Saturday, July 14, 2018

JULY 14 = Billy the Kid III - "the Kid" is Killed

"He did look human, indeed, but there was nothing very mannish about him in his appearance, for he looked and acted a mere boy.
He is about 5 feet eight or nine inches tall, slightly built and lithe, weighing about 140; a frank and open countenance, looking like a school boy, with the traditional silky fuzz on his upper lip and clear blue eyes with a roguish snap about them... he is, in all, quite a handsome fellow...."

This was one newspaper reporter's impression of the appearance of William Bonney, alias "Billy the Kid" who was killed on today's date, July 14 in 1881. One can see some of those features in the photo above (taken by a traveling photographer at Fort Sumner in early 1880 and the only documented photo of the Kid known to exist). But his lover Paulita Maxwell didn't think it was a good picture. But once again the correct view of the young man depended on who the viewer was. To the lawmen on the New Mexico Territory he was a vicious killer. But to the Mexican-American community in the area he was a kind of "Robin Hood".

The Kid and Pat Garret

  When we last saw the Kid he was galloping away (and singing a song) from the Lincoln County Courthouse wherein he had just shot his two guards, James Bell and Bob Ollinger. The man who had put Billy in jail to begin with was Pat Garret (below). This was a man who cut quite a commanding presence wherever he went, standing six feet tall at a time
when most men were five feet. Women found him attractive and men took notice of him too. He was a man who felt that he was destined for bigger things than work as a cowhand, or a barkeep as he had been doing up until then. Well Garret managed to make the right connections to get elected Sheriff of Lincoln County in November of 1880. It was Garret's prison from which Billy had escaped, and now this youngster had been dubbed "Billy the Kid".  Garret wanted the fame that would naturally go to the man who shot Billy the Kid, and  he was determined to get it.

Publicity About the Kid Explodes, Where Was He?

  Ever since the Las Vegas Gazette published its editorial wherein Billy was first named as "Billy the Kid", publicity about his exploits had gone national. Papers in Chicago, New York, even London, as well everywhere in the U.S. were running increasingly lurid accounts of the Kid's allegedly bloody exploits as well his daring escape from the Courthouse in Lincoln, and of Garret's pursuit of him. And thanks to the telegraph news of his escape spread across the county almost
instantly. Where had the Kid gone? It would certainly have been wise for him to go to Old Mexico, as many friends urged him to do. "I told him to leave this place and go to Old Mexico." said his old friend Yginio Salazar.  But the Kid instead chose to linger around New Mexico. Why? There are those historians who believe that the reason he stuck around was to be near Fort Sumner, and the beautiful young lady Paulito Maxwell (above). Others say it was simply because Ft. Sumner was familiar, and comfortable to him, and filled with many friends and the pretty senoritas whom he had always courted.

Pat Garret Closes in on Billy the Kid

Whatever the case, the Kid certainly was keeping in or near Ft. Sumner. It  had gotten to be nearly three months since Billy's escape from the Lincoln Courthouse had put even more attention on the Kid, and more eyes upon Pat Garret to see what he would do to catch, or kill this mere 21 year old who had slipped away from him. Some began to think that
maybe Garret was afraid of going directly after the Kid. But Garrret was biding his time to get a fix on the Kid's exact location. Garret got reports from various quarters. Some say the tips were from men such as Ft. Sumner rancher Manuel Brazil, and Texas officer John W. Poe, who was one of Garret's deputies. And others say the tips were coming from Pete Maxwell, the older brother of Paulito Maxwell, who knew of her romantic link to the Kid, and strongly disapproved of it. This would certainly be given credence by the fact that it was at Pete Maxwell's home in Ft. Sumner (above) where Garret showed up on today's date in 1881 expecting to find the Kid.

