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Books Sandwiched-In features life of Theodore Roosevelt
Monday, March 25, 2013
The third installment of the American Association of University Women: Books Sandwiched-In 2013 series was held Wednesday at Joseph and Elizabeth Shaw Public Library, Clearfield. David Wulderk presented a review of author Edmund Morris' three-part series on Theodore Roosevelt. The historical presentation in-cluded a focus on Roosevelt's interaction with central Pennsyl-vania.
AAUW member Gwen Fox opened the program by greeting the audience of more than 20 people. Wulderk taught history for 36 years in Moshannon Valley School District and is a member of the Clearfield County Historical Society. Fox recalled how Wulderk took a group of individuals on a tour of various historical sites around the area. She said his interest in history was evident during his presentation on Theodore Roosevelt.
Morris first published a book about Roosevelt, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," in 1979. He then spent several years as President Reagan's authorized biographer before publishing a second book about Roosevelt, "Theodore Rex. Colonel Roosevelt," was published in 2010. Wulderk's presentation summarized the books in the series, each of which divides up Roosevelt's lifetime.
According to Wulderk, Roosevelt was born into a family of "old money." He was sickly, with asthma and poor eyesight; however, he was intelligent and loved nature. When he was 6 years old, he watched President Lincoln's funeral procession from a window. Wulderk said Roosevelt loved being the center of attention and was a prolific writer.
When he was a senior, he fell in love with a woman named Alice Lee, and they were married after he graduated. He was elected to a seat in Albany because he thought things were poor, and rather than complaining, he should get involved in making change. As a reformer, he drove other politicians crazy with his zeal to end corruption.
On Valentine's Day 1884, Roosevelt was advised to return home immediately because his mother was dying and his wife, Alice, who had recently given birth, was dying from complications in childbirth. Roosevelt's mother and wife died five hours apart. Roosevelt is said to have felt as if the "light has gone out of my life."
He escaped out West and worked on a ranch. For the first time in his life, he saw people working very hard for a living. Eventually he got his life back together and returned home. He reconnected with an old friend, quietly married and had five children.
Roosevelt returned to a life in politics and ending corruption. In New York City, he walked the streets at night to check up on police officers. Eventually he won the position of New York governor, and Wulderk described it as if a tornado hit the city. Roosevelt, who wanted badly to enact reform, drove people crazy. One New York senator wanted him out of the state of New York, and asked McKinley to bring him on as vice president. The McKinley/Roosevelt team won election in 1900, but Roosevelt only served as vice president for six months before McKinley was assassinated.
At the time of the assassination, Roosevelt was hundreds of miles away, receiving telegrams that updated him on McKinley's worsening condition. A special train took Roosevelt to Buffalo, where he became president of the United States when McKinley died at 2 a.m. Sept. 14, 1901.
Wulderk stated that the train from Buffalo to Washington, D.C., had to travel through central Pennsylvania, and Roosevelt was impacted by what he saw.
"The steep climb up Keating Ridge began. ... Then one cut gave way to the shaft of a coal mine, and for a few seconds Roosevelt and his fellow passengers could exchange stares with four hundred filthy coal miners. Boys, youths, and old men ... stood bareheaded, leaning on picks and shovels. ... It was impossible to tell from their swarthy expressions whether the sight of a presidential cortege moved them or not. Implicit in the stare of those eyes, the power of those knobbly hands, was labor's historic threat of violence against capital."
Morris goes on to state, "These boys began their careers at eight or nine, picking splinters of slate out of the coal breakers until their hands were scarred for life. These men worked coal ten hours a day, six days a week. They ate coal dust in their bread and drank it in their milk; they breathed it and coughed it."
Visually, the author describes what Roosevelt saw out the window of his train with phrases such as "sooty shacks" and "gutters buzzing with garbage." "If 1901 turned out to be a good year, they might get five hundred dollars apiece - about what Roosevelt had already earned as President of the United States. ... As a group, they aged and ailed faster than any other workers in American industry."
These sights made an impression on Roosevelt, stated Wulderk. When the United Mine Workers of America had a coal strike in 1902, Roosevelt invited both sides to the White House. At this time period, coal fired the country, and a resolve was needed quickly. While the coal barons were rude, Wulderk said, the workers appreciated the efforts of Roosevelt. The strike was resolved without a union but a raise for the workers.
Roosevelt served another term as president before handpicking William Taft to succeed him. Eventually, Roosevelt grew tired of the manner of politics and ran for president again under a third party known as Progressivism.
In November 1912, Roosevelt carried six states; no other third party has ever done that well. In particular, Roosevelt carried the state of Pennsylvania and Clearfield County. Later, while campaigning for another Progressivism party candidate, Roosevelt was scheduled to travel to the Clearfield area. According to Wulderk, headlines in The Progress announced his arrival, but a sudden change kept him from making it to Clearfield.
In January 1919, Roosevelt died in his sleep. Wulderk stated that his final words were spoken to his butler: "Please put out the light." Roosevelt, who wanted a simple funeral, received little of the pomp and circumstance usually given to presidents.
"The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" and "Theodore Rex" are available for checkout or hold at Shaw Public Library.
The presentation concluded with Fox stating that she knew this would be a good talk. She thanked the audience for attending and encouraged everyone to register for the final event in the AAUW: Books Sandwiched-In 2013 series. On Wednesday, author Thom Thomas, who is originally from the Mahaffey area, will review his books "... give or take a pebble" and "... give or take a shilling." The books take the characters from Charles Dickens' novel "A Christmas Carol" further in their lives to see what happens next. Thomas will be dressed in time period costume.
Reservations for the AAUW: Books Sandwiched-In 2013 series may be placed by calling Shaw Public Library at 765-3271 during regular business hours. It is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Fridays from noon until 5 p.m. Additional information may also be found on Shaw Public Library's website at
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