February 29: Theodore Roosevelt Said Yes!; Paparazzi at Harvard

After a week-long media frenzy, Roosevelt finally admitted the obvious — he's running for President — but the candidate and the reporters trailing his every move, including a stop by Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club, are getting on each other's nerves.

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After a week-long media frenzy, Roosevelt finally admitted the obvious — he's running for President — but the candidate and the reporters trailing his every move, including a stop by Harvard's Hasty Pudding Club, are getting on each other's nerves. (Click here for an introduction to The 1912 Project; click here for previous installments.)

It's been obvious for weeks, but now it's official: former President Theodore Roosevelt is trying to unseat his successor, current President William Taft. The news was made official on Sunday night in a letter handed out to reporters at The Outlook offices (Roosevelt himself was up in Boston) which had a simple declaration: "I will accept the nomination for President if it is tendered to me, and I will adhere to this decision until the convention has expressed its preference."

But do not discount the amount of energy expended by the press getting to this point of Roosevelt's candidacy. Right after Roosevelt's big speech in Columbus, Ohio, in which he laid out his progressive platform, a report spread across the nation and world's papers that Roosevelt had told a local politician, "My hat's in the ring. You will have my answer on Monday." (Probably much to the pleasure of that local politician, W.F. Elrick, whose name does not appear to have survived into the search-indexed age aside from this anecdote.) Once back in New York, The New York Times caught up with Roosevelt and published a pretty thorough tick-tock of the story, but only after chasing Roosevelt through Grand Central:

Col. Roosevelt did not either affirm or deny the story, but when a reporter attempted to show it to him as he was hurrying from the train to a taxicab at the Grand Central Station he said he had heard of the interview.

"I tell you I have absolutely nothing to say," he burst out shortly.

If that sounds testy, that's because there's a certain love-hate dynamic building between the candidate and the press corps trailing him. A running theme of the reports over the last few days has been the snippy interactions between Roosevelt and the pack of reporters tailing him. When he took the train to Boston on Saturday, The New York Times writes that a scrum was waiting for him at Back Bay Station.

He doffed his hat and bowed smilingly as he worked his way through the jam to the waiting automobile of Edward D. Brandegee of Brookline. Then the Colonel was whisked away into the suburbs at a rate which came dangerously near breaking the speed law. A flotilla of cabs, filled with reporters and camera men, tagged the speeding motor car through the outlying section to the Brandegee home, a huge pile of brick on the side of one of the many hills in Brookline.

Things have not improved during his Boston stay. On Tuesday, Roosevelt lost his temper. In the The New York Times version, Roosevelt "was manifestly angry" during a press conference at the home of a local politician where he denied reports that he had criticized Taft as not being a progressive during a meeting with advisers, but things got worse once he left the house. The whole account is worth quoting at length.

When the ex-President left the Cushing residence for Dr. Sturgis Bigelow's home he was followed by newspaper men in another machine. When the Roosevelt car drew up in front of the Bigelow home, the second car stopped a short distance behind it. Col. Roosevelt walked to the door of the newspaper men's automobile and opened it and protested that he did not consider it necessary for them to follow him all the time, as he was engaged on purely social affairs, and nothing that he might do on his trip to Cambridge would have any political significance. He was told that it was the reporters' duty to their papers to stick by him and they intended to do so. 

The Colonel then left them and went to the Bigelow home, where he remained a short time, and then started for Cambridge, with the reporters in pursuit. When Harvard Square was reached the Colonel turned to enter the portals of the Hasty Pudding Club, when the cameras were again turned upon him. He promptly sought the press taxicab again.

"This is unpardonable," he fairly blurted, "it is unpardonable, I say, to be photographed when I am entering a private club. It must be stopped immediately."

Just at that instant the photographer turned his lens upon him and the Colonel dashed at him.

"If you take my picture I'll break your camera," said the Colonel.

"All up for the scrimmage," said one of the reporters, but the camera man refused to make any fuss, folded up his apparatus disconsolately and walked away. The Colonel then turned sharply about and fled into the clubhouse.

So that might be the hate side of the dynamic. But as the editorial cartoon above depicting celebrating editorial cartoonists, published in the Atlanta Journal, suggests, Roosevelt is also good for copy. He's also good for business. By Feb. 28, the Evening Standard of Ogden, Utah, had already printed a 314-page book of Roosevelt's speeches. "Only subscribers of this paper can have this book for 50 cents. First come, first served."

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