Billy the Kid Finally Meets His Maker

  So it was that on July 14 Garret met with Poe, and another deputy, Thomas McKinney, with the hope of finding the Kid at the Maxwell home.  They stayed in the Peach Orchard outside hidden for a long time when they saw someone stand up in the orchard jump the picket fence and disappear from view. He was too far away for them to recognize, but it might have been the Kid. At around midnight the three men left the orchard and slowly stepped towards the house. Posting his deputies on the porch, Garret entered the house to ask Pete Maxwell of he had seen the Kid. Finding Maxwell in his bed, Garret sat on thee edge of the bed. Then someone entered the room. it was the Kid who had removed his boots and was in his stocking feet. He went out on the porch to get some meat from a deer stag hanging there. but he saw Garret's deputies lurking in the dark. So he backed into the house. This is the way Garret described it later in his book:

"He came directly towards me. Before he reached the bed, I whispered: 'Who is it, Pete?' but received no reply for a moment. The intruder came close to me, leaned both hands on the bed, his right hand almost touching my knee, and asked, in a low tone: -'Who are they Pete?' -at the same instant Maxwell whispered to me. 'That's him!' Simultaneously the Kid must have seen, or felt, the presence of a third person at the head of the bed. He raised quickly his pistol, a self-cocker, within a foot of my breast. Retreating rapidly across the room he cried: 'Quien es? Quien es?' 'Who's that? Who's that?') All this occurred in a moment. Quickly as possible I drew my revolver and fired, threw my body aside, and fired again. The second shot was useless; the Kid fell dead. He never spoke. A struggle or two, a little strangling sound as he gasped for breath, and the Kid was with his many victims."

The Legacy of Billy the Kid  
News of the killing of the Kid quickly spread in national and world newspapers. And Garret eventually wrote his own account, "How I Killed Billy the Kid" - quoted above. And of course it can be assumed
Garret's account almost certainly embellished the details. When the Kid saw the figures on the porch, he likely backed in the front door making a perfect silhouette against the moonlit sky for Sheriff
Garret to aim at. Then the Kid spoke in Spanish: "Quien es? Quien es?" Garret knew he had his man, and shot him without waiting. Whatever the details, Billy the Kid was dead. Most of the main players
in this story fell into obscurity in the years following this event. Garret had his temporary fame, but later fell into huge gambling debt. In 1908 he was shot and killed  on a New Mexico desert road under circumstances for which nobody was ever convicted. The great interests who had wanted big profits from developing New Mexico, never realized their gains until New Mexico was granted statehood some thirty years later. By then James Dolan and Lawrence Murphy and "the House"" had fallen into bankruptcy and been forgotten. But the legendary name of
"Billy the Kid" and his exploits has lived on ever after.... immortalized in fiction and film.. leaving only that one grainy picture of him; almost smirking at the camera, with his pistol at the ready near his right hand, yet confidently balancing his rifle in his left. This is all we have to give us any clue to what and whom the Kid really was. Robin Hood or villain? We can only read and research and guess for ourselves.

Sources =

"Billy the Kid - the Endless Ride" by Michael Wallis, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 2007

"Billy the Kid - A Short and Violent Life" by Robert M. Utley, Univ. of Nebraska Press,
Lincoln, 1989

"Billy the Kid - the American Experience" Dir. by John Maggio, WGBH Boston, Public Broadcasting Stations, 2012

"Violence in Lincoln County, 1869-1881: Facsimile of 1957 Edition"
by William A. Keleher - Sunstone Press, Santa Fe,  2007

Saturday, April 7, 2018

APRIL 7 Ike's "Domino Theory" Speech

On today's date, April 7 in 1954, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower (left) during a news conference said this:

"Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a  beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences."

This has since come to be known as his "Domino Theory" speech. It was a very important moment because Ike (the long used abbreviation of his name) was stating a policy that would become the basis of  U.S. policy for many years to come.  It would soon be used as the basis for U.S. intervention in South East Asia.

France's Impending Failure

By 1954 it became clear that he French government's attempt to re-establish control over it's colonial holdings in Indochina (another name for South East Asia) was failing.  Indeed, the last stand for the French control came at the Battle of  Dien Bien Phu in which the French military was decisively
beaten by the Viet Minh. These were the Vietnamese communist revolutionary forces under the command of Ho Chi Minh (right). But that debacle had not yet happened at the time of  Ike's speech.
His main goal in outlining this dark vision of  Viet Minh victory in this struggle was to drum-up U.S. congressional support behind increased aid to the French in their fight to hold onto Vietnam.

