Theodore Roosevelt never lived in Arizona. Of course, he passed through the state, appreciated its natural wonders, and basked in the sunshine as many people do. He didn’t call the state home, as he did North Dakota and New York. However, a treasure trove of TR related items resides in the Arizona Historical Society.
Recently, I spent time at the AHS, an institution that is in Tucson, my own hometown. Early this month, I journeyed from North Dakota to Arizona, and I felt like I landed in a place only depicted on the side of orange juice bottles. I photographed the orange trees with their fruit hanging, because they seemed so special in January. My mom picked all of the oranges and made fresh juice. However, North Dakota was never far from my thoughts, just as the Northern Plains stayed close to TR when he traveled.
In the archives I handled original letters from TR to the Greenway and Selmes families. He knew Tilden and Patty Selmes when they lived in Mandan, North Dakota. He cared deeply for them and their family, including daughter Isabella who married Arizona Rough Rider John Greenway. In his letters, TR described the feelings he had for North Dakota and its unique beauty. He wrote about missing the place and how much he valued his time there.
TR believed in the importance of travel and fully experiencing a place. He wanted to embrace every aspect of a location. It wouldn’t have been enough for him to visit southern Arizona in January. He would have wanted to feel the heat of the summer. He probably would have proposed a hike in the desert. He would have camped out in the evenings and learned all of the constellations visible in the night sky.
North Dakota and Arizona may appear to be polar opposites. However, the two states are connected through the items found at the Arizona Historical Society. We hope to incorporate these items into our digital library. As a native Arizonan and an adopted North Dakotan, I am proud to bring the history of both states together.
President Roosevelt mounted for a ride in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, June 1903. From the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection.