Grand Canyon National Monument 1908

January 11, 2010

Grand Canyon

On this day in history President Theodore Roosvelt designated the Grand Canyon a “National Monument” giving it partial protection. Later on February 26, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed a law making it a National Park.

I have personally visited the park on three occasions. I consider it one of nature’s greatest marvels. It never ceases to amaze me. I especially like it at sunset with the various shadows and angles of sunlight falling on the rock formations.

Ancient Native Grannaries within the Canyon

The Native peoples considered the canyon sacred. They lived and worked in and around the canyon. There are still several Native reserves close to and in the Canyon.

Theodore Roosevelt: 150th Anniversary of His Birth

November 12, 2008

TR and John Muir at Yosemite

Roosevelt was born October 27, 1858. This year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth. The 26th President of the United States is remembered for elevating the power of the presidency to new heights. Here are twelve interesting facts about his life and his presidency: 

  • First American to be awarded the Nobel Prize, winning the Peace Prize in 1906, for negotiating the peace in the Russo-Japanese War.
  • Only president to win his country’s highest military honor. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War. His oldest son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on the Normandy beaches during D-Day, June 6, 1944.
  • Although he was affectionately called “Teddy” by the public, he preferred to be called TR by his friends and family.
  • He had a photographic memory and could read and comprehend several books in a day.
  • TR was ahead of his time in that he multi-tasked with ease. He could be dictating letters to one secretary and a memo to another, while browsing through a new book.
  • He was a prolific author. One of his books published on The Naval War of 1812 remains an essential reference to this conflict and continues to be reprinted to this day.
  • TR was the youngest person to assume the presidency at age 42. (John F. Kennedy was the youngest to be elected at age 43)
  • He was the fifth Vice President to succeed to the office of President, but the first to win election in his own right.
  • He promised not to run again after his election even though he was eligible. He later regretted this because he was forced to leave the presidency at the young age of fifty and the height of his popularity
  • First president to be involved in an automobile accident. One of the Secret Service agents guarding him was killed in the incident. He became the first agent killed while on duty (more on this gentleman in another posting).
  • First president to fly in an airplane and ride in a submarine
  • The “teddy bear” was created and named after him when he refused to shoot an orphaned black bear while on a hunting trip.

Thomas E. Dewey: The Impossible Dream

August 3, 2008

Presidential Candidate Thomas E. Dewey

Several unsuccessful presidential nominees have in fact been renominated by their parties for another try. Most have not succeeded on the second attempt either.

One of these, Republican Thomas Dewey, ran against President Franklin Roosevelt,and President Harry Truman of the Democrats, an unenviable task for any man. Thomas Dewey was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he was an interesting man. If he had a weakness as a presidential candidate it was his foreign policy, but that evolved and in his second attempt he was much more of an internationalist.

The Republican Party made him their nominee to run against sitting presidents twice. Once in 1944 against FDR and again in 1948 against Harry Truman.

Dewey was a leader of the liberal wing of the Republican party. He fought the conservative faction lead by Robert Taft.

He was born March 24, 1902 in Owosso, Michigan. Dewey aspired to a professional singing career and had an excellent baritone voice. He had throat problems and decided instead to become a lawyer. Dewey served for many years as a prosecutor and District Attorney in New York City. His nickname was “Gangbuster” for his work against organized crime in the 1930s.

Dewey’s reputation carried him to the governorship of New York state in 1942 and he was elected three times in total. He was a strong supporter of the death penalty while governor. During his 12 years as governor over 90 people were electrocuted under New York state authority.

At age 36, in 1940, he ran for the Republican presidential nomination against Wendell Wilkie who went on to lose to FDR.

Dewey won the nomination in 1944, but was defeated by FDR. He was the first presidential candidate to be born in the 20th century, and also the youngest man to ever win the Republican presidential nomination. Had the public known about the true state of FDR’s declining health, Dewey might well have won the election. However, that’s another story.

The famous headline being held up by Truman

In the 1948 election against FDR’s successor Harry Truman, he was almost unanimously projected to be the winner by all the so-called experts. The Chicago Daily Tribue actually printed several hundred copies declaring “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” before election returns showed Truman had won.

Dewey didn’t run for president again, but in 1952 he played a major role in securing the nomination for Dwight Eisenhower.

Thomas Dewey is the only Republican to be nominated for president twice and lose both times. He is also the last presidential candidate to wear permanent facial hair, in his case a moustache.

His last term as Governor of New York expired in 1955. After this he returned to his law practice. He died suddenly of a heart attack on March 16, 1971 while vacationing in Florida. He was 68 years old.

Further Reading:
Thomas Dewey and His Times, Smith, Richard Norton, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1982
Truman Defeats Dewey, Donaldson, Gary A., University Press of Kentucky, 1999

Theodore Roosevelt – Shaped by the West

July 27, 2008

Above: postcard I mailed to myself from Medora, North Dakota marking my visit. It depicts TR as he appeared during his ranch days.

