Teddy Roosevelt's Whistle-Stop in Muncie
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In 1900 one of the most popular men in United States’ politics hit the presidential campaign trail. And no, it wasn’t the President. Up for re-election was Republican William McKinley. Enjoying popularity across the country, McKinley’s previous vice-president had passed away in office. When it was time to run for re-election he weighed his options for a new vice presidential candidate. Although there were plenty of options, he ultimately chose New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt.
This political button dates to Theodore Roosevelt’s 1904 campaign when he ran for President. Minnetrista Heritage Collection
At the relatively young age of 41, Roosevelt was already well-known around the country. Born into privilege, Roosevelt had overcome weak health as a child. He graduated from Harvard University, was a published author and naturalist, had served as a New York assemblyman, and spent time as a cowboy in the Badlands. If that wasn’t enough intrigue, Roosevelt had also served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, came home from the Spanish-American War a hero and leader of the notable Rough Riders, and was now fighting political corruption as the Governor of New York. Needless to say, Roosevelt had popular appeal. And during the campaign his assignment was to use that appeal to win over voters in the West, Midwest, and states bordering the South.
President McKinley was not a travelling campaigner. During his first bid for election he did all of his campaigning from the front porch of his home in Canton, OH. This time around he didn’t intend to change that. Instead he sent Roosevelt out on a grueling train tour on his behalf. During his 138 days as the vice presidential candidate Roosevelt made 480 stops in cities and towns around the nation. Many lasted only a few minutes, some involved parades in his honor, and often he didn’t even step off the train he was riding on.
On October 11, Roosevelt’s train rattled through East Central Indiana. Leaving Marion at 8:30 a.m., by 10 o’clock that morning he had already made three stops and arrived in Anderson. After giving a speech to a crowd of 15,000 he re-boarded his train and headed for Muncie.
This photo of Teddy Roosevelt was taken at the southeast corner of Jackson and High Streets in Muncie during his vice-presidential campaign in 1900. Minnetrista Heritage Collection
When he arrived, the crowd waiting to greet him numbered between 25,000 and 30,000. Roosevelt disembarked his train and took his seat in a carriage that carried him through the streets of Muncie. As part of a large parade, Roosevelt’s presence drew much enthusiasm. Cheers of McKinley and Roosevelt’s names could be heard around town. The Indianapolis Journal reported that homes were decorated in the nominee’s honor and girls in Rough Rider hats waved handkerchiefs as the carriages and floats passed by. Everywhere yellow silk badges indicating loyalty and patriotism to the candidates fluttered in the breeze. Among the businesses represented in the three-mile parade were the Midland Steelworks, the Muncie Pulp Company, and the Republic Iron and Steel Company.
Many area companies drove floats and wagons in support of McKinley and Roosevelt, including the Indiana Bridge Company of Muncie. Minnetrista Heritage Collection
With the event drawing not only the local community, but individuals from outlying towns as well, the crowd swelled and congested the streets. In fact, one newspaper reported that clubs from other communities, intending to participate in the parade, could not make it in time because hordes of people blocked roadways.
It wasn’t just businesses that came out to show their support. The Indianapolis Journal reported that several wagons of young women dressed in white also came out to back the Republican ticket. Minnetrista Heritage Collection
By the time Theodore Roosevelt re-boarded his train to head to his next stop, the vice presidential hopefully had spent just over 30 minutes in Muncie. Although the stop was brief, the enthusiasm of the crowd continued on. When voting results rolled in after Election Day, it was a decisive victory for McKinley and Roosevelt. In Indiana Roosevelt’s whistle-stop campaigning paid off. Delaware County came out in support of the McKinley/ Roosevelt ticket, and on the state level the team won 50.6% of the state’s votes.