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The Theodore Roosevelt Forgotten Statue

In the early spring of 1910, Theodore Roosevelt was being courted by Governor L.B. Hanna and others to allow a statue of TR to be erected in North Dakota. The statue was to be sculpted by noted Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland. The location proposed was the campus of the North Dakota Agricultural College, today’s NDSU.

       Extolling TR as the statue’s subject, Hanna referenced TR’s western connection, his prideful references to his early days in the territory, and his appreciation for the badlands. 

       Two back and forth letters ensued, and Roosevelt’s answers offer insight into his character. He wrote: “I hope I need not say how pleased and touched I am by this proof of interest in, and friendship for me, by the people of North Dakota. Naturally, I feel a peculiar pride in having their good will, for I was a resident in the state in territorial days and there are few things in my life that I look back to with more satisfaction.

       “I do not think it would be wise to erect a statue of me. I think it is hardly ever wise to erect a statue to anyone until he is dead. In the next place, there are so many statues I would rather see erected upon college grounds or in public parks in North Dakota than any statue of an individual.

       “…I should like to see a statue of the pioneer commemorated … A cowboy, a farmer, a train hand a really first class statue of each of these … representing the state, what it is, would be much better than of any individual.

       “Of course, don’t have one unless it is good -- and very, very good at that; nothing cheap or second rate.

       “But the pioneer farmer, the man of the wheat fields, the cowpuncher, or sheep herder, the man who handles the trains…out in the open.

       ”With hearty thanks, I am very truly yours. Theodore Roosevelt.”

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

From June 7, 1910 Fargo Forum & Daily Republican

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