The Likely Repercussions of French Defeat in Vietnam

First Ike outlined what  he saw as being the likely repercussions of a French loss in Vietnam. It was an economically important important source of raw materials:  "Now, with respect to the first one, two of the items from this particular area that the world uses are tin and tungsten. They are very important. There are others, of course, the rubber plantations and so on." It would also mean giving over many more
people into Communist domination: "Then with respect to more people passing under this domination, Asia, after all, has already lost some 450 million of its peoples to the Communist dictatorship, and we simply can't afford greater losses." And the central theme of this theory: "But when we come to the possible sequence of events, the loss of Indochina, of Burma, of Thailand, of the Peninsula, and Indonesia following, now you begin to talk about areas that not only multiply the disadvantages that you would suffer through loss of materials, sources of materials, but now you are talking really about millions and millions and millions of people."

The Results of the Speech

The speech had little impact towards Ike's central goal of lining up support for France in the area. As said the French were defeated a
month later. At the Geneva Conference of July, 1955, a settlement was arrived at leaving Ho Chi Minh's forces in control of the northern half of  Vietnam. The longer term effect was a policy that lead directly to  U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict with all of the ill-consequences which that brought under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as well as America's politics for the next two decades.

Sources =

Thursday, February 15, 2018

FEBRUARY 15 = U.S.S. Maine Explodes

On today's date, March 15 in 1898 a vast explosion sunk the American Navy Battleship U.S.S. Maine (Pic- tured above) while she was in the harbor of Havana, Cuba. 260 men were killed out of a crew of nearly 400. The source  of the explosion was unknown at the time.  But an official U.S. Naval Court of Inquiry wasted no time in stating that explosion had been caused by a mine. Spain was not directly blamed for the ''mine" in the Inquiry report.  But much of the American public as well as Congressional leaders believed Spain to be the culprit, and this eventually lead to a Declaration of War against Spain.

"I was just closing a letter to my family when I felt the crash of the explosion. It was a bursting, rending, and crashing sound, or roar of immense volume, largely metallic in character. It was succeeded by a metallic sound - probably of falling debris - a trembling and lurching motion of the vessel, then an impression of subsidence, attended by an eclipse of the electric lights and intense darkness within the cabin. I knew immediately that the MAINE had been blown up and that she was sinking." These were the recollections of the Maine's Captain Charles D. Sigsbee

What was the U.S. Problem With Spain, and Why was the Maine in Havana?

By the 1890's Spanish rule over her "Empire" was growing weak. Spain held several territories in the Pacific Ocean, most importantly the Philippine Islands, and also the island of Cuba wherein there were rebels conducting a full scale insurrection against Spanish rule. And the Spanish authorities were spending no mercies on the Cuban rebels. American indignation over the brutal Spanish tactics ran high. Also there were U.S. commercial interests in Cuba were being adversely affected. The U.S. President at the time was William McKinley
(President 1897 - 1901) who had been an officer during the American Civil War and his experiences there left him detesting war.  So he tried to avoid armed conflict. The Maine was sent in to show the American flag and protect U.S. interests  But with the explosion the newspapers particularly those of William Randolph Hearst (See New York Journal headlines reporting on the explosion above), The public and governmental leaders were whipped into a high pitch of anti Spanish feelings with sensational and totally unproven headlines such as "Destruction of the War Ship Maine Was the Work of an Enemy!" McKinley had few diplomatic avenues to explore and when these failed, war was declared on April 20, 1898.

What Happened in the Spanish American War?

Although Theodore Roosevelt resigned his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in order to raise a cavalry regiment that came to be known as "the Rough Riders" which subsequently charged up San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898, it was not T.R. who coined the phrase "A splendid little war". The phrase was written by U.S. Secretary of  State John Hay who gave it that moniker in a letter to T.R..  And it did turn out to be just that for the Americans. The fist crash came on May 1, 1898 when the seven ships of the Asiatic Squadron under the command of  Admiral George Dewey (below) blew 10 out-dated Spanish warships
 out of the water in Manila Bay. The rest of the war went with similar victories for the U.S. Army which invaded Cuba and decisively defeated the Spanish forces within three months.  An armistice halted the shooting in August. A Peace Treaty was signed in Paris on Dec. 12, 1898 and in the treaty Spain ceded its former possessions of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. The United States thus acquired its first overseas Empire.

