Taft plays Golf

The first American president to openly play golf was William Howard Taft. At that time, golf was considered a game for the rich and many politicians kept their golfing private, including Taft’s predecessor Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt thought Taft brought shame to the office of the president by privately engaging in golf. It was Taft’s proclivity for participating in golfing exhibitions and speeches on golf that especially angered Roosevelt. The last straw was said to be the above photo, where overweight Taft made “a mockery of himself, and a mockery of the presidency”.

The photo was taken as Taft opens the Corpus Christi Country Club in Texas. For years afterwards, the club displayed the presidential golf club, ball, and photo in a glass case.

Remember the Maine

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By the time the USS Maine, an American warship in Havana Harbour was blew up under questionable circumstances with over 250 hands lost, the American public had already formed their united stand on the rebellion in Cuba. Two leading newspapers of the time, Joseph Pulitzer’s The World, and William Randolph Hearst’s the New York Journal, both informed their readers of the virtue of the Cubans and the perfidy and cruelty of the Spaniards.

Two editors were rivals and wanted to attract more readers, and to do so, both Pulitzer and Hearst claimed that the Spanish were the cause of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine. Pulitzer covered the horrible explosion of the ship while Hearst focused on the enemy who set the bomb — and offered a reward of 50,000 dollars to anyone who can detect the perpetrator. To this day, what happened on 15 February under the cover of night at 9:40 p.m. remained a mystery.

The World says that the Maine was exploded by the Spanish because one of their journalists arriving from Cuba had “overheard” a plot to blow up the Maine. Thus began the long march of the war hawks: the assistant secretary of the navy, Teddy Roosevelt left his post to fight the Spain. From then on, it was “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!” all the way to San Juan Hill. The war was over in a matter of weeks, but marked the birth of the American imperial overreach.

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Teddy’s charge up San Juan Hill

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It was the awakening of a sleeping giant. Since the end of the civil war, the United States had been ready to assert its authority internationally. A revolution in Havana gave it an opportunity in 1898. Then came USS Maine incident, and a vast yellow journalism fallout. Newspapers that accused the Spanish of oppression in their colonies, agitating American public opinion. The Spaniards, lording over an empire that is anything but, responded lackadaisically to the U.S. invasion of the Philippines and Cuba. The war is over in four months, and resulted in America’s first colonies–Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam in exchange for the lives of 460 soldiers, an infinitesimal amount compared to the Civil War, in which tens of thousands were often killed in a single day.

As assistant secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt encouraged intervention in Cubaa. He raised an all-volunteer regiment known as the “Rough Riders”. Their finest hour came on July 1st, 1898, during the Battle for San Juan Hill, the bloodiest campaign of the war. Although it resulted in 205 dead and 1,180 wounded Americans and the Spanish suffered very little lost, it was a major strategic and media victory. The above picture was taken by William Dinwiddie shortly after the hill was captured became the iconic photo not only of the war but also of the rising American determination and colonial power.

“It’s been a splendid little war,” wrote John Hay, the U.S. Ambassador to England wrote to his friend, Teddy Roosevelt–the hero of the Spanish-American War. However, to Roosevelt and his rough riders, it had been as bloody as any other war. Famous names like Stephan Crane, Clara Barton and William Jennings Bryan were forever entwined with this ‘little war’ but the biggest star was, of course, Teddy Roosevelt. Forever a proponent of a large navy, Roosevelt managed to prove not only its importance but also his leadership skills. Within a year, he was the governor of New York, then Vice President and eventually President on McKinley’s assassination.