As a former student of history education I have a deep appreciation for political cartoons, and I especially like the political cartoons about Theodore Roosevelt. It may sound geeky, but Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite president, and he was such a forceful executive that the political cartoons about him are abundant. The cartoons about Theodore Roosevelt are a fun way for young people to learn about historical events and practice their analytical skills. Even if you are not a student, political cartoons can be a great way to gain insight into the political sentiments of both the present and of the past, and at the very least they are usually entertaining for their gross caricatures of famous politicians.
1 Teddy Bear
You probably already knew this, but the teddy bear was named after Theodore Roosevelt. I should confess that I have a Theodore Roosevelt teddy bear with glasses! There are several stories about the actual event that took place to lead to the creation of the teddy bear. The generally accepted story comes from a hunting trip Roosevelt took in Mississippi. During the trip the hunters were not having any luck, so a few of them decided to catch a bear cub they found and tie it to a tree for the President to shoot. Roosevelt was absolutely horrified at such un-sportsman-like behavior; he was after all a conservationist. He refused to shoot the cub and ordered its release, which resulted in the birth of the teddy bear. Certainly, the cartoons about Theodore Roosevelt and the teddy bear are more endearing than the cartoons about Roosevelt the Imperialist.
Roosevelt was president during the Age of Imperialism, and he definitely subscribed to the imperialist handbook. One of my least favorite characteristics of Roosevelt, and also one of the most intriguing, is his imperialistic tendencies. While he was vice president, the Open Door Policy was initiated, which gave all nations the right to colonize China. He instituted the Roosevelt Corollary, more on that later, and as Vice President and President he had his hand in the U.S. taking control of the Philippines after the Spanish American War of 1898. Unfortunately, I don’t think this cartoon of him riding the world like a cowboy is much of an exaggeration. After all, look at what happened in Panama.
3 Panama Canal
When Roosevelt wanted something he got it. In this sense, he was like a child. Roosevelt wanted to build the Panama Canal, and when the Colombian government refused to give him a 100 year lease on Panama for 10 million dollars he resorted to underhanded dealings. He sent money to Panamanian mercenaries to fund a revolt against Colombia. When Panama won independence from Columbia they signed a treaty granting the U.S. construction of the canal. All this really explains why the cartoonist depicts Roosevelt dumping dirt on Colombia. While the Panama Canal was a success, I don’t think this is one of Roosevelt’s most upstanding accomplishments.
4 Roosevelt Corollary
I didn’t forget about the Roosevelt Corollary. I particularly like this cartoon because it makes Roosevelt look like a big kid playing with his toys, which I suppose is how some people felt about his dealings in the Caribbean and Latin America. The Roosevelt Corollary took the Monroe Doctrine beyond prohibiting colonization of North and South America by Europeans. The corollary prevented the establishment of foreign bases in the Caribbean and allowed the U.S. to intervene in Latin America. So, it is not much of an exaggeration to depict Roosevelt wading in the Caribbean like he owns the place; in one sense he kind of did.
5 Big Stick
You may have noticed the rather large stick Roosevelt was carrying in the last cartoon. That stick shows up in many cartoons, in fact I could have featured only the cartoons that depicted Roosevelt’s big stick and had hundreds to choose from. Roosevelt was famous for saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” I think that saying is the first thing I learned about Roosevelt. His big stick policies were present in the majority of his political undertakings. He would negotiate peacefully, but threaten force. Panama is a good example of this. If you think about it, the U.S. didn’t actually use any force and the treaty was peacefully negotiated. By now you are probably wondering why this bully is my favorite president. You can’t deny he is fascinating and accomplished a lot, even if at times his actions were questionable. Certainly, he acted like a king at times, and earned his crown that the cartoon shows him wearing.
6 Regulation of the Railroads
By far, the regulation of the railroads was one of Roosevelt’s greatest achievements. Prior to regulation, the railroad industry would unfairly grant shipping rebates to big companies. As a president who watched out for the welfare of everyone in the U.S., Roosevelt saw the inequity and decided to act. First, he pushed through the Elkins Act to prohibit shipping rebate, but the railroads found a way around this. So, Roosevelt sought to enhance the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission through the Hepburn Act, which the senate passed after Roosevelt appealed to the U.S. citizens to pressure the senate. Did you see the big stick in the cartoon? Roosevelt was nothing if not consistent.
7 Nomination of 1904
I’m not sure, but this just might be my favorite political cartoon of Teddy Roosevelt. Don’t you just love how he is depicted as an eager kid at Christmas waiting for his present, which he did receive. However, prior to Roosevelt receiving the nomination for re-election in 1904, Mark Hanna privately looked for another candidate. He did not want Roosevelt in the White House again. In fact, he never wanted Teddy in the White House. When McKinley ran with Roosevelt as his vice president, Hanna declared, “There’s only one life between that madman and the Presidency,” and we all know how that turned out.
These political cartoons give a good, if exaggerated, idea of the type of president Roosevelt was. He was aggressive and bold. Hopefully, these political cartoons got you interested in politics and the fun cartoons that poke fun at politicians. Which cartoon was your favorite? Do you have a favorite president?