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Myth Debunked: Theodore Roosevelt Never Rode a Moose

1910s | March 29, 2017

During his lifetime, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on many adventures that seem like something out of a tall tale - he was able to survive an assassination attack; almost died while exploring the Amazonian jungle; and became the first US president to drive a car and fly in a plane, among many others. Despite his exciting persona, this is one thing that TR never did: ride a swimming moose.

In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt was campaigning as a 3rd party presidential candidate under the newly created Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party. Political cartoonists usually used a moose to illustrate the party’s struggles and flaws. Perhaps one of the most creative illustrations to come out was a collage done by the photography firm Underwood and Underwood, titled “The Race for the White House.”

Published in the New York Tribune on September 8th 1912, Underwood’s humorous triptych features three of the four presidential candidates (only Eugene Debs' illustration is missing): incumbent William Howard Taft astride an elephant, Theodore Roosevelt in the center riding a moose, and Woodrow Wilson riding a donkey.

Underwood seems to have cut out an existing photograph of TR riding a horse, and pasted it onto an image of a swimming moose. If you look closely, you can see that the focus and shadows on TR do not match that of the's moose. Also visible is the white line scratched or painted on the photo to make it look lie a ripple made by TR’s leg in the water.

So while it would be nice to think that TR was able to charm a swimming moose into giving him a ride, unfortunately that was one feat he never did.

H/T Harvard Blog

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