Sunday, February 18, 2007

Theodore Roosevelt and NYC

In Honor of Presidents Day, I'm going to be covering two Presidents who have been influential in NYC History. I'm going to be covering it in a three part post. Please feel free to add to the discussion.

Though there have been a number Presidents born in New York State (Van Buren, Fillmore, Franklin D. Roosevelt) only one President has the distinction of being born in New York City. Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 27, 1858 and lived at The Roosevelt House located at 28 East 20th Street for a period of 13 years. With his graduation from Harvard University in 1880 Teddy Roosevelt decided to enter the realm of politics. As a member of the Republican Party, he was elected to The New York State Assembly serving three consecutive one-year terms (One of them as Minority Leader).

Though he lost the New York City mayoral election of 1886 (At the tender age of 28) he gradually became involved in national politics. Having served as The Commissioner of the U.S. Civil Service, Teddy returned to the City of his birth. On May 6, 1895, New York City Mayor William Strong appointed Teddy Roosevelt as the President of New York City’s 4 man Board of Police Commissioners.

Many of his goals as the President of the Board included:

- The Elimination of Bribery for Promotion
- The Enforcement of all laws by Policemen
- The Enforcement of the “Blue Laws” Prohibiting Sunday Drinking

Through his policies (Especially the Blue Laws) turned the once popular Teddy Roosevelt into a reviled figure almost overnight. Through the scheming of the power holding Tammany Hall and other political figures, Teddy Roosevelt looked for an escape. He would eventually find his escape in the form of an appointment to the position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President William McKinley in 1897.

Though he never succeeded in completing all of his goals, he was able to introduce to the police force the bicycle force and mandatory pistol shooting practice. Though he lost his fight against the vices of New York City, his greatest success may have been his introduction to the plight of the poor segments of society that helped to shape many of his Progressive views and later policies.

Teddy Roosevelt would eventually resign his post as The Assistant Secretary of the Navy to lead the Rough-Riders in the newly declared war on Spain. Upon his return to New York City after the war, he was asked to run for Governor of New York, which he narrowly won. Though his time in office was brief, he alienated most of his party mate within the Republican Party. With his nomination to the ticket of the Vice Presidency with William McKinley, it was deemed by his state’s party machine that he would no longer be a problem of theirs. Though it seemed like the best thing at the time, Teddy Roosevelt would eventually ascend to the highest political office of all with the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.

1 comment:

FHPromos said...

There is a new book written by Edward P. Kohn called Hot Time in the Old Town: The Great Heat Wave of 1896 and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt. Kohn is currently a professor at Bilkent University in Ankhara, Turkey.

The book focuses on the Heat Wave of 1896 where nearly 1,500 people were killed within a 10-day period and the attempts that the City of New York and Theodore Roosevelt (as Police Commissioner) to alievite the conditions faced by the citizenry. It was here that some of the foundations for the upcoming social reforms of the Progressive Era were lain.