It was clear from our recent interview with Lowell Thomas ( AMERICAN HERITAGE , August/September 1980) that he has been everywhere and met everyone during his long career, but we were not prepared to find that he had slipped onto our own pages unnoticed last April. Yet he did. In a “Postscripts to History” item in that issue we told of Mary Gladwin, a World War I nurse, and accompanied her story with a photograph of her and two unidentified soldiers. Mr. Thomas wrote in to point out that he was the man in the middle, and a letter nurse Gladwin wrote to her hometown newspaper in 1918 confirms it. Mr. Thomas, she wrote, was “an interesting guest” who planned “to deliver illustrated lectures … upon his return to the United States.”
Mr. Thomas also sent us the curious picture below, and, while he does not appear in it, he is largely responsible for its existence. Sixty-nine years ago this summer, Mr. Thomas was an eager young reporter in Chicago, covering the 1912 Republican convention for the Chicago Journal . The paper had also hired William Jennings Bryan to report on the convention as a celebrity commentator. Someone at the Journal decided that an interview between Bryan and his ancient foe, Theodore Roosevelt, would make an ideal exclusive and, while his bosses went to work on the arrangements, Thomas and a photographer named Saito decided to manufacture a photograph to go with the feature. Thomas recalls that Saito first cajoled TR into posing in his chair and Bryan then “gladly played his role in … [our] political drama.” But, alas, the two men never actually met. TR refused to see Bryan (whom he cordially disliked), and the Great Commoner himself left town halfway through the proceedings to organize his own forces at the upcoming Democratic convention in Baltimore. This historic (but not historical) composite photograph has never before been published.