemicals that he was using so it was a passion of his since boyhood.>>Young
Theodore was exposed early to the world at large his father took the family on
extended trips to Europe and Egypt he was given his first shotgun and used it
often to shoot birds for his museum. By this time his love of hunting was not
just a pastime he enjoyed but a part of his being. Under his father’s urging he
began a strenuous regimen of exercise to build muscle on his slender frame. By the
time he entered Harvard TR was a sturdy young man in a great hurry and
completely devoted to the vigorous life, an ideal he long held aloft to the
public. During his years in high office stories of his campaign to correct the
weakness of his youthful body inspired thousands
of skinny boys to follow his example just as his political career would serve
as a model for his cousin Franklin.>>Amateur sports he loved he was one of
the founders of the NCAA he loved amateur and particularly
intramural sports and village sports to keep the the the hard edge.>>During these
growing years Roosevelt began to spend Falls and winters in the woods of
northern Maine pursuing his nature studies hunting canoeing and tramping
the wilderness with two new friends William Dow and Bill Seward, rough reliable
outdoor men who would play a large part in his Western experience.In February
1878 two years before young Roosevelt graduated Harvard with honors and
married beautiful Alice Lee his father died at the age of 46
TR was deeply grieved by this premature loss of the best man I ever knew.
>>TR learned early from his father a very strong sense of morality
his father was a middle-class fairly wealthy middle class man but had a very
strong sense of morality and what was right and what was wrong.>>Since TR
belonged to a privileged class he could indulge himself in social and
intellectual activities far removed from ordinary men he read a book a day
learned several languages and involved himself in clubs and parties he also
made contacts that would serve his future ambitions to be a politician.
During August and September of 1880 with brother Elliott already a first-class
hunter Roosevelt traveled to the Midwest for some bird shooting he wrote home
that the two of them had bagged more than 400 of several different species
and included a few comments on the individuals they met. “The farm people are
very rough but I like them like all rural Americans they’re fiercely
independent and indeed I don’t wonder at their thinking us they’re
equals where we look as badly as mortals can with our cropped heads unshaven
faces dirty shirts still dirtier trousers and cowhide boots” and he did
like them more and more he came to admire the average American for their
hard physical work their common sense. In the coming years he would seek out the
support and thinking of such men. At 23 he was elected the youngest member of
New York state’s legislature his energetic battles for reform against
corruption and special interests earned him a reputation as the cyclone
Assemblyman and made him a pain in the side of the establishment. He divided his
time and intensity between New York and Albany between his new wife and his
newly espoused mistress of politics he also began to plan for the construction
of a home at Oyster Bay on Long Island. Early in September 1883 with his wife
happily pregnant TR indulged his long-held desire to hunt Buffalo. He had
heard stories of their wholesale slaughter and felt he had better go
quickly before family responsibility made it impossible and before the real
West disappeared..Just that year Buffalo Bill Cody had organized his Wild West
Show a sure sign the frontier was rapidly coming to an end.>>In Roosevelt’s
time the American West was already a world renowned and there were many
aristocrats who came over from England and Scotland and continental Europe and
elsewhere in the world who wanted to go hunting and have these grand adventures
Roosevelt got to know some of these people and being in New York City even
then the center of the activity you might say for North America and
communications and so on he happened to meet a fellow named Gorringe
who was an excellent naval officer and this man knew a lot about ranching and
hunting in the West he inspired Roosevelt to take a serious interest in
going out and looking into all of this and and his typical fashion TR did his
research and ironically when he did go out there Gorringe couldn’t go with him.
>>So TR went alone but in style this time he had his Western outfit specially
tailored his rifle handcrafted and his knife fashioned by Tiffany’s of New York
he would appear a four-eyed Eastern dude but would turn out to be much more.
>>Roosevelt played the dandy but at the same time there was an admiration before
the costume he was ridiculous but yet if I had the money I’d like to have a
Stetson like that one that Theodore Roosevelt had. I probably can’t have that sort of knife that was made at Tiffany but gee isn’t it the very
epitome of what a hunting knife should look like? This this phenomena of the the west being captured by its own image that some of
the readers of Western dime novels were Cowboys themselves and they were
consciously trying to play a role and so too was Roosevelt. >>He arrived at the tiny
town of Little Missouri Dakota Territory shortly after the Northern Pacific
Railroad had completed its span from Duluth Minnesota to Tacoma Washington
there were only a few clapboard buildings scattered about a hamlet long
since gone and replaced with a settlement of Medora.>>And he arrived late late at night perhaps midnight or so the train
pulled up at Little Missouri and he got off it’s a very small town town whose
existence that really only made only required because of the railroad
building It was not clear that the town was going to survive and there were some
very interesting people there this was the Old West of the type that we see in
the Western. In the morning TR decided that or knew that he had to find a
guide so he wandered around looking for a fellow he found a guy named Joe
Ferris now Joe Ferris was a Canadian who had not too long before arrived
there and was really interested in in ranching and other things but and didn’t
like TR at all he took one look at this eastern dude and figured that the last
thing he wanted to do was go on a buffalo hunt with some effete Easterner
who was of doubtful moral character because of his glasses.>>Things began
badly the weather turned foul few animals were seen and his guide hoped
the eastern dude would be disheartened enough to call it quits.>>He commented
