Summer intern Carla from New York shares her insight on themes from Roosevelt's 1912 presidential campaign.
While working on the letters written by candidate Theodore Roosevelt's secretarial team during the 1912 presidential campaign I have come across several themes that resonate with the 2012 presidential campaign. This letter in particular, warning against the involvement of religious movements in political campaigns, struck me as being timely one hundred years after it was written.
Letter from Secretary of Theodore Roosevelt to Fanny Morris Smith, September 19, 1912. From Library of Congress Manuscripts Division.
I find the varying tones in the secretarial team's responses very interesting. They answered a lot of letters each day. Some have a professional tone, perhaps written by Frank Harper. Others sound rather impatient in their responses to requests upon Theodore Roosevelt's time, perhaps written by an assistant secretary, or at the end of a tiring day.
The personal connection the constituents felt toward Roosevelt in the days when print media was the main source of information is strong. The multiple requests for Roosevelt to make financial contributions to causes of all sorts are to be expected of a public figure. There are also requests for Roosevelt to come to speak at organizations of all sizes during his campaign tour. The secretarial team explains the logistics of putting together a speaking tour, particularly the advance planning -- even though Roosevelt would be passing through a particular town, he was not able to stop. This had to be tactfully handled in order to avoid offending a potential voter.
Another theme of the constituent letters is keeping Roosevelt informed of unfavorable press written about him during the 1912 campaign. In those cases the secretarial team give detailed information for the constituents to use to refute the bad press. Women, even though they were not able to vote in the presidential election, are treated in the same way as the men. Another case of not offending constituents, the non-voting ones could have influence over potential votes.
Carla Lesh earned her Ph.D. from University at Albany, State University of New York in United States History with a M.A. in Public History. She researches women's use of automobiles in the early twentieth century and enjoys old newspapers, letters and photographs, especially when they are digitized and conveniently online.