Oh, and By the Way.....

Several investigations conducted by Admiral Rickover, the National Geographic Society and finally by the Discovery Channel (in 2002) determined that a coal bunker fire caused the explosion which blew up the U.S.S. Maine back in 1898. This "Act of an Enemy" as it was described back at the time, happened as the result of a gap in the bulkhead separating the coal and powder bunkers which then allowed the fire from the coal bunker to spread to the powder bunker. Far from being a dark plot, the loss of the Maine happened because of a design flaw in the ship's construction.

Sources =

Sunday, January 14, 2018

JANUARY 14 = FDR, Churchill Meet at Casablanca

On today's date, January 14 in 1943, the two main Allied leaders arrived in Casablanca in French Morocco to plan their strategy for the next stage of the war. Allied troops had invaded North Africa in November of 1942 and had been successful, but showed many of the difficulties of sending green inexperienced and ill-equipped troops at experienced veterans such as the Germans were at that time. So there were several questions to be decided.  One was where the Allies should strike next, when they should move and also the thorny question of what to do about French participation in the war ahead.

The Participants at Casablanca

The Conference (codenamed SYMBOL) was held at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca and began on this date with the arrival U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  Soviet Dictator Josef Stalin (below) was invited, but said he
could not come with his country still fighting the Battle of Stalingrad. So it was that FDR and Churchill arrived in fine spirits, happy to get away from the daily grind of politics in their respective capitals.  The two men who had already become fast friends in past meetings were delighted to see each other and share relaxed conversations about important issues over dinner with cigars and martinis.  But serious decisions had to be made about what the next Allied move should be. Stalin's Russia had borne the full attack of the Nazis thus far and was adamant that the Western Allies should launch a second front by attacking France as soon as possible.

"The Soft Underbelly..."

Churchill and his advisers favored an attack on what he called "the Soft Underbelly" of the Axis empire, which was Hitler's weak-willing ally in Italy starting with an invasion of Sicily, and then proceeding up through the Italian "boot". This would divert thousands of German troops from the Russian front Churchill believed, and it could be
begun in 1943. FDR's men, Harry Hopkins and Gen. George Marshall preferred the frontal assault on France that Stalin wanted, but agreed that until U.S. production levels of shipping especially of landing craft were brought to adequate levels, the more intermediate levels of attack offered by the Italian campaign were the only choice available.  A major cross-channel assault on France would not be possible until 1944 at the earliest. And the question of French participation  was a major problem all its own. 

The Problem of France

When Germany invaded and conquered France in 1940, the southern
half of the country was left under the control of a traitorous puppet government called Vichy, which nominally controlled French colonial possessions. This was separate from the Free-French government in exile under the leadership of General Charles de Gualle.  Allied forces invaded Morocco and Algeria on Nov. 8, 1942 in Operation "Torch", and found themselves being fired upon by the French forces as so commanded by Vichy French leaders. But this was overcome, and eventually the French troops and their leaders came over to the Allied side. With Ike's backing, General Henri Giraud was appointed Commander of the French forces in North Africa. There was considerable bad blood between de Gualle, who viewed Giraud as an extension of the Vichy government.
Neither FDR nor Churchill much liked either of the men, as both were proud difficult.  Nevertheless their joint support was needed for a united Allied front. It took tremendous effort from FDR and Churchill to bring the two rivals together.  FDR said: "My job was to produce the bride in the person of General Giraud, while Churchill was to bring in General de Gualle to play the role of the groom at a shotgun wedding."  But after much argument and discussion, the two men agreed to a posed handshake for the cameras.  And boy does it (above) ever look posed! But FDR and Churchill had finally brought the two together in public, at least.