later to Gregor Lang that bad luck followed us like a yellow dog
follows a drunkard.>>But Ferris didn’t yet know the out-and-out stubbornness of his
charge it took nearly three weary weeks on horseback for TR to finally drop his
prey the time and effort left a deep mark on Roosevelt’s commitment to the
natural world.>>TR talked to one man who said that it was he had ridden from
somewhere in the Dakotas well through Montana and he had never been out of
sight of the bones of dead Buffalo and he’d never seen a buffalo.>>The trip had
other consequences for Roosevelt he had long wanted to own land and he began to
think of a future, partly built on the romance and business of cattle ranching.
He loved the idea of a life on horseback it was vigorous action and it seemed to
promise a steady profit after all the east rapidly growing in population was
clamoring for beef. He decided to invest in the Maltese Cross operation. The
demand for beef was a lure to many investors and adventurers, in 1882 a
French nobleman the Marquis de Mores seeking his fortune married Medora von
Hoffman the daughter of a New York banker with his father-in-law’s backing
he came to the Dakota Badlands to fulfill his dreams of glory and riches.
He founded the town named for his wife a short distance from Little Missouri and
began building. His grand scheme included a meat processing plant, believing beef
ship in refrigerator cars would realize greater profits than cattle on the hoof.
He also built a Brickyard, stores and saloons where he could get back some of
the money he paid out in wages, he also built a church and a large comfortable
home overlooking his empire the Chateau as it came to be known displayed an
elegance the locals surely invaded he lived in style
entertaining guests with hunts and picnics. TR dined with the more
he and his wife on occasion meals that must have sparkled with French wine and
intelligent conversation, but the two men despite aristocratic backgrounds never
hit it off. Roosevelt preferred the company of
ordinary people while de Mores held himself aloof and superior. >>He was
pompous he was anti-semitic he was selfish self-centered you know all
qualities that just didn’t appeal to TR. A boaster blusterer TR really didn’t care
for the man.>>There have been many stories told about the relationship between the
Marquis and Theodore Roosevelt some have tried to make this a rivalry and there
are even efforts to try to suggest that Roosevelt and de More were about to
fight a duel over a over some support that Roosevelt had given to a local.
However much of this I think is written after the fact trying to trying to
contrast Theodore Roosevelt as our person our American and the interloper.
>>The Marquis de More’s schemes in America would eventually fail with the collapse
of the beef market and he returned to Europe and broiling himself in new
adventures. De Mores was finally slain during a rebellion in Africa. When
Roosevelt returned to New York at the end of September 1883 he brought back
more than part ownership and a ranch.>>One of the things he got after all don’t
forget when he began his residence in the Dakota Territory he was already in
politics and he got a new image for himself and was very important because
being one an Eastern aristocrat and two an intellectual a guy who wrote books,
these things were not political assets did not help his image and now he could
say he was a cowboy and he wrote books about his Western experience and so on
and of course that later led to the Rough Rider regiment with the
Cowboys plus the Ivy League athletes and then as a soldier as well as a cowboy
his image was set ever there after the Rough Riders suit the cowboy suit
cartoons of him as governor of New York showing him as a cowboy up in Albany in
his actions that kind of thing very important to his public image the West
gave him the macho look the Democratic look the American look the all-american
look which his own background didn’t give him.>>Just as he was committed to the West he set his feet on a path to a political career realizing that it offered the
most efficient way for him to achieve what he thought best for America, he
stormed a state house in Albany pressing hard for legislation that would spell
reform. His speeches wrote a colleague were punctuated by a jaw that stuck out
like a six-shooter. On February 12th 1884 his wife delivered their first child
Alice. TR’s delight great as it was would quickly be cut short two days
later his mother long in ill health and his beloved wife died within hours of
each other. The loss of his mother was blow enough but his wife’s passing
crushed him to the soul. He wrote in his diary.. the light of my life has gone out.
>>When his wife and mother died tragically on on Valentine’s Day in 1884 and his
life seemed destroyed it was to the West he went to build up to recover.>>I think
his westward movement after the deaths of his wife and mother in the same house
in the same day was very important it was kind of a salvation I think he
needed physical therapy among other things a real change of scene and a
totally different way of life and he threw himself into the ranch life
and lived the life of a rancher out there far removed from you know the scenes
that he knew the brownstone world of Manhattan and the political world of
Albany and immersed himself in it he once said… Black care seldom sits with a
writer whose pace is fast enough.>>By June of that terrible year with a new house
at Oyster Bay under construction Roosevelt went west once again and threw
himself into frenzied activity. He started Elkhorn Ranch some miles
north of the Maltese Cross outfit his investments would soon total $85,000.
Hours on end were spent in the saddle in all kinds of weather.
It was indeed a rider trying to outdistance black care. Bone-weary in the
evening he wrote four more hours accounts letters drafts of a new book on
his hunting and ranching experiences. “…It’s a fine healthy life it taught a
man’s self-reliance hardihood and the value of instant decision in
short the virtues that ought to come from life and open country
I enjoyed that life to the full.” And whatever pain existed in his heart over
his wife’s death he never mentioned her name in public again. He settled his
daughter in the care of his sister Bamie and turned his full attention to running
for office. His race for mayor of New York ended in failure but shortly
thereafter he married a second time to Edith Kermit Carow, a young woman he had
known for many years it was a decision not made without great hesitation. He did
