1907 : President Theodore Roosevelt Visits Lansing

May 31, 2018 all-day

President Roosevelt on Way to Michigan Agricultural College

On May 31, 1907, Roosevelt arrived at the Lake Shore Depot on East Michigan Avenue, in Lansing. Governor Fred M. Warner, Lansing mayor Hugh Lyons, and M.A.C. president Snyder (who had originally invited the President to celebrate the Michigan Agricultural College’s 50th anniversary) all greeted him there. Roosevelt’s first stop was the Capitol, where he gave a speech from the balcony to the ecstatic public outside. Recalling Michigan’s participation in the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt spoke on the need for more National Guard troops. Next, he headed to the House Chambers. There, he cautioned the legislators against making campaign promises and not following through on them once in office. He also thanked the state legislature in their efforts to break monopolies and trusts, a key part of the Roosevelt Administration’s agenda.

Bonus: An audio file of one of Teddy Roosevelt’s speeches in the Michigan Legislature courtesy of the Vincent Voice Library at MSU.

Roosevelt left the capitol at 11:30 a.m. and was personally driven to MAC by Ransom E. Olds, proprietor of REO Motor Company. This was a novel gesture of the time, intended to bring attention to the Lansing automobile industry. Roosevelt sat beside President Snyder with the President’s personal secretary seated in front with Olds (see photo above).   Marching bands and numerous dignitaries accompanied the president’s motorcade to East Lansing, and residents were asked to decorate thier businesses and homes to the best of their ability for the occasion.  The fuss was hardly needed; if any one man could constitute a parade by himself, T.R. was it!

After a tour of the campus and lunch at Snyder’s home, President Roosevelt headed to the speaker platform.  Before a crowd of about 20,000 people. Roosevelt began his speech. He emphasized the importance of agriculture in an economy shifting into industry. He also discussed the dignity of manual labor and the importance of family. Roosevelt concluded by emphasizing the “happiness” of performing one’s duty, not shirking it. He then personally handed a diploma to each graduate, including Myrtle Craig, MAC’s first African American alumnus.

Panoramic View of Crowd Listening to President Roosevelt on MAC’s Campus

Roosevelt left campus in an Oldsmobile. After learning of the rivalry between REO and Oldsmobile, the President insisted on arriving in one company’s car and leaving in the other’s, so as to not show preference. Upon arriving once again at the depot, “Roosevelt Day” had come to an end. Although the entire celebrations occurred in less than a day, the Lansing area remembered the event for decades to come.

President Roosevelt On Campus

Believe it or not:

“While at M.A.C. (Forest H. Akers) was a star pitcher for the baseball team. In 1908 he was expelled from M.A.C. for, as Akers put it, ‘raising too much hell.’ His expulsion, in part, stemmed from a 1907 incident. During a speech by President Theodore Roosevelt, a powder keg exploded, shattering the windows in nearby dormitories and the college’s greenhouses. Akers was accused of spearheading this prank, a charge he adamantly denied.”

Akers later became a big business success and an MSU trustee and donated a lot of money to the school. Akers Hall and the golf courses are named after him.

The Sept./Oct 1995 issue of Michigan History Magazine featured an article comparing the visit of President Roosevelt in 1907 to President Clinton’s visit to the area in 1995.

Lawrence Consentino, “The Long March : Lansing’s Sesquicentennial Parade Forms Up with Its Forerunners”, Lansing City Pulse, May 13-19, 2009.

Chris Vannini, “Teddy Roosevelt Visits MSU Campus : Random Photo of the Week“, The Only Colors, A Michigan State Spartans Community,  August 3, 2012.

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