"Unconditional Surrender"

The press was well aware that the Conference was underway, but they were not given access to the participants and the decisions made until a press conference held on the final day, January 24, 1943.
And at this came a surprise item served up by FDR with his announcement that victory would only be achieved with the unconditional surrender of Germany, Japan and Italy. This left Churchill shocked. The two men had discussed the idea in the past, but has made no definite decision on it. This would leave no room for
negotiation, should Hitler be killed. And Churchill was convinced that it would make the enemy fight all the harder. U.S. adviser Avril Harriman said that Churchill was "offended that FDR would make such a momentous announcement without prior consultation." Historians argue to this day on why FDR did this. Maybe he thought of  General U.S. Grant from the Civil War and his terms of "Unconditional Surrender" in wanting to write an unquestionable end to the war. Unlike the end of World War I where the army was able to blame the defeat on the politician's "stab in the back" - a myth which made room for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.  We'll probably never know for sure what motivated FDR to make his surprise announcement. But after that it became policy.

Sources =

"No Ordinary Time" by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994.

"The American Heritage Picture History of World War II" by C.L. Sulzberger, American Heritage  Publishers, New York, 1966.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

DECEMBER 31 = George Remus Throws a Party!!

George Remus (left); called the King of the Bootleggers. A man who raised himself from a clerk at his father's drugstore to the richest and most successful bootlegger in the country until he was imprisoned in 1924. HOW he did this is covered in my post for October 6: "George Remus Kills HisWife" ( ). There you will find a detailed account of  the rise and fall of George Remus. But as it is New Year's
Eve, I thought that I would give you an account of what sounds like the party to end all parties: the New Year's Eve Party thrown by Remus on today's date in 1921, leading to 1922. Of course details differ, but I shall try to put together what I can find. I won't go on for too long - just enough to let you know what occurred, and what might have occurred.

The Big People and the Big Pool

Toward the end of 1921 George Remus had amassed a fortune through his bootlegging operations that approached $6 million.  He had  built himself a huge mansion (below) in what was then a fashionable section of his adopted hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, and furnished it with all of the finest trappings available to him.... furniture, rugs, drapery, plants, and a library were all the best that his ill-gotten gains could buy.  And he decided to throw a New Years Eve bash to show it
all off to a fine guest list which included some 100 rich and influential people whom he and his wife Imogene wished to impress.  They came from all around the country; New York, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and of course Cincinnati itself.  And as a part of his place he spent $100,000 to build a Grecian swimming pool and a building to house the pool which he would make the center piece of his party. The building which covered the pool was 86 feet wide and 115 feet long, and had a roman-style garden, and also a heating plant.  The pool, lined with Rookwood pottery had flowers arranged all around its edges. it was called "the Imogene Bath" in honor of Mrs. Remus who was said to be an excellent swimmer. In  a covered area nearby, an orchestra serenaded the guests as they sipped on fine champagne, wine, and of course whisky.  And to top it all off Remus had hired troupe of professional divers from Chicago to do exhibitions for his guests.

And the Lovely Party Favors...

After a sumptuous dinner around the great pool served by lovely young women all dressed in white, they used  the diving board of the pool as a platform from which to make formal statements.
Exactly who made these statements, and what they said has not been recorded. I have read that crisp new thousand dollar bills were wrapped around the dinner napkins, but this may simply be part of urban legend. And there is some slight disagreement about the exact nature of some of the party favors.  It is certain that he had diamond stickpins and diamond jewelry specially made for the occasion to his guests.  The jewelry for the ladies was likely earrings, although it has been said in at least one source that the ladies got diamond necklaces. And it has been recorded it at least one on-line source that the gentlemen received diamond watches. This may simply be another
exaggeration in the record of the man's fantastic record. What is certain is that each of the ladies was given the keys to a brand new car parked in front of the mansion. At the stroke of midnight even Remus himself  jumped into the pool in his tuxedo. But that was it for the man. Remus himself was a teetotalar, and handed the party over to his wife, and retired to his library, wherein he sat quietly reading until early the next morning.

Sources =

"King of the Bootleggers - A Biography of George Remus" by William Cook,
Mc Farland & Co. Inc. Publishers, N. Carolina, London, 2008

"Cincinnati Art Deco" by Steven J. Rolfes and Douglas R. Weise,  2014.

Friday, November 17, 2017

NOVEMBER 17 = The Suez Canal is Opened

The Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean and the Red seas, was opened on today's date, November 17, in 1869 in a lavish ceremony that was attended by France's Emperor Napoleon III and his wife, the Empress Eugenie.  The Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level (there are no locks as with the Panama Canal built later) waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. And because it greatly reduced the time of travel form Europe to the Indian Ocean, it became a major strategic prize in international politics.

