Theodore Roosevelt is arguably our most distinctive and quotable president; the pince-nez, walrus mustache, toothy smile, speak softly and carry a big stick, and, of course, Bully! If there was ever a politician that you would want as your advertising spokesman, it would have to be Roosevelt. Sadly, but perhaps fortuitously for history, our 26th president did not grasp this moneymaking possibility as a post-presidential career. This is clearly illustrated by the dramatic decline in popularity of pince-nez style spectacles and the continuing absence of a Bully brand toothpaste.
However, much to his dismay, President Roosevelt could not escape from the advertisers. As stated in a July 27, 1903, letter to writer and educator Brander Matthews, Roosevelt expresses his objection to a Moxie advertisement that features his image as “The Leading Exponent of the Strenuous Life” adjacent to a bottle of Moxie captioned as “The Necessary Support of the Strenuous Life.” Moxie, or Moxie Nerve Food, as it was grandly and most likely dishonestly titled in 1903, was patented in 1885 by Dr. Augustin Thompson and claims to be the first bottled carbonated beverage made in America. Moxie is known for its distinct bitter flavor and maintains a limited commercial availability, particularly in New England where it was named the state drink of Maine in 2005.
The use of Roosevelt’s image without permission was apparently a continuing problem as the Moxie advertisement was “one of a number of such cases.” A protest was lodged against the makers of Moxie, and in a second letter to Matthews, President Roosevelt announces that the “Moxie people” have agreed to remove the “objectionable poster.”
Image: from the Moxie website and this blog article