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Teddy Roosevelt Campaign Bandana

Bandana featuring music score for the campaign song "We Want Teddy," used at a Milwaukee campaign rally for Theodore Roosevelt, 1912.
(Museum object #1970.204)

Do you for progression stand? Vote for Teddy!
And reform in this great land? Vote for Teddy!

These words, part of the lyrics emblazoned on this campaign bandana, reflect the sentiments of Progressives supporting Theodore Roosevelt's third bid for the United States presidency in 1912. It was a momentous campaign, marking the last time in American history that a third-party candidate finished second in a presidential election. Roosevelt's newly formed Progressive party, composed mainly of disgruntled Republicans, pulled enough votes from incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft to award the election to Democratic challenger Woodrow Wilson.

Roosevelt had been a popular Republican president during his two terms in office (1901-1909), and Taft had served as Roosevelt's Secretary of War and was his hand-picked successor as Republican candidate for president in the 1908 election. After Taft's election to office, however, Roosevelt became increasingly disheartened by Taft's perceived abandonment of Roosevelt's policies. Though the two men were friends, Roosevelt decided to seek the Republican nomination for president for a third time when Taft faced re-election in 1912.

The Republican primaries were marred by conflict and chaos, fueled by deep-seated loyalties to both candidates within the party. This atmosphere carried through to the Republican National Convention, held in Chicago in July 1912, where Roosevelt ultimately withdrew his name from nomination after the convention committee refused to seat some of his delegates. He formed a new political party, the Progressives, and a month later he accepted that party's nomination for president. Just prior to the Republican National Convention, a reporter inquired about Roosevelt's general health and well-being, to which Roosevelt replied, "I'm feeling like a bull moose!" The Progressive Party thus earned the nickname the Bull Moose Party.

During the election season, Democrat Woodrow Wilson recognized that the most serious threat to his re-election came from his Progressive rather than from his Republican opponent. Writing to a friend during the campaign, Wilson noted, "I feel that Roosevelt's strength is altogether incalculable. The contest is between him and me, not between Taft and me."

Roosevelt campaigned tirelessly, traveling to 34 states and logging over 10,000 miles. This campaign bandana was used during Roosevelt's campaign stop at the Milwaukee Auditorium on October 14, 1912. Dr. E.J.W. Notz, a dentist and future president of the Wisconsin Archaeological Society, may have attended that speech and obtained this bandana directly from the event. In 1909, the book Memoirs of Milwaukee County had noted of Notz that "in his political relations he is allied with the Republican party." It appears likely that Notz shifted his allegiance from the Republican Party to the Progressive Party to support Roosevelt. Notz donated the bandana to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin just five weeks after the Milwaukee event, on November 17, 1912.

The bandana is printed with a campaign song written in 1912 by Calia Altstarter and Homer A. Rodeheaver, with third and fourth stanzas by Jennie Ree. The music was copyrighted and published by The Rodeheaver Co., Music Publishers, Chicago. A well-known evangelist, the Ohio-born, Tennessee-raised Rodeheaver traveled for twenty years on revival campaigns with fellow evangelist Billy Sunday. He wrote 40-50 songs and popularized many gospel songs written by others. In 1910, Rodeheaver and his brothers founded what would become the world's largest publishing house of gospel music. Rodeheaver was also a veteran of the Spanish-American War, in which Teddy Roosevelt gained fame as a leader of the "Rough Riders" cavalry regiment.

The lyrics of "We Want Teddy" reinforced the popular image of the "Bull Moose" candidate:

Have you heard the people's call? We Want Teddy!
Shouting loud and louder all? We Want Teddy!
We the party boss would lick,
And on robbery we kick
Where's the man with the 'big stick?' We Want Teddy!
Do you for progression stand? Vote for Teddy!
And reform in this great land? Vote for Teddy!
Would you aid the people's cause?
Would you have just, honest laws?
Would you win the world's applause? Vote for Teddy!
He's the man that's got the sand. Stand By Teddy!
And he's bound to sweep the land. Stand by Teddy!
He is fearless, brave and bold,
And the laws he will uphold
For he's straight, and good as gold. Stand by Teddy!
If you want to have some fun. Bank on Teddy!
If you'd see the gangsters run. Bank on Teddy!
He is in a solid boat!
They can scarcely keep afloat
And he's bound to get their goat. Bank on Teddy!

The Milwaukee rally at which this bandana was used was historically significant. On the way to give his speech at the rally, Roosevelt was shot by a would-be assassin. The bullet still in his body, Roosevelt proceeded to give his speech before seeking medical treatment.

Both Wilson and Taft suspended their campaigns for a week while Roosevelt recovered in the hospital from the gunshot wound he had sustained. According to bookmakers at the time, Roosevelt's odds of winning the election improved after the assassination attempt. Despite this "stroke of luck," however, Wilson defeated both Roosevelt and Taft in the general election in November 1912, garnering 6.3 million votes to Roosevelt's 4.1 million and Taft's 3.5 million. Most historians agree that Republicans would have retained control of the White House had Roosevelt not split from the party.

The bandana is on display through November 8 as part of the exhibition, "That's the Ticket: A Parade of Presidential Elections", at the Wisconsin Historical Museum.

[Sources: Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs – The Election that Changed the Country (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); The White House, "Presidents of the United States," available online at www.whitehouse.gov; Watrous, James (ed). Memoirs of Milwaukee County (LaCrosse: Brookhaven Press, 2000); Young, Donald. "Progressive Party," The Encyclopedia Americana (Scholastic Library Publishing, Inc., 2006).]

CLH


Posted on October 02, 2008

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