by C. Michael Norton.
Theodore Roosevelt’s rise to the Presidency was meteoric. In 1897 he resigned from his position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to lead the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. Returning from Cuba a hero, he was elected Governor of New York in 1898. In 1900 he was chosen to serve as William McKinley’s Vice President, and, when McKinley was assassinated a year later, Theodore Roosevelt became President. He was 42 years old. In 1904 he was elected President in his own right.
This dynamic man visited Nashville on October 22, 1907, and received a warm welcome. After he arrived at Union Station about 9:00 a.m. in his own rail car , a parade formed on Broadway behind the President in a horse-drawn carriage, accompanied by 25 to 30 automobiles. The escort of honor was Troop A of the Confederate Veteran Cavalry. The procession moved down Broadway to Eighth Avenue. At that corner were some 2,000 students from schools including the University of Tennessee Medical School, the Hume and Fogg Schools, Buford College, Belmont College, Radnor College, Boscobel College, and St. Cecelia Academy. The parade then wound its way through downtown, ending up at the Ryman Auditorium.
At the Ryman, Roosevelt delivered his principal address of the day. He touched on such current issues as turning the Mississippi River and its principal tributaries into navigable waterways, as well as more enduring issues, like the necessity of preventing stock manipulation (in his words, the need to “punish successful dishonesty”). Leaving the Ryman, Roosevelt changed vehicles to a 50-horsepower Peerless automobile and headed toward the Hermitage. The procession stopped at Peabody College, then located on “College Hill” at Second and Lindsley. This area also included the University of Nashville Medical College and Montgomery Bell Academy.
After a few brief remarks, Roosevelt and his entourage left again for the Hermitage. On the trip out Lebanon Pike, the vehicles passed the site of the Clover Bottom horse racing track where Andrew Jackson had raced his horses. Arriving at the Hermitage where a crowd of over 10,000 had gathered, Roosevelt met with officials of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association. After a tour the President spoke to the crowd on the grounds and promised to secure federal funds to be used toward the preservation of the Hermitage.
The procession’s final stop was at the Confederate Solders’ Home, where the President also made a few remarks. Finally, he returned to his rail car at the Hermitage Station and left Nashville a little after 1:00 p.m., heading south to Chattanooga. During the trip he stopped and briefly spoke from his rail car at several towns, including Murfreesboro and Tullahoma.
An interesting aside concerning this visit involves the advertising campaign later developed by Maxwell House, which attributed its slogan “good to the last drop” to Roosevelt, based on a comment he allegedly made at the time. In fact, it is unlikely that he made such a statement. Nashville newspapers reported that, during his visit to the Hermitage, Roosevelt did ask for a cup of coffee; none of the reports, however, indicated the brand of coffee that was served to him. The Nashville Banner reported that Roosevelt enjoyed the coffee and said, “This is the kind of stuff I like, by George, when I hunt bears.” One can hardly imagine a successful advertising campaign based on that slogan!
Nashville Tennessean, October 23, 1907.
Nashville Banner, October 22, 1907.
The Nashville American, October 23, 1907.
Carey, Bill. Fortunes, Fiddles, & Fried Chicken, Hillsboro Press, 2000, pp. 47-48.