John Hay

“. . . A little after midnight as I was writing . . . , the President came into the office laughing, with a volume of Hood’s works in his hand to show Nico[lay] & me the little Caricature ‘An unfortunate Bee-ing,’ seemingly utterly unconscious that he with his short shirt hanging about his long legs & setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich was infinitely funnier than anything in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is. Occupied all day with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army of the world, with his own fame & future hanging on the events of the passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple bonhomie & good fellow ship that he gets out of bed & perambulates the house in his shirt to find us that we may share with him the fun. . . . ”

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http://www.library.brown.edu

The short young man whose 1862 cabinet card showed him to be even younger was foremost a writer.  His diary entries, like the one above, and poems attest to it.  A long biography of our most revered president which he co-authored quickly sold 5,000 copies.  After becoming a top government official in later life, he must have thought himself a bad luck charm, because four chief executives whom he worked for were assassinated. He was John Hay.

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John’s Uncle Milton worked next door to Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, and asked his nephew to work on the 1860 campaign.  Just a few years older than Lincoln’s son Robert, Hay became a favorite with the president-elect and was hired as a second secretary, in addition to John Nicolay.  Because there was only room in the budget for one position, his official paycheck came from the Agriculture Department.
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One biographer has called him the “court jester” of the administration, as he could supply a little humor to soften the hard blows of the Civil War.  “Now John, just tell that thing again,” Lincoln said once when his young friend had brought up a joke.  They would ride together in the afternoon and dine at the Soldiers’ Home in the evening.
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After Lincoln’s death Hay returned to journalism and worked for newspapers.  He married a girl from a wealthy Cleveland family, Clara Stone, and so had no financial worries thereafter.  For twenty years, with their diaries and private papers loaned to them by Robert Lincoln, he and Nicolay collaborated on the biography.  When it came out in 1895 it was sold door to door, a common practice then, and became an immediate classic.
 About the same time the ten-volume biography was published, John Hay built a mansion in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park at the corner of H and 16th Streets.  It was adjacent to his best friend’s place of equivalent architecture and cost.  He and Henry Adams hosted a salon of the most interesting people in the capital, including Theodore Roosevelt, who’d been a family friend to both before his fast-rising career in politics.
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Hay was Secretary of State under William McKinley and was asked to remain when Roosevelt inherited the top position.  He famously referred to the Spanish-American conflict as “a splendid little war,” owing to its brief length.  The achievement he is remembered for is the Open Door Policy for all nations to trade with China.

Picture of John Hay

John Hay died in 1905 at age 66.  On the occasion of Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration earlier in the year, he’d presented the president with a gold ring containing a strand of Abraham Lincoln’s hair.  He felt a responsibility to share what he’d experienced, stating in the introduction to Abraham Lincoln: A History, “The young men who have been born since Sumter was fired on have right to all their elders know of the important events they came too late to share.”
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At dinners at the Soldiers’ Home during the Civil War, Lincoln liked to read from Shakespeare’s Richard II.  Hay remembered that the terrible outbreak of grief and despair had a particular fascination for him:
“For heaven’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings
All murdered from within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples…”
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(The site of the H. H. Richardson mansions close to the White House is now occupied by the posh Hay-Adams Hotel, in which original paneling from Hay’s home may be seen in a meeting room. Theodore Roosevelt’s gold ring is on display at the Sagamore Hill Historic Site in Oyster Bay, Long Island.)
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Saturday in the Park, Part 2

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We were cautioned by a ranger in the road not to stop the car, but were allowed to slow it down.  Visible among the pine trees for a moment was a mother grizzly followed by two cubs, their silver fur glinting in the sun.  I had to blink to believe I really saw them.

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Another animal I’d not seen before was the bighorn sheep.  We found some over by Roosevelt Lodge (Tower Falls), in the same area TR did in his visit in 1903.

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Bison are beautiful.  The babies like to jump and dance in the evening.

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Guess you’re never too young to play!

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A raven drops in to see the black wolf the photographers are lined up for in Lamar Valley.

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Iconic elk rest peacefully on ledges of iconic Mammoth Hot Springs.

After an expedition to Yellowstone in 1870 escorted by Captain Doane from Fort Ellis in Montana, members of Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant designated it as our first national park.  The people of the United States would now be able to experience nature in its pristine form, and look forward to their grandchildren doing the same.

In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt made Pelican Island off the coast of Florida a national bird preserve, rapidly setting aside more than 230 million acres for national parks and monuments.  In 1906 the Antiquities Act which he and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot plotted swiped treasure from under the noses of miners, loggers and developers before they could profit from it.  TR said the land could never be improved upon.

This Spring, the Antiquities Act is being tampered with.  Of course, they wouldn’t dare take away any land already preserved just to make someone richer.