Building the Suez Canal

This entire area was officially under the control or the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, so Ferdinand de Lesseps, the former French consul to Cairo completed an agreement with the Ottoman Governor of Egypt to construct a canal across the Isthmus of Suez in 1854. M. de Lesseps assembled an international team off  engineering experts to come up with a plan to build the Canal and this became the Suez Canal Company which was granted the rights to operate the canal for 99 years. Work began in April of 1859, but it was a slow going at first as it was done by forced laborers wielding tools no more sophisticated than picks and shovels. Soon enough however the futile slowness of this became obvious. So European laborers with powerful earth moving machines such as steam shovels and dredgers were brought in and the work picked up speed. There were still problems; a cholera epidemic broke out, and there were also labor disputes. As a result the  final opening came two years later than planned.

The Grande Celebration!

The completion of the Suez Canal was an occasion for huge celebrations. The spectacular began in Port Said with a grand ball attended by numerous heads of state such the Louis Napoleon and his beautiful wife, the Empress Eugenie, the Emperor of Austria, Edward Prince of Wales representing the British.  The British never stopped
casting covetous eyes upon the canal as their govern- ment considered it an easy way to the very Jewell of the British Empire - India. Also present were the Princes of Prussia and the Netherlands. There 6,000 people in attendance at this party to end all parties, who watched the fireworks display. There was a pair of columns of ships entering the new canal from the southern and northern points and met at Ismailia wherein a new opera house was opened, and the parties went on for weeks after.

 The Canal Since the Parties Ended....

At it's beginning, the canal was merely 25 ft. deep, 73 feet wide at its
bottom, and had a surface area of 200 to 300 feet wide. Such a shallow draft, the canal could only handle limited traffic. Thus only 500 ships were able to use it during its first year of service. However the significant improvements that were made in 1876 made it a very busy waterway indeed.  In 1875, Great Britain became the largest shareholder in the Suez Canal Company when it bought up the stock of the new Ottoman governor of Egypt, Said Pasha, some 4,000 pounds sterling. Seven years later, in 1882, Britain invaded Egypt, beginning a long occupation of the country. The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 made Egypt virtually independent, But Britain considered the canal to be of vital interest in maintaining their worldwide Empire. So the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936 left the Brits in charge of a defensive force along the canal zone. After W.W.II, Egypt, lead by their President Gamal Abdel Nasser pressed for the foreign forces to leave and wound up nationalizing the canal. A military attempt by Britain, France and Israel to take the canal back by force was forced out by international
pressure.  Since then the canal has been open to worldwide commerce. In 2012, 17,225 ships moved through it; about 47 ships per day.

Sources =

Friday, October 27, 2017

OCTOBER 27 = Theodore Roosevelt is Born

On today's date - October 27 in 1858 - Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born in New York City, the second of four children to Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch and businessman Theodore Roosevelt Sr.  And which of the man's many achievements can one point to as being his greatest? Well he served as the 25'th President of the United States (1901 -1909). He served as Governor of  the state of New York, Commissioner of the New York City Police Department, Soldier and leader of the "Rough Riders" - his regiment during the Spanish American War,  the nation's leading
conservationist, he was a published author on wildlife, and history; the list could go on for several more paragraphs. A man of tremendous energy, yet by the end of his life he died a man who was sad. The portrait of him by the great painter John Singer Sargent (above) shows a sort of wistful look in the man's eye, and was said by those who knew him as being the painting which captured T.R. the best. He once wrote that "Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough." Had "Black care" finally caught up with him by the end?

Previous posts about Theodore Roosevelt

If you've been a regular reader of "Today in History" then you have long
since discovered what a singular figure he is and how much I like writing about him.  But just for the record, here are four previous posts I've done on this man:

JANUARY 11 = T.R. Makes the Grand Canyon a National Monument

FEBRUARY 14 = T.R.'s Tragic Day

OCTOBER 14 = T.R. is Shot!!

NOVEMBER 5 = Election DAAAZE!!!

