Teddy Roosevelt, Bull Moose Party founder and proponent, was never afraid of a good fight. Because he had assumed his first presidency after the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, his first actual, elected term as president ended in 1909. Believing that his hand-picked successor (William Howard Taft) was the right man for the job, he had decided to leave politics. However, by 1912, Teddy was not pleased with Taft’s policies and actions while in office. In typical Teddy fashion, he decided to fight for what he believed in, and put his name back into the hat. Unhappy with the Republican Party’s behavior at the time, Teddy decided to break away and start his own branch, officially called the Progressive Party of 1912. However, thanks to an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate him – and his speech shortly thereafter – the press deemed it the ‘Bull Moose Party’.
During a Milwaukee, Wisconsin campaign speech for his re-election on October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was shot in the chest in an attempted assassination. The shooter – John Schrank – attributed his failed attempt to the ghost of William McKinley (who had been assassinated 11 years earlier). Apparently, this ghost had ordered Schrank to ‘avenge’ his death, and prevent a ‘third term’ in office by killing Teddy. Fortunately, Roosevelt had a thick sheaf of paper containing his speech, as well as his glasses (made of steel) in his coat breast pocket, which kept the bullet from penetrating to his lung. Minutes after this attempt, he was asked if it would slow or stop his campaign. Keeping in line with his unstoppable character, and his claim to still being “fit as a bull moose”, Roosevelt effectively put an end to any concerns that he would not finish what he had set out to do.
The infamous picture of Teddy Roosevelt on a moose is an undated, uncredited ‘collaged photo’ with copyright currently owned by Corbis since 1995. This photo is part of the Bettmann Collection, which is an assemblage of Dr. Otto Bettmann’s entire life’s work and the United Press International Photo Archive, including more than 19 million photos from all over the world, taken during the 1800s and 1900s. Although there is some controversy surrounding the photo’s authenticity, the fact that it is described by Corbis as ‘collaged’ is a strong indicator that it was created by combining more than one photo to get the resulting image. With differences in lighting, especially regarding Theodore and the moose itself, it could be argued that the image is a combination of photos. In effect, it is a veritable ‘Photoshop’ version of a picture used for campaign purposes, decades before such a thing was known to exist. Regardless of the photo’s composition or photographer, it still stands as a visual reminder of Teddy’s indomitable spirit, and commitment to remain an independent man, in spite of the popular opinion.