Theodore Roosevelt is one of the most highly regarded presidents in United States history, having been a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, soldier, conservationist, and preeminent sportsmen. But, according to a recent blog post by Harvard’s Houghton Library, he did not ride a swimming moose—at least in one instance allegedly captured in a photograph. This picture has long been considered representative of the 26th President of the United States, who was known for his exuberant personality and love of the outdoors. It is not hard to imagine Roosevelt wrangling a wild moose for an impromptu raft in lieu of a bridge, but experts assert that the photo is a fake.
Heather Cole, Curator of the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard’s Houghton Library, says that the forgery is obvious. In a phone call, she explained that the image was originally created by the photography firm Underwood and Underwood to be part of a three-paneled cartoon, or triptych, for the New-York Tribune.
“It was used for the 1912 election,” Cole said. “It was an unusual election in that there were four parties, including the Democrats, the Republicans, and the newly formed Progressive party by Roosevelt. He had recently broken with the Republican party and the mascot of the Progressives was the moose.”
Three of the candidates were displayed riding the mascot of their respective parties. The Democratic candidate Woodrow Wilson was atop a donkey, Republican incumbent William Taft took an elephant, and Roosevelt rounded it out by riding a moose. Missing was Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party candidate.
None of the images were real.