February 20: Roosevelt Kinsmen and Family Histories; Gridiron Jokes

The family history behind a Roosevelt betrayal, Woodrow Wilson shuns Wall Street while Roosevelt Jr. finds a job there, and what makes Washington D.C. laugh.

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The family history behind a Roosevelt betrayal, Woodrow Wilson shuns Wall Street while Roosevelt Jr. finds a job there, and what makes Washington D.C. laugh. (Click here for an introduction to The 1912 Project; click here for previous installments.) 

Battle for California With all the attention on Theodore Roosevelt's big speech in Columbus tomorrow, where he's expected to sound like a presidential candidate without actually declaring himself one, there's not much actual news on the campaign trail today aside from his travel plans. As The Pittsburg Press dutifully reports, "Col. Roosevelt will be here at 6 o'clock tonight in a private car attached to the regular Pennsylvania train. He will reach Columbus at 10 o'clock tomorrow and will while there be the guest of Rev. Dr. Washington Gladding. He expects to start back for New York at 3 o'clock over the New York Central." But there is a bit of action out on the Pacific Coast. It's no secret that California Gov. Hiram Johnson, who had backed La Follette, is a Roosevelt supporter. He has been in New York for weeks and was a member of the lunch party at The Outlook's offices last week, so his statement in today's New York Times pledging California progressives to the ex-President does not come as a surprise. But it's clear in its political calculus behind the Roosevelt boom: Democratic victory against Taft or a Republican win with Roosevelt? "Shall the people rule, and shall Roosevelt, their choice, be nominated," reads Johnson's statement, " or shall Republicans court certain defeat by the nomination of one whose trusteeship has wrecked the party?"

Impressive stuff. But it may be timed to take a bit of the sting from yesterday's announcement that Col. Charles Mifflin Hammond, who The New York Times describes as "a brother-in-law of Col. Roosevelt," had predicted that California would go for Taft. The Times adds, "Representative Nicholas Longworth, Col. Roosevelt's son-in-law, on his return from a trip to Oyster Bay, has taken the same course." You might expect such close relatives to be on Roosevelt's side in the race, but The Times doesn't go into details for the intra-family political split. Hammond's statement only praises Taft, except for this slight dig: "California can be and will be carried for him. Statements to the contrary are misleading and designed for the effect they may have elsewhere."

To understand why Hammond and Longworth aren't rooting for Roosevelt you need some family history. In 1880, just after graduating from Harvard, Roosevelt married 19-year-old Alice Hathaway Lee (shown on the left of this photo) of a prominent Boston banking clan. Four years later, and two days after the birth of their first child, a daughter they named Alice, his young wife died of kidney failure. That same day -- Valentine's Day, as it happened -- and in the same house, Roosevelt's mother Martha also died, of typhoid fever. Roosevelt was devastated by the losses, and his response was to nearly eliminate the memory of his wife from his life. He sent his infant daughter Alice to be raised by his sister Anna (nicknamed "Bamie," on the right of the photo) and decamped for the Badlands of North Dakota for his frontier spell in which he published several books and hunted horse thieves with Deadwood sheriff Seth Bullock, cementing his public image as a bear-hunter and cowboy. But not before rekindling a romance with his childhood sweetheart Edith Kermit Carow. When he returned from the West, they were married in 1886 and went on to have five children, the first, Theodore Jr.. in 1887. He nearly never spoke of his first wife again and the relationship with his first daughter was strained. (When she asked him about her mother, he sent her to talk with his sister Bamie)

Alice Roosevelt (that is her up top, in a 1903 portrait; in 1912 she has just celebrated her 28th birthday), went on to marry Nicholas Longworth, a Republican Congressman from Cincinatti. Out in California, the Longworths were frequent visitors of her aunt, sister of her dead mother, Harriet Payne Lee, who had married Charles Mifflin Hammond. No one made a secret that they were family of the former President, but it's easy to spot some strain in some of their press clips. For instance, see this little social item in a 1907 issue of the magazine Automobile Topics Illustrated:

When Mrs. Nicholas Longworth and Congressman Longworth started from the Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, for a visit to Lake County, California, Mrs. Longworth wore a tan motoring coat of English make and fitting closely. Her hat was black, the sides being drawn together by a flairing veil of a pale lavender color. Congressman Longworth wore a business suit, a straw hat and a motoring coat. The Longworths traveled to Lake County to visit Mrs. Charles Mifflin Hammond, a sister of Mrs. Longworth's mother, the first Mrs. Roosevelt.

If Taft wanted to recruit members of the Roosevelt clan to his side, the Longworths and Hammonds are not a bad place to start.

Wall Street Bound Hey, speaking of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., there was news of him in the business pages of The New York Times, underneath crop report, over the weekend. He's giving up the carpet and rug business and about to "join the army of finance" as a bond salesman at the Wall Street firm of Bertron, Griscom & Jenks. "He would not discuss his reasons for abandoning the carpet manufacturing business," The Times reports. Politically connected sons have been getting rich in finance for ages, but considering the walloping that Wall Street a/k/a the Money Trust has been taking from progressives, it's a curious career change for someone carrying the name of a nascent presidential candidate.

To get a sense of just how sensitive the Wall Street issue is, consider the Wilson-Watterson-Harvey scandal that transfixed the political-media elite in January. For years, Woodrow Wilson had been championed as a presidential candidate by Harper's Weekly, edited by Col. George Harvey, with his name printed on the masthead of every issue. In December 1911, though, Wilson's name disappeared from the magazine, leading the press to start asking questions about what was behind the split. Eventually Col. Henry Watterson, the founder of the Louisville Couier-Journal and another Democratic power broker, was dragged in as the papers soon filled with reports about their private meetings and correspondence, while Wilson opponents started questioning his fitness for office if he couldn't put the matter to rest diplomatically. After weeks of a full-blown media scandal, though, Wilson finally stumbled on a way to turn the matter to his advantage: he blamed Wall Street. Specifically, a Wall Street financier named Thomas F. Ryan who had resigned from a whole host of companies he controlled after some controversy in 1906. Harvey and Watterson wanted him to back the Wilson campaign, but Wilson thought it was a bad idea. As Watterson put it in a statement published in The New York Times on Jan. 30 (one of many issued by all sides): "Fancy a political promoter refusing money from anywhere or anybody! But when I spoke to Gov. Wilson about it, he said some uncivil things of Mr. Ryan expressing fear that if the knowledge of such a contribution got abroad it might do more harm than good." The narrative of Wilson refusing to be associated with Wall Street stuck and no less an authority than William Jennings Bryan gave Wilson his populist blessing the next day. "In the Harvey-Watterson episode so far Mr. Wilson is helped rather than hurt," he told reporters at a Dallas dinner, adding "A shining illustration that Mr. Wilson is the best modern example of Saul of Tarsus. He has been soundly converted."

Political Humor Doesn't Live Forever Need evidence that no one will laugh at political jokes a hundred years after they're told? The famous Gridiron Club dinner for politicians and the reporters that cover them was held on Saturday, and the Associated Press report from the festivities makes absolutely no sense to anyone but political insiders. There was apparently lots of food, drink and a beauty crowned Miss Democracy, songs, and lots of jokes. We'll give you this account of the closing number to give you a taste of what cracks up Washington:

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