have a such a strong sense of morality and such a strong sense of what was
right and wrong that when he finally got decided to marry again after his
first wife he died several years after that, he was torn by enormous guilt he
thought I wasn’t right he thought he was being unfaithful to the memory of the
woman who he’d loved. >>Roosevelt’s many journeys west to oversee his ranching
interests had resulted in few profits, except in the coin of regard he
had gained from the people. Helping to organize the little Missouri Stockmen’s
Association had earned him an appointment as deputy sheriff with a
primary duty of settling brand disputes, but with rustling a steady violation of
local law he found himself along with Sewell and Dow tracking down thieves on
one occasion he spent 13 days on the trail sporting both a rifle and a copy
of Anna Karenina. A photograph features him holding the captured man at gunpoint,
but there was no photographer at the scene the picture was taken with
Roosevelt’s own camera and it was taken later with his men posing as the crooks.
He was never one to pass up a chance for publicity
even if staged after all the electorate back home loved to vote for a hero
and that not-too-distant future would see people in the West empowered to
choose their national representatives.>>Westerners came to feel that Roosevelt
was the model of leader they wanted, more so than some of their own people.
>>TR kept listening to the West he knew the West he had friends in the West and
he kept being instructed by them I’m referring specifically to the primary
system the direct election of United States senators as opposed to being
elected by state legislatures referendum, recall, all of those direct democracy
reforms. TR later takes them up and champions them and this makes him seem
like a total anarchist in the East.>>The winter of 1886 – 87 was the worst the
Dakotas had seen in living memory snow and freezing temperatures wiped out
eighty percent of the stock by spring only bones marked what was left of the
greatest cattle herds the world-known. TR closed down his operation
keeping Elkhorn is a hunting lodge and went east. Early in 1887 TR, Edith, Alice and Bamie
settled in at Sagamore Hill. Roosevelt loved the place he had paid ten thousand
dollars down and taken a mortgage for 20 more for 155 acres the house cost more
than 17 and was furnished to suit his interests animal heads hung from almost
every wall and skins adorned the floors. Even Mrs. Roosevelt’s parlor feminine as
it was sported its share of trophies. TR’s office became the center of his
professional universe from it flowed endless words and to it came a stream of
statesmen, hunters, journalists, politicians and the curious. Everyone was
anxious to know what he thought what he wanted and what he wanted was action. He wanted desperately to be at the center of things to rattle some complacent
cages to do some good and to make his mark on the public mind and the
Republican Party.>>He liked the spotlight and there’s no
doubt that he did his eldest daughter had a wonderful phrase about him which
was that he wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every
funeral. In 1889 he received a fair amount of light when president Benjamin
Harrison appointed him to the US Civil Service Commission for the next six
years he served both his party and his concepts of good government. His efforts
earned him an even greater place in the hearts of his fellow Americans. His
untiring animal energy is constant pronouncements made it obvious that
Theodore Roosevelt was destined for more than simple agency duty. His name had
already been floated about for higher office but most party regulars
considered him a reforming upstart a man who thought his own opinions better than
those of more experienced men but the public saw more they saw beyond the
intellectual beyond the party parrot they thought of him as a man of action a
man who had forged his values in an area that promised each citizen
a better life a new start. >>It offered a hope now many people didn’t have the
resources that Roosevelt did where he could just come out and buy a ranch if
he wanted but they they dreamed they thought in terms of if things go badly I
can go out west so when things went badly for Roosevelt that was the escape
valve the opportunity to get away from his problems and in a microcosm that
was that was the way people in the United States thought of the West a
place where of Refuge of starting anew although bid most people never were able
to enjoy the sort of thing that Roosevelt did. Oover the next decade Edith
presented him a rapidly growing family Theodore Jr. in 1887 Kermit in 1889
Ethel in 1891 Archibald was born in 1894 and Quentin TRS favorite in 1897. He
loved being a father but he loved being a boy even more. Mrs. Roosevelt once said
that she didn’t have six children at home but seven. Time at Oyster Bay was
precious especially after he was appointed president of New York City’s
Police Board in 1895, an assistant secretary of the Navy in 1897 which
required the family to move to Washington. Sagamore Hill would always be home to his heart.>>He loved going out camping with the children and one of the
things he did apparently very well was he used to tell a ghost story which some
of my cousin’s know and reluctantly I’ve never quite learned it and he would be
sitting around a fire near the swamp at Sagamore Hill and he’d be telling the
story about the ghost walker and evidently it was a scary story so scary
that even the kids who were 14 and 15 had heard it before they would start
getting nervous and they’d come closer and closer to TR as he was getting near
the denouement, and finally the denouement came when he’d usually by that time have his hands around him he’d jump
up and give a great screech and the kids would all jump up and give a great
screech so he had a lot of fun teasing them and playing with them and he loved
taking them on cross-country walks and the idea was he’d never go through go
around an obstacle he had to go through it over it but not around it.>>If the
other children came to fascinate the public Alice intrigued them the
firstborn she would live the longest and forever be in the public eye with her
mischievous wit and sharp dislike for pomposity. >>Mrs. Longworth had a pillow embroidered with one of her favorite sayings the
pillow would be near her on the couch …if you don’t have anything nice to say
about somebody come sit here beside me.>>And she was at that time probably the
most magnetic woman in Washington and I can also remember when she would invite
