Imagining TR: Commemorations and Representations of Theodore Roosevelt in Twentieth-Century America

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Heth, Jennifer Dawn
Theodore Roosevelt; memory; commemoration; monuments; national identity; masculinity
thesis / dissertation description
By examining monuments and memorials dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt in the twentieth century, this dissertation exposes the commemorators? conscious and unconscious perceptions of masculinity and American identity visible in commemorative statuary. The monuments? patrons and artists adapted the nation?s collective memory of Roosevelt to suit spatial and temporal variables, including their proposed messages, the monuments? geographic and situational locations, along with their intended audiences. This dissertation illustrates how commemorators employed specific incarnations of Roosevelt?s multifaceted personality, from Rough Rider to hunter-explorer to statesman, to produce permanent, prominent, and didactic symbols through which to broadcast their values and ideals to both their contemporaries and future generations of Americans. These monuments are not mere reflections of the eras that produced them, however; they serve as portals into contemporary Americans? sense of self and their understanding of national themes and politics. These visual elements produce evidence not found in textual representations. Over five chapters, this dissertation explores examples of commemorators? efforts to select a representation of Roosevelt and reveals their use of his image as an example of rugged, vigorous masculinity as well as the embodiment of Americanism. The monuments in this dissertation represent a broad geographical area, from Portland, Oregon, on the west coast to Washington, D.C., and New York City on the east coast, with Minot, North Dakota, and Keystone, South Dakota, centrally located in between. The time frame stretches from immediately following Roosevelt?s death in January 1919 through the dedication of the national memorial on Theodore Roosevelt Island in 1967, with most of the commemorative efforts originating in the mid-1920s. Despite the changing historical contexts of the monuments? dedications, these structures illustrate Roosevelt?s continued relevance and the transposibility of his image across decades and geographic spaces. Finally, although the intended audiences may have been local, regional, or national, these monuments all express issues of national significance. Sources examined include newspaper commentary of proposed and constructed monuments; artists? and architects? personal papers, correspondence, and drawings, along with photographs of design models; as well as the materials of the monuments? patrons, particularly personal and government reports, correspondence, and public statements.