Theodore Roosevelt served as President of the United States for 8 years, from 1901-1909. He was, as Wikipedia notes, acclaimed for his "cowboy persona and robust masculinity." However, his masculinity was not so robust that he once rode a moose, despite what this photo appears to show.
In 1912, Roosevelt split from the Republican Party, after having become unhappy with its increasingly conservative policies. He then ran for President as head of the newly formed Progressive Party. After forming this party, Roosevelt exuberantly proclaimed, "I'm feeling like a bull moose!" For which reason, the Progressive Party was often referred to as the "Bull Moose Party."
Two months before the election, on Sep 8, 1912, the New York Tribune ran a set of humorous pictures under the headline "The Race For The White House," showing the three main presidential candidates astride the animals associated with their parties.
William Howard Taft was shown riding an elephant (for the Republican party). Woodrow Wilson sat on a donkey (for the Democratic party). And Roosevelt rode a moose (for the Bull Moose party).
All three images were fake. They had been created by the photographic firm Underwood and Underwood.
Close inspection of the Roosevelt image reveals the signs of fakery. The firm had extracted Roosevelt's image from a photo of him riding a horse and pasted it into a shot of a swimming moose. Scratch lines are visible around Roosevelt's leg, where the photo editor tried to simulate water ripples. Also, Roosevelt's image is more sharply focused than that of the moose.
But, of course, the image was not supposed to be mistaken for a real scene. It was clearly presented as political humor.
Roosevelt lost the 1912 election to Woodrow Wilson, and the image of him riding a moose disappeared into photo archives. But in the 21st Century the image resurfaced and began circulating online where many people assumed it depicted an actual event.
For instance, in March 2011, Cracked.com included the image in an article titled "18 Old-Timey Photos You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped." The author of the article wrote:
This picture is real, this scene existed, and yes, at one point in our history, you could have actually voted for this man.
We do not know if this was a publicity stunt, a routine hunting incident or seriously how our beloved President Theodore Roosevelt used to ride to work every day. All we know is that it was taken during the 1900 presidential election campaign and as far as we are concerned, virtually guaranteed William McKinley's re-election for as many terms as God gave him.
On that note, President McKinley was dead a year later.
Their information was incorrect in almost every detail except that McKinley did regain the White House in 1900, and he did die a year later.
However, Theodore Roosevelt definitely never rode a moose.
- "Myths debunked: Sadly, Theodore Roosevelt never rode a moose" (Sep 20, 2012). Houghton Library Blog.