TR and Stephen Crane: A Short-Lived Friendship

Mar 13, 2015

Cambri Spear, Progressive era researcher and recent Utah State University graduate, completes her examination of Theodore Roosevelt and Stephen Crane's friendship.

In October 1896, Crane put his friendship with Roosevelt to the test. Crane agreed to testify on behalf of a girl named Dora Clark who was arrested for soliciting. Crane, who was with Clark the night of her arrest, claimed the arrest to be yet another example of police brutality. With anticipation for the trial hitting national news, Crane stayed with Fredric Lawrence in Philadelphia to escape the publicity. On October 15, Crane participated in the longest trial ever held in New York City where the police department attacked his moral character mercilessly to tarnish the validity of his testimony. The court ultimately exonerated the patrolman who arrested Clark. 

While in Philadelphia, Crane sent a telegram to Roosevelt informing him of his intentions to return to New York to be a witness at Clark’s trial. According to Fredric Lawrence, Crane believed Roosevelt would make sure he “had a square deal.” Roosevelt later claimed, “I tried to save Crane from press comment, but as he insisted on testifying, I could only let the law take its course.” However, Lawrence explains that if Roosevelt had any ability to help save Crane from the slander of the press, “it was never manifest.” 

Though Crane may have expected Roosevelt to have his back, Roosevelt had to “let the law take its course” without intervention to preserve both his own morality and his political career. Roosevelt would later explain in his biography how men must have moral caliber if they will be exposed to the public eye: “no man can lead a public career really worth leading, no man can act with rugged independence in serious crises, nor strike at great abuses… if he is himself vulnerable in his private character.” And Crane proved to be very, very vulnerable. Roosevelt continued to distance his actions from Crane’s even six years after the Dora Clark trial (and two years after Crane’s death). While Roosevelt was reading Crane’s Wounds in the Rain on a train, a friend brought up the Dora Clark trial, arguing that Crane roamed the underbelly of New York for literary research, not personal gratification. Roosevelt became outraged and stated: “Nonsense! He wasn’t gathering any data! He was a man of bad character and he was simply consorting with loose women.”  


Roosevelt, Theodore. The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses. New York: The Century Company, 1902. Google Book Search. Web. 11 Dec. 2014.

Sorrentino, Paul, ed. Stephen Crane Remembered. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2006. Print.

Wertheim, Stanley. A Stephen Crane Encyclopedia. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1997. Print.

Wertheim, Stanley and Paul Sorrentino. The Crane Log: A Documentary Life of Stephen Crane 1871-1900. New York, G.K. Hall &Co., 1994. Print.

---,eds. The Correspondence of Stephen Crane. Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Print.

Posted by Cambri Spear on Mar 13, 2015 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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