over congressmen or secretaries of various departments and they got a
little bit long-winded at a dinner party at her house she was the first one to
say “shut up you’re making no sense.”>>When the family was in residence the big
house by the bay was a hive of activity something was always afoot, summers were filled with picnics, games, competitions, athletics, horseback riding and no one
was immune to the infection of mischief. One dinner guest wrote of his experience
at the Roosevelt table “…I asked mrs. R if we should dress for dinner she said Mr.
Roosevelt always wore a dinner jacket but that I could wear anything I wanted
as the only rule they had at Oyster Bay was that they had no rules or
regulations. I was very hungry we had soup, fish, fried chicken, corn on the cob
and jelly. There was nothing to drink but water, he asked me if I wanted something
but I declined. I forgot to mention that the fried chicken was covered with white
gravy and oh so good.” But the entertaining of friends and family cost
money a lot of money for the time and TR was the last one to keep track of
finances he had other things in his mind.>>Edith Kermit Karo the second Mrs. Roosevelt handled all the money he was given an allowance so much cash a
day in fact when you look at his checks you see that only his signature appears
on him he’s never made them out they were put in front of him to sign Mrs.
Roosevelt handled the money entirely his uncles and then after that his first
cousins manage his finances very carefully no one ever trusted him with
money or with investment or anything like that particularly after the Western
venture and he just made it because of course he never made much in the way of
salary having been in public life in the time he was 23 years old.>>Early in 1898 Congress declared war on
Spain over long-standing discord regarding Cuba and the sinking of the
u.s. battleship Maine in Havana Harbor. TR had long advocated American
involvement in the stopping of imperialist actions through military
means. The Secretary of the Navy told friends he was afraid to leave town for
fear his assistant would go to war on his own.>>Someone made the comment whoever made us the 911? that answer might be Theodore Roosevelt. >>Roosevelt resigned his
position to help form the Rough Rider regiment his involvement in the war only
lasted a matter of weeks but it gave him a taste of fire and the opportunity to
become a hero in the eyes of Americans when he led his men up San Juan Hill
July 1st. In November he was elected governor of New York for two years he
pressed his personality on the Republican Party with such force the
leadership decided to disarm his energy by nominating him vice-president for
William McKinley’s bid for a second term Roosevelt felt the office would lead his
career up a dead-end street stating I shall probably end my life as a
professor in some small College. Yet as a party loyalist he jumped into the
campaign with typical vigor accompanied by several former Rough Riders as an
honor guard he hit the trail west. It was a homecoming and everyone turned out to
see him by November he had made some 700in speeches in almost 600 towns to about 3 million people his popularity was
enormous and stops at Medora Deadwood and points west were held in a fourth of July atmosphere. His manner had changed little he stilled
thrust his jaw forward at his audience and chopped the air with clenched fists
pacing like a caged lion preaching the gospel of American virtues and American
greatness. On November 6th McKinley swept to a second term and a future party
regulars felt was all but over. One republican said I feel sorry for
McKinley he has a man of Destiny behind him. On March 4th following McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in his vice
president four days later Congress adjourned until December. On Friday
September 6th William McKinley was shot. A week later he was dead, and Theodore Roosevelt at 42 became the youngest president in the history of the
nation. >>The presidency was a focus a point where everyone was looking at and
that that could provide the leadership the opportunity for leadership to remake
America. He wasted little time and setting about to do just that he again
lit into greedy corporations he felt unjustly wielded their power to gouge
the public he pushed for health legislation with the Pure Food and Drug
Act then turned his eyes and his actions beyond the Mississippi he had long
recognized the devastation being visited on the country’s natural resources
robber barons had spent years gouging metals from the earth and cutting whole
forests with little thought to the future and the bear legacy new
generations would find in the national larder. In 1907 he wrote… in
utilizing and conserving the natural resources of the nation the one
characteristic more essential than any other is foresight the conservation of
our natural resources and their use constitute the fundamental problem which
underlies almost every other problem in our national life. >>By the time he became
president it was too late to do a great deal of conservation on a large scale in
the east the East had already been lumbered over so much of the most the
vast majority of his conservation work was in the West.>>Roosevelt pushed
Congress to pass the new Lands Act pumping millions of dollars into
irrigation and reclamation projects. Dams were constructed among them a huge
project in Arizona named for him canals were dug enabling farmers who had seen
frugal success to turn deserts into Gardens two of the earliest systems
built were those in the Yakima and Okanagan valleys in Washington State.
Roosevelt sought out the best minds to guide the government’s actions in the
field of conservation and resource management. One was Gifford Pinchot destined to become the first chief Forester of the
United States and advisor to the president in formulating a policy of
setting aside huge tracts of public land in national forests protecting them from
commercial speculation and wanton cutting it was a policy Western
interests would find in direct conflict with their corporate goals. >>There was a
lot about TR there was a westerner but in one way he was not a westerner
because he saw that natural resources were finite and unlike Westerners he did
not want of the time he did not want to exploit in an unlimited way the natural
resources because he knew they were going to run out his great enemies in
conservation were the people in the West. Conservation never got him any votes.>>The Congress really promoted by the by the timber companies were distressed
