Sculpting T.R.

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I tried most carefully to give a close effect of the President’s appearance. The President had a mole on the side of his chin, and when I modelled it, he noticed it at once, and with a curious smile, said in that high pitched voice that was so characteristic and amusing, “Young man, I am not anxious to emulate Cromwell!” and he threw his head back and laughed heartily. The President was most interested in the modelling of all of his separate features and once said, “I don’t think my features separately are very good with the exception of my ears. I like my ears, they are good. I always notice the ears of everyone.”

[An old friend was visiting the President] on a particularly hot day and to relieve the heat, the President ordered three mint juleps—the third one for me. He must have noticed when I took mine that I was not used to a strong drink … for he said, “Fraser, don’t mix any of the mint julep into that portrait—my party wouldn’t like it!”

Often late in the afternoon his horse would be brought and he would mount in front of the White House portico, then waving to Mrs. Roosevelt, who stood in an upper window, he would ride out of the White House grounds alone to meet his escorts. I asked if he didn’t think it was taking a risk, and he replied, “If they want to get me, they will get me.” And finally they did. He was shot and wounded while speaking in Milwaukee.

On one occasion, two German Counts visiting Washington came in to call on the President. One said, “Mr. President, you remind me so much of our Kaiser.” The other enthusiastically agreed. When they had gone, the President said to me, with his teeth clicking together, “If those men knew how I hate to be thought anything like their Kaiser , they would, I suppose, be greatly astonished.”

Later when the President, as a private citizen, visited Germany and had to make a courtesy call on the Kaiser, Wilhelm sent word he had ten minutes to give Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt sent back word that he could spare the Kaiser only five minutes.

 

The President, with all his might, fought to have the Panama Canal go to his liking and when in Congress there were objections he would become very angry, beating his hands against his head, shouting, “Oh, those wooden heads in Congress, those wooden heads!”

Roosevelt on the subject of the Panama Canal said, “The President who is in office when the canal is finished should come second to Abraham Lincoln in history.” I believe he thought he would be President at that time, and that linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was of the utmost importance to world history. …

Finally when the portrait was nearly finished he looked at it carefully and said, “I think this is good and I won’t pose for another bust. However, there is one thing that I would like you to do.” (He had, I knew, been having a heated controversy with Mr. Fairbanks, Vice-President.∗In general, Roosevelt maintained ostensibly cordial relations with his Vice President, Charles Warren Fairbanks, during their term of office together; but the two men represented opposite wings of the Republican Party and were never close.) “I have been thinking about where to put my name on the bust. It is usually on the base. I don’t like that. Just cut ‘Theodore Roosevelt’ deep in the back of the neck below the hairline. And in about two thousand years when this portrait is dug out of the ruins, the head broken from the shoulders, they won’t say—‘Ah, this is a bust of the great Indiana poet—Mr. Charles Fairbanks!’ ”