Between them I've covered much of T.R.'s political and personal life. But in spite his many successes, tragedy seemed to stalk him in much of his life. The death of his beloved father in 1878 while he was away at school was a crushing blow. But T.R. had to deal with many other tragedies in his life.  This began with the death of his mother, Mittie, and his young wife Alice, coming like two incredible hammer blows one after the other on the same day in 1884.  "He does not know what he does or says" his sister wrote of his grief-stricken state at he time. Had "Black care" finally caught up with him?  Not surprisingly he
sought to out-run it, retreating into the Badlands North Dakota. They were called the "Badlands" because they looked grim and desolate, much like  he felt at the time. Here he spent two years as a cowboy. He bought himself a cowboy outfit custom-made for him at Tiffany's in New York (right). At first the real cowboys he encountered made light of his Eastern appearance and way of talking.  But he eventually won their respect by going out on round-ups and braving all of the same harsh conditions of freezing snow or blistering heat that they did. But soon he returned, remarried, and had a large and adoring family.

Colonel of the "Rough Riders" and Governor of N.Y.

In the New York State Legislature he became one of the leaders of the progressive movement within the Republican Party and was therefore something of a thorn in the side of the "Establishment" as it would be called nowadays.  When William McKinley was elected President of the United States, he appointed T.R. as the Assistant Secretary of
the Navy. But when war broke out with Spain over Cuba and the
Philippines, he promptly resigned his post and raised a regiment to go and fight in Cuba (left) as Colonel of the "Rough Riders". With their brave charge up San Juan Hill, T.R. became the most famous man in America.  And he returned to such great acclaim that he was elected Governor of New York. But the establishment party bosses didn't like his progressive political ways - seeking out corruption, supporting child labor
laws, and they wanted to get rid of him.

President and Former President

So Republican Party Boss Mark Hanna arranged to have T.R. kicked upstairs into the safe oblivion of the Vice Presidency.  But often the best-laid plans can go terribly astray.  And in this case they certainly did as McKinley wound up getting assassinated ( ). And "that damned cowboy" as Boss Platt derisively called him took over as the new President!!

T.R.'s reformist policies, breaking up big financial and commercial monopolies - particularly Standard Oil and the railroads left the party bosses fuming, T.R. was nevertheless wildly popular with the voters, so he was resoundingly re-elected in 1904. But his hasty promise not to run again in 1908 left him a lame duck for four years.  But that didn't stop him from setting aside huge amounts of America's wilderness and wildlife areas as National Parks and wildlife refuges. And this he did to the vast irritation of the rich men who wanted to develop these areas
for logging, and tourist attractions. Ultimately though, he was obliged by his promise not to run again to hand over the office of President to his large friend William Howard Taft (right). But Taft did not continue T.R.'s reforming ways. This resulted in a split between the two, with T.R. running for the Republican nomination for President. But the party bosses kept the nomination from him.  So T.R. angrily formed a new party to run against Taft AND the Democratic nominee, Woodrow Wilson, thus handing the prize to Wilson.

World War I Takes its Toll

I have already detailed in "T.R.. is Shot" (listed above) how there are some who believe that T.R.. had actually hoped to die from the would-be assassin's bullet during the 1912 campaign. Indeed, some of the things he said about it left the impression that "Black care" was catching up with T.R.. When World War One broke out in August of 1914 and America was finally drawn in April 1917 Roosevelt's sons joined the fight. All had done well but his youngest son Quentin who had gone into the Air Service was shot down on  July 14, 1918. It was the blow that broke his heart. Here was a man who from his days as Colonel of "the Rough Riders" had spoken of war as this great moment for a man to prove himself and be heroic, and had clearly passed that along to his sons, now felt partly responsible for his youngest son's
death. He wrote privately: "To feel that one has inspired a boy to conduct that has resulted in his death has  a pretty serious side for a father." And sure enough, on January 6, 1919, less than six months after Quentin's death, Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep. "Black care" had finally caught up with him.

Sources =

"The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt" by Stefan Lorant, Doubleday & Co. Inc. Garden City,
New York, 1959

"T.R." - the American Experience, Prod. & Dir. by David Grubin, Written by David Grubin and
Geoffrey C. Ward. PBS Home Video, 1996.