Would they?

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Look at these websites for a discussion of recent actions on the Antiquities Act of 1906:

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001

http://www.americanforests.org/blog/new-executive-order-antiquities-act-spell-disaster-fore

The Art of TR

View of sculptures in Theodore Roosevelt library at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

http://www.metmuseum.org 

Remington’s Broncho Buster at home with several other bronzes on the mantel of the North Room at Sagamore Hill.

Two familiar western artists of Theodore Roosevelt’s lifetime, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, were intermingled with the twenty-sixth president’s life as cowboy and lover of nature and history.

A sick, asthmatic boy, “Teedie” read The Leatherstocking Tales while resting indoors.  Living on the frontier appealed to his imagination and sense of adventure.  He yearned to be a western hero like the characters in the books.

So as an adult, he bought a ranch in Dakota Territory and roughed it himself (albeit as the cowhands’ boss).  Then he began to write about it.  Theodore Roosevelt’s Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail was serialized in Century Magazine in the late 1880s, and he hand-picked Frederick Remington for the illustrations.

The National Gallery of Art, “Stampede by Lightning”

Remington lived most of his 48 years in New York.  He attended Yale and was drawn to the romance of the west, working on ranches and in saloons for a time.

Douglas Brinkley says in his massive volume Wilderness Warrior (HarperCollins 2009) “To Roosevelt, at least before the Spanish-American War, Remington (who’d once herded sheep) was a plebian, not fit to share a private club.”  The artist was assigned by William Randolph Hearst to cover the Rough Riders in 1898.

And after the brief war, the volunteer soldiers presented their colonel with Remington’s The Broncho Buster while mustering out on Long Island.  He tells in his autobiography how touched he was at the gesture.

Remington also wrote his own novel of the west, John Ermine of Yellowstone, in 1902 along with 30 illustrations.  Roosevelt liked his description of roaming Crow tribes.  “It may be true that no white man ever understood an Indian…but you convey the impression of understanding him!”

Two years before the artist’s death during an appendectomy, Roosevelt said that he had done “real work” for this country and Americans owed him a debt of gratitude. “He is, of course, one of the most typical American artists we have ever had, and he has portrayed a most characteristic yet vanishing part of American life…”

In 1888, Century Magazine published a series of articles about the West written by Roosevelt and illustrated by Remington. In a May article, Roosevelt told the story of his daring capture of three thieves who had stolen a boat from his Elkhorn Ranch. Remington depicted their capture in this painting.

Remington’s 1888 illustration for Century Magazine, accompanying TR’s story of chasing boat thieves in North Dakota.

The president also said, “The soldier, the cowboy and rancher, the Indian, the horses and the cattle of the plains, will live in his pictures and bronzes…for all time.”

L164 RUSSELL Cowboy on a bay horse

http://www.cmrussell.org

Charles M. Russell, on the other hand, was born in St. Louis and lived his adult life in Montana, providing drawings and paintings for authors Bret Harte, Owen Wister and Roosevelt.

Iconic were the ones of dying cattle on ranches in the severe blizzards of 1887.  Skulls, ribs, skin and bones.  Devastation, starvation.  And the ruin of many cattle operations, including Roosevelt’s.

Correspondence between Roosevelt and Russell is housed at libraries around the country.  On the occasion of the loss of the Progressive Party in 1912, Russell relays to his friend the disappointment felt by the school children of Great Falls.

Guardian of the Herd 1899 By Charles M Russell - Oil Paintings & Art Reproductions - Reproduction Gallery

http://www.reproduction-gallery.com “Guardian of the Herd”

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http://www.wikipedia.org

The Freer Gallery was built in Washington, D.C. in 1906 because Theodore Roosevelt, pounding on his executive desk, demanded the United States accept a large collection of art (including oriental paintings and the famous Peacock Room by James M. Whistler) and half a million dollars for the building to house it.  Smithsonian officials had been dragging their feet.

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                                                                             Remington, Russell, Roosevelt

TR established by Executive Order 1010 the Council on Fine Arts, a federal agency, in 1909.  President Taft replaced it with the Commission on Fine Arts the next year.

When Roosevelt saw works of cubism early in the Twentieth Century, he exclaimed “This isn’t art!”  Art was life to him, and life, especially among the landscape, people and animals of western plains and mountains, was never abstract.  It was real.

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The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, has an extensive collection of Remington and Russell art, which may be browsed at http://www.amoncartermuseum.org.

Prezzercize

As I sat back in the recliner thinking once more about how to maintain an exercise regimen in the year to come, I was interested in how presidents have kept fit throughout history.  Most of them did nicely, which is not surprising considering they had to stay active to deal with demands of the office.

