On the morning of April 8, 1905, just a month after his inauguration, President Theodore Roosevelt charged into Cowtown like it was San Juan Hill. He was on a train tour of the Southwest and had steamed up from San Antonio, where he had attended a Rough Riders reunion. Roosevelt was, the Fort Worth Telegram noted that afternoon, the first president to visit Fort Worth.
An estimated thirty thousand people packed downtown that day to see the president (in 1900 Fort Worth’s population was 26,688). The crowd was, the Telegram said, “the largest crowd that ever thronged the streets of Fort Worth.”
The Telegram said that Roosevelt’s seventy-five minutes in Fort Worth was a “continuous ovation.”
During those seventy-five minutes Roosevelt rode in a parade through downtown, planted a tree at the library, made a speech in the square outside the train station, made another speech from his train, and shook too many hands to count.
Roosevelt’s horse-drawn carriage led the parade, followed by carriages bearing lesser dignitaries. Behind the dignitaries came newfangled horseless carriages, civic and militia groups, the Polytechnic College band, veterans of the Spanish-American War and Civil War, and even nine veterans of the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. Local dignitaries in the parade included brick baron L. D. Cobb, banker Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt, and cattleman-capitalist Burk Burnett.
Note the common “Forth Worth” typo. (Postcard from Barbara Love Logan.)
Among those hosting the president was one of Cowtown’s prominent Republicans, Prussian-born cattleman-capitalist Sam Davidson. (Caricature from Makers of Fort Worth, 1907.)
Roosevelt doffing his hat (see inset bottom right). Note people on roofs and in windows. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
Roosevelt still doffing his hat (see inset upper left). (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
Parade passing the 1896 federal building/post office and 1893 city hall and nearing the 1901 Carnegie Public Library at right edge of photo. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast, Heritage Room.)
The parade paused at the Carnegie Library so that Roosevelt could plant a tree. Under one of those top hats in the photo is the president, possibly the gent doffing with right hand near the center of the photo (see inset upper right). The Telegram reported that the roof of a wooden outbuilding near the library had collapsed under the “load of human freight” waiting to see the president. The photo was taken by the ubiquitous Charles Swartz. Six months later, on October 6, Swartz would be struck and killed by a Katy locomotive as he was taking photos. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
This stereograph showing Roosevelt planting the Carnegie Library tree has the caption “May American manhood be sturdy as the oak.” (The Telegram said the tree was an elm.) (Photo from DeGolyer Library, SMU.)
From the library the parade wended through downtown and then to the public square between the 1899 Texas & Pacific station and the 1902 Texas & Pacific freight office at Main and Lancaster streets. (Photo from DeGolyer Library, SMU.)
When Roosevelt spoke, the Telegram pointed out, he faced the Al Hayne memorial. To get a better vantage point, people climbed telephone poles, boxcars, the freight office (left), even the Hayne memorial (center). The Telegram estimated Roosevelt’s audience at twenty thousand. The Telegram reported that “several women fainted from the crush” of the crowd and that one man was kicked by a horse. This panorama is made from three Swartz photos. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
That afternoon the Telegram printed the entire text of Roosevelt’s speech.
In an editorial the Telegram also waxed ecstatic over the president’s visit: “. . . he must have gone away from Fort Worth a much bigger and broader man than he was when he came into the state.”
Before leaving town Roosevelt gave a brief speech from the back of his train at the station. The long train sheds were just east of the depot. (Photos from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)
Then, after his seventy-five-minute “continuous ovation” in Cowtown, Roosevelt was back on track and charging up his next “San Juan Hill.” The April 9 Telegram reported that Roosevelt made more stops and more speeches along the way as he headed for Oklahoma, where he would take part in a wolf and coyote hunt on Fort Worth cattleman-capitalist W. T. Waggoner’s “pastures” of almost 300,000 acres. Also hosting the president on the hunt was Burk Burnett.
(Do you get the feeling that on the night of April 8, 1905 Fort Worth went to bed a lot more tuckered out than its president was?)