February 17, 1913; Teddy Roosevelt Reviews the Armory Show

“In this recent art exhibition the lunatic fringe was fully in evidence, especially in the rooms devoted to the Cubists and the Futurists, or Near-Impressionists. I am not entirely certain which of the two latter terms should be used in connection with some of the various pictures and representations of plastic art—and, frankly, it is not of the least consequence.

ArmoryThe Cubists are entitled to the serious attention of all who find enjoyment in the colored puzzle pictures of the Sunday newspapers. Of course there is no reason for choosing the cube as a symbol, except that it is probably less fitted than any other mathematical expression for any but the most formal decorative art. There is no reason why people should not call themselves Cubists, or Octagonists, or Parallelopipedonists, or Knights of the Isosceles Triangle, or Brothers of the Cosine, if they so desire; as expressing anything serious and permanent, one term is as fatuous as another.

Take the picture which for some reason is called “A naked man going down stairs.” There is in my bath-room a really good Navajo rug which, on any proper interpretation of the Cubist theory, is a far more satisfactory and decorative picture. Now if, for some inscrutable reason, it suited somebody to call this rug a picture of, say, “A well-dressed man going up a ladder,” the name would fit the facts just about as well as in the case of the Cubist picture of the “Naked man going down stairs.”

From the standpoint of terminology, each name would have whatever merit inheres in a rather cheap straining after effect; and from the standpoint of decorative value, of sincerity, and of artistic merit, the Navajo rug is infinitely ahead of the picture.”

Source: “A Layman’s Views of an Art Exhibition,” Outlook, 103 (29 March 1913)

August 20, 1908: The Great White Fleet visits Australia

What a “bully” idea! A round the world cruise of 16 modern steel battleships would demonstrate to the entire world that Teddy Roosevelt’s America was now a global power – willing and ready to show the flag in any ocean, anywhere. The hulls would be painted white – the Navy’s peacetime color scheme, and the armada would be known as “The Great White Fleet”.auusie2

The fleet sailed from Hampton Roads south to Brazil, through the Straits of Magellan to the Pacific, north to Chile, Peru, and Mexico and on to San Francisco, then across the Pacific to Hawaii and New Zealand, and now they neared Australia. Aboard the flagship Connecticut, Rear Adm. Evans looked out with pride upon the majestic fleet under his command. His ships “were ready at the drop of a hat for a feast, a frolic or a fight”.

Before daylight on August 20th sight-seers steamed out as far as 30 miles off shore to meet the fleet.  By the time the ships reached the headlands of Botany Bay, they enjoyed a huge escort of excursion vessels. From Coogee Bay to Port Jackson harbor, thousands upon thousands of people peered out from the bluffs, the high cliffs, and headlands and cheered across the waters. As soon as the USS Connecticut turned into Port Jackson, the bands struck up “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Half a million people turned out for the arrival – a public holiday was declared and a week-long “Fleet Week” celebration followed. Perhaps the folks Down Under didn’t need the protection of the Crown and the Royal Navy if they had friends like this from the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. The Official Landing was followed by a review at Centennial Park, parades, luncheons, dinners, balls, concerts, theatre parties, boxing, football and baseball matches, a gymkhana,a tug-of-war, fireworks, and a regatta.

For the sailors every moment of every day was filled with so much celebration that it was difficult to keep up. One tar fell asleep on the railroad tracks and got run over by a train. Another sailor fell asleep on a bench in one of Sydney’s parks. Not wishing to be disturbed, he posted a sign above his head which read: “Yes, I am delighted with the Australian people. “Yes, I think your park is the finest in the world.
“I am very tired and would like to go to sleep.”

After a week the fleet sailed to Melbourne for more celebration. The city fathers sponsored a giant official dinner for the sailors, but only a handful showed up – the others all found girls who were eager to personally show them the town.

On September 5th. 1908, fifteen of the battleships of the Great White Fleet sailed out of port. The USS Kansas stayed behind to try to collect the 154 sailors from throughout the fleet who had decided not to return to their ships, but to stay behind with the girls they had met on shore.

August 14, 1925: Four Presidents are Proposed for Mount Rushmore

In 1924 Gutzon Borglum had just been fired from his position carving Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee statue onto Stone Mountain, Georgia for the Ku Klux Klan.