that he was putting so much of the western lands in the national forests
and the parklands.>>And as he began to make more and more forests these
interest began to get more and more nervous that the sources of their
livelihood would be enclosed within the national forests and therefore they
could no longer timber and mine.>>They passed a rider to the agricultural bill
which was going to prohibit him from doing that however if he signed the
agricultural if he didn’t sign the agricultural bill that meant that all
funding for US for the Department agriculture will cease and desist.>>The bill
passed and went to TR to be signed TR realized he had to sign it because it
was a critical bill for a number of reasons.>>Again being the clever
politician that he was he came up with an imaginative solution luckily he’d
worked very hard with people like Gifford Pinchot so he had a very clear
idea of what areas he wanted to have put in the national forests.>>They spread on
the floor of the Oval Office maps of those several states in the northwest
and they spent the next several days the days he had between the time he received
the bill and the time he had to sign it which I believe is eight days after
which he has a pocket veto drawing lines on those maps and at the end of the
eighth day TR issued a proclamation creating 84 new national forests in
those several North states ten minutes later he signed the bill and there
wasn’t a damn thing that Congress could do about it.
>>And part of this whole conservation program is purely preservationist when
he went to the Grand Canyon in 1903 he said don’t touch it you can’t improve it
keep it the way it is he couldn’t get Congress to make it a
national park, the way it is now, so he made the sides of it a National Monument in
the bottom of it a Game Preserve which took care of it until they made it a
national park a good ten years later.>>During his presidency he put away
approximately 230 million acres to the public public for public land to try to
give you some idea of how much land that is one way to look at it is to say 230
million acres is the equivalent of 84,000 acres he put away everyday for
every day that he was president.>>His remaining years in high office were
marked by notable achievements that sprung from his deep understanding of
America’s growing role in the modern world. England was in decline and the
United States had become an industrial giant its factories pouring out the
goods to support a population bursting with immigrants from Europe. The dreams
of manifest destiny seemed a reality of might and deeds. From the White House and from his office at Sagamore Hill Roosevelt pressed his vision and
personality on the world scene he pushed forward the construction of the Panama
Canal long an American ambition, his steady and secret diplomacy brought an
end to military conflict between Russia and Japan and a Nobel Prize for Peace to
himself the first Nobel given an American in any category. He held the
ship of state steady as it steamed deeper to the coming age of technology.
>>He liked what technology brought in terms of progress improvement
possibilities so he always was very ambivalent about technological progress
he felt that way about the West and the frontier I mean he fully realized that
the cowboy era that he lived through was a passing stage and that he was living
at the end of it and he knew it had to be replaced by homesteads and farms and
cities and he thought that that was inevitable and thought that was good but
he hated the idea of the West losing the virtues of the cowboy period such as
individualism, heroism, courage, hardihood, self-reliance. Likewise for the whole
country he was worried that the urbanization industrialization would
make people soft both physically and mentally and also morally. The force of
his convictions was so great that his fellow citizens hung on every word
seized on every image embraced his every move. Hamilton fish a fellow
reform-minded politician was a first-hand witness to the power and
popularity of Roosevelt during his presidential years. >>When he took over, he immediately became popular he appealed to great many people one of the strongest people we had
for some time and politic and grew stronger all the time as the people knew
him. He was a good speaker he was strong and athletic and didn’t mince words told the truth he didn’t even know how to lie I don’t believe, not very often, he
had about everything a man needed to be a great president of the United States.
>>Nothing he did went without notice political cartoonists had a field day
his big toothy grin glasses bushy mustache and cowboy attitude toward the
country’s responsibilities and a world situation lent to his constant
caricature he swiftly learned the media’s appetite was insatiable and he
fed it a continuous stream of information not to make news but to
impress on the people his ideas of what policies were in the best interests of
all the people and not just for the present but for the generations to
follow at the end of his second term after engineering the election of his
chosen successor William Howard Taft TR left office he had served long enough he
wanted to spend time at home he wanted to write he wanted to go hunting the
greatest expeditions that Roosevelt went on as a hunter and a sportsman were
first the African safari of 19 19:10 secondly the expedition to the
Brazilian wilderness in 1913 1914 he been advised not to go in either one of
them sleeping sickness they were afraid of the danger of wild animals all that
sort of thing after all he was more or less blind in one eye from a boxing
accident in the in the White House and certainly after he survived the first
Safari the first expedition when it came to the second one in 1913 14 when he was
in to his mid-50s and and not in the greatest of health there were those who
said he shouldn’t do it and one thing he said to them was he had to go it was his
last chance to be a boy he wrote endless letters to friends concerning not only
his eagerness to be away but on the slow evolution of his feelings about hunting
I’m emphatically against game butchery or any other kind of butchery of wild
things but I still feel not only that there is no objection to a reasonable
amount of hunting but that the encouragement of a proper hunting spirit
a proper love of sport instead of being incompatible with the love of nature and
wild things offers the best guarantee for their preservation TR had hoped to
slip away as a private citizen but the press kept the story a hot item pro and
con and opinion cartoonists had a wonderful time his great adventure would
