In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated; and Roosevelt became President at the age of 42, taking office at the youngest age of any U.S. president in history. Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. Roosevelt coined the phrase “Square Deal” to describe his domestic agenda, emphasizing that the average citizen would get a fair share under his policies. As an outdoors-man and naturalist, he promoted the conservation movement. On the world stage, Roosevelt’s policies were characterized by his slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal; he sent out the Great White Fleet to display American power; and he negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was also the first American to win the Nobel Prize in any field.
Roosevelt became acquainted with Edward Curtis in 1904, when Curtis won a national portrait contest from among eighteen thousand entrants. Curtis was invited to photograph one of Roosevelt’s children, which led to a close friendship between the photographer and the President. A great lover of the West, Roosevelt was very sympathetic to the plight of the American Indian, and he became an active champion of Curtis and his work. Roosevelt expressed his support and admiration in a letter of recommendation, which Curtis used in 1906 to approach J. P. Morgan, the man whose initial financial commitment made the first stages of The North American Indian project possible.
This is the introduction to Curtis’ ‘The North American Indian’: By President Theodore Roosevelt