Doane Robinson, the State Historian for South Dakota, had read about Borglum’s efforts at Stone Mountain. He had been envisioning another colossal project to carve the granite outcroppings of the Black Hills into sculptures, which would transform the tall narrow, granite rock formations known as “the Needles” into memorials of mythic American heroes such as Custer, Lewis and Clark, perhaps the Sioux chief Red Cloud.

mt rushmoreAmericans were starting to travel by automobile and this would lure tourists away from Yellowstone National Park and into the Black Hills of South Dakota. When he heard that Borglum was in need of a new project, he sent a letter suggesting “opportunities for heroic sculpture of unusual character”.

Borglum telegrammed back “VERY MUCH INTERESTED IN YOUR PROPOSAL, GREAT SCHEME YOU HAVE; HOLD TO IT, THE NORTH WILL WELCOME IT” and in August of 1925 he travelled to South Dakota to meet with Robinson. He rejected Robinson’s initial “Needles” site, but after some exploration, he found Mount Rushmore (which the Sioux called “Six Grandfathers”) and declared the mountain perfect because it received full exposure to daylight and the stone was of the highest quality.

On August 14, Borglum proposed a “Shrine of Democracy” which would commemorate the founding, expansion, preservation, and unification of the United States with colossal statues of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. All they needed was money.

In the summer of 1927, South Dakota Congressman William Williamson, a champion of the project, convinced President Calvin Coolidge to take a vacation in the Black Hills. President Coolidge was glad to get out of Washington. He arrived in the Black Hills in June and prolonged his three week stay (his hosts kept restocking the trout) into three months. Funding for the project was soon in place.

For the next fourteen years 400 workers carved at Mount Rushmore with dynamite and jackhammers to create “the formal rendering of the philosophy of our government into granite on a mountain peak.” The scale was immense – Washington’s face is 60 feet chin to forehead, his eyes 11 feet wide, his mouth 18 feet wide. The small mole on Lincoln’s face is 16 inches across. Each day the workers climbed to the top of the mountain, then were lowered in “bosun chairs” over the 500 foot face to set off charges and cart away the stone.

It was nerve-wracking and tough and dangerous work, but during the Depression, any job was a good job.

July 1, 1898: “Don, the Dog” leads the Rough Riders up San Juan Hill

don a dogTeddy Roosevelt considered Hamilton Fish one of his closest friends. Ham was captain of his crew at Columbia (and grandson to the Secretary of State) so he fit right in with the other elite college men and the cowboys and ranchers who made up the “Rough Rider” First Cavalry Brigade.When Ham joined the Rough Riders, Teddy gave him a dog named “Don” to keep him company in camp. Don quickly became Ham Fish’s faithful companion and the regiment mascot, accompanying Fish wherever he went.

The United States Army was weak in 1898, still depleted from the Civil War thirty years prior. With minimal logistical support the volunteer Rough Riders made their way from Texas to Cuba. They landed “in a shambles” and then started towards Santiago. The campaign was hot, and the mosquitoes were fierce. Local Cubans brought word that two thousand Spaniards were in Las Guasimas and the brigade made camp.

The time in camp anticipating battle brought the men (and their trusted companions) together. On June 23rd, Ham and Teddy sat in their campground and talked heart to heart.

“I said, ‘Well, Fish, we have all got to die sometime, and after all, we cannot die in a better way,’ and he nodded and said, ‘That is just how I feel, Colonel, and it is one of the reasons that made me come.’”

The next morning Sgt Hamilton Fish took a bullet to his heart; the first American soldier to die in the Spanish American War.

A week later, on July 1st, his remaining comrades, led by TR and Ham’s dog Don, rushed San Juan Hill. Assisted by the overwhelming power of Gatling guns, the Rough Riders seized the hill, which led to the American victory over Spain, and eventually placed the nation among the world’s great powers

TR looked back on his four months in Cuba with more pride and satisfaction than any other time of his life, and lobbied hard to receive the Medal of Honor for his service.

After the war, Don the Dog was adopted by Col. William Wallace, then when Wallace died, Wallace’s physician, a Dr. Hadley looked after him. Don quietly retired to the Quaker town of Whittier, California, until a big touring car containing four persons rounded a corner at a high speed and the old dog, walking quietly along, could not get out of its way.

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