last almost a year and he would regard it as one of the best times of his life
of all the rifles and shotguns owned by Theodore Roosevelt easily the finest
quality the most rare and today certainly the most valuable is a double
barreled rifle made by Holland Holland in England it’s the finest craftsmanship
and firearms that money could buy in the period and is made out of exquisite
steel the wood is French walnut and special touch here is the gold plaque
with a presidential eagle underneath it says TR and the date
19:09 the genius of TR was that he understood that it’s perfectly alright
to shoot animals and enjoy the sport long as you do it in such a way that the
animals are going to be able to perpetuate themselves we no longer live
in a world where we can leave the animals totally by themselves for
example in Yellowstone there are no wolves
so therefore the elk and the deer will populate to such a point that they
cannot that there’s no natural predators for them hunting is a good way of
controlling or regulating the population but it has to be hunting done in a fair
way and done in the pursuit of a fair chase and regrettably there are hundreds
in this country who don’t know what that means there are people who delight in
shooting wolves from helicopters are shooting them from airplanes
this isn’t sport this isn’t hunting this is wasteful wanton slaughter the quarrel
over hunting today has to do with moral issues about hunting as much as it does
about the preservation of wildlife because of course it’s been proven again
and again and shown that hunting can be done without endangering the existence
of animals certain things you can’t hunt certain times and so on that’s all been
pretty well worked out in this country at least the moral issue was something
else and TR said of course if you are a Hindu that was what he would say if you
were a Hindu well then fine and is to say if you’re a vegetarian and so on but
he was not a vegetarian and he saw no moral distinction or difference between
butchering a cow and shooting an elk a TR was definitely a great hunter a great
sportsman the kind of person that sets an example for every hunter in America
and around the world he was not the greatest shot him in the world but he
never gave up he always kept trying somebody once said are you a good shot
and he said no honestly but I shoot off him
his South American trip did not go as well the Amazon heat and dampness sapped
his waning strength but he kept on despite infection and injury Roosevelt
used to do things like going bathing and pools where there were
piranhas and the the jungle habitat was even worse than what he had experienced
in the worst of Africa and he did have his leg badly damaged and he really was
on the verge of death even delirious perhaps the thought of a death in the
depths of the Brazilian forest appealed to Roosevelt’s sense of the natural
order he once wrote that life and death are both part of the great adventure and
that since Man’s end was to die he should accept the inevitable and go down
to darkness although death did not claim him in the jungle it put its mark on his
body he was to suffer recurrent bouts of fever and infection that caused open
abscesses on his legs but the greatest pain was yet to come
rumblings of rule came from Europe where Germany was engaged in a campaign to
dominate Roosevelt once again used the force of his personality and
international stature to launch peace appeals to the Kaiser he probably
delayed the outbreak of World War one because he knew how to handle the Kaiser
and he was able to send messages to the Kaiser behind through the State
Department but messages which were never published
he’d say very strong things for the Kaiser the Kaiser realized the TR met
absolutely everything that he said and the Kaiser would change his position but
TR was smart enough never to put the Kaiser in a position so that he could
not back down and this is the beauty of hit TR as a politician he knew how to
get things done yet war did come to America and as much as he hated it he
believed at the duty of every American man to do what he could for his country
he offered to raise a regiment of his own but the president refused age and
time had passed him by his youngest son Quentin joined the
United States Army as a flyer to fight in France where the terrible afflictions
of battle were brought home to TR for the first time his favorite was shot
from the sky this a terrible terrible blow to him I don’t
think it shook his his view in the necessity of the war and the necessity
for people to fight but it was personally a tremendous blow and he had
clearly his the resilience he had shown that had shown in his ability to
overcome his mother and wife’s first wife’s death was no longer really there
he was now an old man even though he was less than sixty and it’s clear that he’d
never really did recover he loved all of his children and I suspect and this is
pure speculation on my part that having felt so strongly that his children and
he himself tried to take part in World War one that when as a result of his own
views that one had to take part in what he thought it was important struggle but
as a result of his views his youngest son died and I think he felt not guilty
about it but he felt he felt in one way or another he precipitated his son to
said death and I think it was a terrible blow to him particularly for a man who
loved his children as much as he did the great heart was hurt
despite the public’s long held picture of TR as a vigorous durable man he began
to fade melancholia over Quentin quenched his inner fire blunted his
personalities thrust when his youngest died the boy in Theodore died he seemed
to find happiness only in the company of his grandchildren accumulated illness
began to take its last toll early in December 1918 he was taken to the
hospital just before Christmas he came home to his beloved Sagamore Hill
perhaps to dream of his years in the West surely he had written our people do not
understand even yet the rich heritage that is theirs to waste to destroy our
natural resources to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so to
increase its usefulness will result in undermining in the days of our children
the very prosperity which we bought by right to hand down to them amplified and
developed somewhere around 4:00 in the morning
January 6 1919 Theodore Roosevelt 26th President of the United States
intellectual author cowpoke utter conservationist politician adventurer
loving father and husband and mostly little boy passed from history into
legend you