Early leaders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson developed the skill and coordination of excellent horsemen.   A few years later, John Quincy Adams swam (naked) in the Potomac River every morning, long before it was known that this was the ultimate cardiovascular exercise.

Abraham Lincoln, who grew up guiding a horse plow and splitting wood rails for fences, once used his strong arms to throw a heckler out of a political rally.

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http://www.mentalfloss.com

Theodore Roosevelt overcame his childhood frailty in the arid west as a hand on his own ranch.  He was always active in boxing, and led other dignitaries on point-to-point walks in Rock Creek Park.  One time he asked a French ambassador, when they took off their clothes to cross the river, why he did not remove his gloves.  “Why Mr. President,” he exclaimed, “We might meet ladies!”

William Howard Taft may not be remembered as athletic because of his weight and the famous custom bathtub installed in the White House, but he later trimmed 100 pounds off his frame and lived a long life as a Chief Justice.  He liked golf and tennis.  TR had cautioned him not to be photographed playing, however, because it might make him look too upper-class.

Herbert Hoover playing Hoover-ball on the White House lawn, February, 1933. Photo 1033-16A

http://www.hoover.archives.gov

Probably the most interesting game played by a president was named after him.  Hooverball, invented by doctor, involved two teams tossing an eight-pound medicine ball over a net every morning during the Depression.  It would have much easier for Herbert Hoover than tackling the plight of Americans at the time.

Franklin Roosevelt developed his upper body strength by pulling ropes to hoist the elevator up and down, sitting in a wheelchair, at his home.  He was also a swimmer.  Harry Truman took 120 steps per minute during his mile and a half daily walks.  This was the World War I marching pace, which would make any Fitbit happy.

Dwight Eisenhower played football for the United States Military Academy, once tackling legendary Native American star Jim Thorpe.  John Kennedy played football with his family members until his weak back prevented it.  Concerned about flabby citizens of the 1960s, he initiated a nationwide fitness program and commissioned the recording of “Chicken Fat” still used in schools today.

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http://www.geraldfordfoundation.org

At the top of the list of fit presidents is Gerald Ford, despite his reputation for being clumsy.  That was because his knees had been used up as a football player for the champion University of Michigan Wolverines.  He turned down offers from the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, and later settled for playing golf.

Ronald Reagan was a high school lifeguard who saved over 70 people from drowning.  When president he stepped up body building with specially-designed workouts after he was shot, and even wrote a fitness article for Parade Magazine.  “In my view, every exercise program should have an outdoor element to it – whether jogging, bicycling, skiing, hiking, or walking.  I prefer horseback riding and, whenever possible, hard manual labor at the ranch,” he said.

A portrait of an adolescent George H.W. Bush and a teammate in their baseball uniforms. Bush was the captain of the baseball team at Phillips Academy, where he attended from 1937 to 1942.

http://www.time.com

The George Bushes also head the fit list, with the father a high school baseball captain and a serious runner.  Dubya runs and cycles yet today.  Bill Clinton famously jogged, as Barack Obama loves to play pickup basketball games off backboards on the old Taft tennis court.

Warren G. Harding was probably in the worst shape of all of our presidents: boozing, smoking and sitting still.

Donald Trump?  His idea of burning calories is sweating in a crowded room.  He sleeps four hours a night and skips breakfast.  What will the President’s Council on Physical Fitness do about that?  It may just have to be the Council on Physical Fitness for the next four years.

I will have to slim down to give him an example.

Left to Us

After Theodore Roosevelt’s brief funeral service in January 1919,  mourners followed pallbearers up a steep grade to the burial place in Oyster Bay, Long Island.  The American flag was askew on the coffin, as Theodore’s clothes often were.  Today there are twenty-six steps on the hill, one for every president until him.  Descendants say one of their uncles used to make them recite the presidents from Washington to TR as they walked up.

We toured Youngs Cemetery on the day after the annual Theodore Roosevelt Association meeting.  Theodore and Edith, as well as many of their family members, rest here.  Since it was two days after the 158th anniversary of his birth, we were able to see the wreath from the White House.  Did you know the sitting president sends one to all former presidents’ graves on their birthdays?

Close by is the first national Audubon bird sanctuary.  Theodore’s cousin, Emlen, donated fifteen acres to honor the president’s efforts in saving America’s wildlife and their habitats.  When they were boys, the two had had their own little nature collection, the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History,” in their bedrooms.  Only it wasn’t so small, growing to about 1,000 specimens!  Now people of all ages come to enjoy the same peaceful woodsy surroundings, watch birds, and learn about things Theodore loved all of his life.  Four hundred children a month attend camps here during the summer.

