Friday, May 1, 2009

Carry Nation and Teddy Roosevelt’s Bottle


Born in June of 1846 in Kentucky, Carry Nation, shown here, was woman who stood six feet tall and weighed in at 175 pounds. A fervent member of the Temperance Movement, in 1900 she heard a “Voice from Above” that told her to take something hard in her hands and go wreck saloons. Her first adventure was in Kiowa, Kansas, where she stormed into a barroom and proceeded to heave rocks. Soon she had graduated to a hatchet as her weapon of choice and continued her attack on saloons. Although arrested some 30 times and spending many nights in jail, she became a national heroine of the Prohibitionist movement.

In 1904 she decided it was time to take her message and hatchet to Washington, D.C. With plenty of reporters in her wake, this formidable matron marched straight up to the White House. According to contemporary reports, The guard was polite but firm. He met Mrs. Nation before she got to the door to inform her it was not possible to see the President Theodore Roosevelt. When she began a harangue, the guard broke in. “Madam,” he said, “do not make a lecture here.” She left shouting : “I suppose you have the same motto here in the White House that they have in the saloons, ‘All the Nations Welcome Except Carry.’ ”

Carry was not so easily dissuaded from seeing the President. She soon headed back to the White House, again trailed by followers and the press. Aware of her presence, this time Teddy Roosevelt sent out his personal secretary, William Loeb Jr., to confront her. In her autobiography, she described her very short conversation with Loeb: Mr. Loeb called to a police to take me out. I said: "If I was a brewer or distiller I could have an interview....Why has he [Roosevelt] never said a word against the licensed saloon when it is the greatest question that ever confronted the homes of America?" That question was left unanswered and she was ejected.

She subsequently lectured in Washington brandishing a bottle that carried a likeness of Roosevelt. “Here is a whiskey flask with Theodore Roosevelt’s picture on it, the most appropriate place I have ever seen it in my life,” said she. Later Carry admitted that after her first use of the bottle she expected hisses but got only nervous giggles. That tepid reaction emboldened her to use the prop again and again. This historical incident has peaked my interest intensely about what bottled likeness of Teddy she used. Here is what my research has disclosed:

Roosevelt, shown here in a photograph, had appeared on a campaign flask in the 1900 campaign with William McKinley, who later was assassinated which propelled him into the White House. Teddy also was depicted in figural bottles, shown here, in his role as a Rough Rider and a big game hunter. But none of these bottles seem to fit the bill. My guess is that the flask that Carry Nation brandished was the one pictured here, issued in 1904 when Roosevelt ran on his own for President. It fits the description -- but there may have been others. Only Carry would know for sure.

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