100 thoughts on “Theodore Roosevelt and the Western Experience

  • Very good documentary! TR was certainly a man of action.  Actually, you can learned a good deal about TR in the novel "A BLAZING GILDED AGE" where he comes to life.

  • It appears to me that, in 2016, we need someone just like Theodore Roosevelt.  Something tells me that that person will be someone who knows combat.

  • Typical Liberal fawning over a fellow American Progressive, one of the longest lasting propaganda campaigns foisted upon the American people by the Left.  TR was one of the worst examples of Imperial Presidencies that completely ignored the US Constitution, sought-out and waged foreign war w/o Congressional approval, seized private property, used federal troops against protesting citizens, no wonder Obama loves him

  • we need a man like t.r. right now…someone bold enough not to give a whit about conventional political formality but still patriotic enough to lead the way fearlessly…and God knows he loved the land and life therein…cudos for a great video…a rare thing

  • when you someone who is brave like Teddy Roosevelt I wish she was still alive but too late we haven't seen him yet but I wish there was another guy like Teddy Roosevelt I wish someone was named Teddy Roosevelt or Theodore Roosevelt I wish I was acting like the other Roosevelt but I wish I was I wish I was like him I wish you were still want and I could see him and I can tell you what I learned about his life about Teddy Roosevelt or Theodore Roosevelt I hope you had a good life Teddy Roosevelt goodbye LSU I said I will miss you Teddy Roosevelt

  • A Person like Theodore Roosevelt is needed in our time. Not just in America, but for the entire World. Or the Banks worst nightmare, Andrew Jackson.

  • To everyone that is commenting on this video saying we need someone like Theodore Roosevelt in today's world. We have him and his name is Donald Trump. The similarities between the two is uncanny and hard to ignore. Please support Trump so we can finally have a president that will serve as a fine remodel for generations to come while fixing this broken country.

  • TR an original! Wow, what a wonderful human being! Next time back East to visit the International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductions in June 2017, I plan to visit his home! Thank you for this post on You Tube!



  • His book, The Strenous Life is a book every Millennial and post Millenial NEEDS TO READ! It rounds out the top 10 of books that matter to me…

  • The historical story of Teddy Roosevelt with a love for the middle class and the working person of America. He new what farmers offered to work and loved the land. He was a true man with a "Nobel Peace Prize" that supported his love for life, fishing, hunting, and outdoor sportsmanship, and a passion for ethics and the "Cardinal Rule" for all people. God Bless America and the story of a marvelous man and a loving Theodore Roosevelt. He was a marvelous family man and servant-leader as a President of the United Sates.

    T. J. (Thomas) Vanderloop, Author, Consultant, & Sportsman/Technology-Instructor

  • This great large print exemplifies the kooky and beloved place that Teddy Roosevelt holds in the American heart. Have a look!

  • I am appalled that an excellent documentary on this Amazon expedition with Ted and his son is not available here in Canada on You Tube! I missed this program, and want to watch it! We are major PBS sponsors especially to KSPS from Alberta as far as I know!

  • Environmental conservation, pure food and drug protections, standing up to corporations. He was a great President and a republican when republicans were a great party of the people like modern democrats. Too bad they turned their coats and are now like southern democrats of the past. The parties and their ideologies have flip flopped.