Theodore Roosevelt or ‘TR’ the Twenty-sixth President of the United States was shaped by his experiences in North Dakota. I’m fascinated with the man during my recent trip to North Dakota I made sure I included a visit to the Badlands of North Dakota where he spent his time learning about the western way of life. I also visited the Maltese Cross Cabin which is situated in the south unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park at Medora, ND.

Maltese Cabin as it appears today.

This cabin was originally located seven miles south of Medora in the wooded bottom-lands of the Little Missouri River. The cabin was built for him at his request so he could spend more time at his ranch, the Maltese Cross or Chimney Butte Ranch.

TR first arrived in the Dakotas in 1883 to hunt bison. He fell in love with the land and acquired primary interests in a ranch, namely the Maltese Cross or Chimney Butte Ranch. He thrived on the outdoor lifestyle and at the ranch he actively participated in the life as a working cowboy. The men thought he was a foolish dude from the east, but he earned their respect over and over again with his hard work and upbeat attitude.

On his return to the east he married Alice Hathaway. They had a child on February 12, 1884, but two days later his wife Alice died of Bright’s Disease and his mother also died of typhoid fever in the same house on the same day. He was devastated and leaving his newborn daughter in the care of his family he left for his ranch in North Dakota to attempt to heal his grief.

TR enlarged his holdings by purchasing a second ranch, the Elkhorn, also near Medora. While there he wrote many books about his adventures and his ranch life. Most of all he gained an understanding of the need for conservation. Later on he always told people that without his experiences in North Dakota, he would never have become president.

Roosevelt wasn’t the first president to create national parks, but he was the president who protected the most areas. He set aside over 90 national monuments and national forests as protected areas for future generations. The first one he designated was Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. I was also fortunate to be able to visit that site and I tell you it is fascinating both as a natural wonder, and also as a sacred Native American site.

While standing in the Maltese Cabin I particularly focused on TR’s writing desk where he spent long hours and also his rocking chair where he held many animated conversations with visitors. It was truly history come alive.

“Bully!” Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. – Life Lived to It’s Fullest

April 16, 2008

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, Jr. TR as he liked to be called was the 26th President of the United States, but really he was much more than that. He was a soldier, a lawman, an author, an explorer, environmentalist, and father. Although he enjoyed his years in the White House as president, he was truly happy when he was either outdoors or spending time with his family. For the kid in all of us, the famous “Teddy” bear is named after him. (Left: White House photo)

There was much more to this man than met the eye. He was born October 27, 1858 in New York City. At a young age he became Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He organized and commanded a volunteer cavalry regiment called the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War of 1898. He led a charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba and became a war hero. In 2001 he was belately awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry in that battle. He had been written up for his country’s highest military honor at the time, but politics got in the way. This was not an honorary award, but very deserved. He is the only president to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. After he returned from the war he was elected Governor of New York state.

He married Alice Lee in 1880. After Alice gave birth to his first daughter in 1884, also named Alice, she died suddenly. TR was devastated with grief. He left his young daughter in the care of family and went west to North Dakota. There he actively ran his cattle ranch and became a lawman. As a lawman he once brought some outlaws to justice. He went 40 hours without sleep bringing them in. To keep awake he read a book. When he ran out of reading material, he resorted to a paperback one of the thieves had in his saddlebag. He returned to the east and married Edith Carow his childhood sweetheart in 1886. The had five children. (Above: Regular issue stamp depicting TR issued in 1955, Liberty Series)

President William McKinley selected TR as his vice-presidential running mate for the election of 1901. McKinley was re-elected to his second term and TR became vice-president of the United States. Many of the Republican party hated the choice because TR’s beliefs were not theirs.

On September 5. 1901 while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY, President McKinley was shot. It appeared he would recover, but he died on September 14, 1901. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. succeeded to the presidency at age 42. He is still the youngest person to become president (John F. Kennedy was the youngest elected president at age 43). He served out McKinley’s term and was elected by a landslide in 1904 to his own term as president. After the election for some unfathomable reason he announced publicly he would not seek another term. This became one of his biggest regrets. By announcing this he gave the green light to others to actively campaign for the presidency in the 1908 election. He served almost 8 years in the White House, most of McKinley’s second term and his own 4 year term.

After he left the presidency at a young age of fifty, he explored in South America and wrote books. He is the author of 35 books including his autobiography. He did run for the presidency one more time in 1912 under the Progressive party banner. The offshoot of the Republican party was nicknamed the “Bull Moose” party primarily because of its candidate, TR. As a result of the vote split, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected president.
(Right: American stamps saluting the “Teddy” bear.)

TR was seriously preparing for a run at the presidency in the election of 1920, but he died suddenly on January 6, 1919. His health had suffered from recurring bouts of malaria contracted during his African and South American explorations. He was only 60 years of age at the time of his death, but he lived life to the fullest by any measure.

TR is a fascinating man who lived a life filled with adventures and history. I will be posting more on his life and times.

%d bloggers like this: