Theodore Roosevelt—Continued

After a few years of living in the Badlands, Roosevelt returned to New York City, where he gained fame for fighting police corruption. The Spanish–American War broke out while Roosevelt was, effectively, running the Department of the Navy. He promptly resigned and led a small regiment in Cuba known as the Rough Riders, earning a nomination for the Medal of Honor, which was received posthumously on his behalf on January 16, 2001. After the war, he returned to New York and was elected Governor in a close-fought election. Within two years, he was elected Vice President of the United States.

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 amongst 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.