  • He cared for people and not for corporations, He cared about future generations and not a vote of the moment. He cared for nature as he understood that was gods gift to humanity. wish politicians now had 1% of his intellect and honesty.

  • Sadly, Theodore Roosevelt's cousin, FDR was apart of socialism coming to the USA as the wolf in sheep's clothing. DJ Trump is a work in process. Watch his smoke, he is checking off most all he said he'd do. As a 6th generation Texan whose great great granddaddy fought all 4 year's in Hood's Texas Brigade and was with Lee at the surrender, I'd take the yankee DJ Trump any day over my Texas senator Ted Cruz, who is a Canadian. Stood right beside the 6'2" Cruz at a Texas local Republican headquarters. Turned my all 5'2' back to him. Gak. And while at it, the GH Bushs are from the east coast, with east coast leftest mentality & worldview-I consider them carpetbaggers. Love this film.

  • Thank him for stealing our land and turning it into national parks and so forth.. I'm very conservative and have studied his presidentacy and life. He robbed America of so much public land .he was a progressive ALL the way!

  • What a great President we had in Theodore Roosevelt!
    Interesting that not even the hospital in Hawaii admits to the 44th President born there with even a plaque and yet Teddy's birth BED is preserved!!!

  • Teddy Roosevelt is not like Trump. Roosevelt actually had the balls to bust up the big corporations and actually fight in favor of the working man with his “Square Deal” programs.

  • I wonder how he would feel seeing the pollution in America and the banks controlling everything. Kennedy would cry



  • Theodore Roosevelt a true coward, who shot a Spaniard in Cuba in the back when they retired, after defending the hill for 15 days about 700 Spaniards, without machine guns, before 15,000 attackers; one more example of the cowardice of the Anglo armies. This is the wood of the Anglo heroes-
    Arriving at the top of the hill, Theodore Roosevelt – Medal of Honor of the United States Congress and future North American president – "fired at the retreating Spaniards, seeing one fall and, although he was not sure if he had killed him, He boasted: 'I killed a Spaniard with my own hand like a hare. "The fact remains that 700 Spaniards had withstood the US attack of some 15,000 men on the hill of San Juan (Cuba) for 11 hours and that they lacked of the fearsome Maxim machine guns, Roosevelt arrived, moreover, when the Buffalo Soldiers – African-American military – had won the hill and there were only machine-gunned bodies, however, in Hollywood productions such as Rough Riders (1997) or Night in the Museum (2006). ), Roosevelt is described as a hero who liberates oppressed peoples and deserves a distinction.

  • when he said he was popular and actually i am super popular so we are kinda the same i didn't know that

  • They sure don't make em like they used too! If someone wants to assassinate you you're doing something right!.

  • we have two primeministers in the last 200 years who come close to roosevelt .wellington who was a great soldier but average primeminister.churchill was a cavalryman and saw a great deal of action in the khyber pass omdurman and then the boer war as a reporter.after being sacked from the cabinet in ww1 he went up in my estimation for becoming a colonel in a front line fighting regiment.of course them ww2 made him our greatest primeminister. i think like roosevelt seeing action made a difference.he has another similarity to teddy his uncle moreton frewitt was a very big rancher in wyoming part of the cheyenne club at the time of the johnson county war.

  • Great AMERI-CAN! Shared in for all. 😍🤠😇

  • Too much glorification of this awful president! May I remind of some of his many failings: e.g. Panama Canal imperialism; anti trust zealotry; Big Government ownership of the western states; total overreach of Food & Drug act; the crazy Antiquities Act etc.

  • I was in Medora in 2016, the place smells like an open oil can. Angular drilling wells surround Roosevelt National park sucking all the oil out from under it. The Buffalo in the park all look sickly and under feed. It's really sad.

  • You can't fully appreciate Teddy Roosevelt until you've read his books. Two of which are Hunting Stories of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter. Great reflection on the times and a waning era. Without those experiences, he could not have been the President that he was.

  • Very moving doc. Thanks for posting. TR is man desperately needed in our modern times. Compare this Republican to the 21st century republicans. "Preservation of our natural resources." Try that out on a neocon.

  • The comment about no wolves in Yellowstone is dated. They've been successfully reintroduced and the entire ecosystem has benefited.

  • “He was a devoted husband and father…”. That’s enough for today’s liberal shill to hate his guts…

  • What a great human being……this documentary should be televised every week, his biography should be a compulsory textbook to children all over the world….. to show what courage means….A real Iron Man…….the man he was… can just imagine how he had reacted in today's world

  • When a person paid for someone else to fight in their place in the Civil Was, was that a personal thing, would you know the person who fought for you? Or would you just pay a fee somewhere which would exempt you?

  • “Likewise for the whole country he was worried that urbanization industrialization would make people soft both physically and mentally and also morally”

    TR would be beyond disappointed with my generation to be honest

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