We watched as a group of kids learned about turtles in the crisp autumn air.  Certainly Theodore would have liked the program when he was their age.  When he grew up, he set aside almost a quarter of a billion acres of America’s land into national parks and sanctuaries so our children, and children’s children, would be able to see them.  He left to us an amazing gift.  It is left to us to continue conserving it.

The Stars of Sagamore Hill

Last weekend my husband and I crunched on falling leaves over an expansive lawn to a special open house.  We’d been invited to tour Sagamore Hill, the home of President Theodore Roosevelt on Long Island, recently renovated over a three-year period.

The 28-room Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1884.  Theodore’s first wife Alice had just died, but his sister urged him to carry out plans for it overlooking the bay so his little daughter would have a place to call home.  Eventually, so did second wife Edith and five more children.

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From the wide veranda the family had an unobstructed view of the water.  Since their time trees have grown to block it.  The family especially enjoyed adventures outdoors with friends and cousins, including young Eleanor Roosevelt.

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Mrs. Roosevelt’s drawing room is decidedly different from the others in the home, but a polar bear rug presented to her by Admiral Peary does warm the floor boards.

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The family’s 8,000 books were carefully wrapped and stored during the renovation.  Sagamore Hill’s furniture and possessions were left virtually intact when Edith Roosevelt died in 1948.  The property was given to the Roosevelt Memorial Association and later to the National Park Service.

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An owl from TR’s amazing bird collection watches over the third floor gun room, where he liked to write.  Below, in the North Room addition of 1904, are momentos of the Roosevelt presidency.  The large book on the table was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany before World War 1.

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Chairs in drafty rooms often have a throw or two over their backs.  Usually they don’t include tails, though.

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A perfect end to the visit was sitting on a rocking chair on the porch, watching the flag wave against the sunset.

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Plain Jane

The last several years I taught fifth grade we had a wax museum in which each student researched a famous American and culminated the project portraying that person in costume.  We organized a giant timeline around the school, and children in the younger grades came to see and talk with those who figured mightily into American History.

To give them an idea of what to do, I presented the story of Jane Addams.  She isn’t as well-known as first lady Abigail of the previous century, and her name is spelled differently, but she had a great deal of positive influence in her time.  Last week I had the chance to re-enact her life again for a class I volunteer with, and was reminded of just how great a person she was.

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http://www.swarthmore.edu

Born just before the start of the Civil War, Jane came from a well-to-do family; her father was a miller, farmer and banker who also served in the Illinois state legislature.  He was a good friend of Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln would write, “Dear Mr. Double D’d Addams,” in letters to him.

She didn’t have an easy childhood, though.  Her mother died when she was two.  She contracted Pott’s Disease, tuberculosis of the spine, and was teased by other children for her funny way of walking.  One day she told her father she was going to build a big house in the middle of the small ones in town so she could help the people in the neighborhood.  And that is precisely what she did.

After graduating from college, unusual for a woman in those days, she studied medicine until her own health forced her to drop out.  She traveled in Europe extensively.  A visit to Toynbee Hall in London prompted her to recreate the settlement house on the Near West Side of Chicago in 1889.  With part of her inheritance from her father, she rented Hull-House and fixed it up.

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http://www.mediapfeifer.edu

From the beginning, Hull-House was all about educating Italian, German, Greek, Polish and Bohemian immigrants in the neighborhood.  Jane initiated day care for working mothers.  She established an art gallery and theatre.  Then a public kitchen, gymnasium, book bindery and sewing room.  Frank Lloyd Wright and Susan B. Anthony were among many guest speakers.

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http://www.swarthmore.edu

To fund all this in the days before government social programs, Jane spoke to wealthy patrons.  She lobbied for better working conditions in factories and against child labor.  She was elected to the school board and served as garbage inspector, to help clean up nasty conditions that attracted rats to tenemant back yards.

Jane Addams’ first book, Twenty Years at Hull House, was widely read, and in 1912 she was the first woman to give a presidential nomination speech, for Theodore Roosevelt, in Chicago.  They had similar views on reform, but split a few years later in the issue of going to war.  Jane helped found the Women’s Peace Party, vehemently voicing her opinion that America should not participate in the Great War in Europe.  She believed it would only be more destructive to the lower class.  It goes without saying she campaigned for women’s right to vote, and was able to benefit from the 19th Amendment herself in 1920, unlike her friend Susan Anthony, who did not live long enough to vote.

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http://www.ramapo.edu

In 1931 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American woman recipient.  Peace was not just the absence of war, she said, but the presence of justice.  Four years later she passed away from cancer.

Today you can visit Hull-House Museum on Halsted Street at the entrance of the University of Illinois – Circle Campus.  The only building left of a once-thriving mega help center, it is a testament to what one person can do.  We can only try to follow, in whatever small ways, the example she left.