Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, Jr. became the 26th President of the United States on September 14, 1901 following the assassination of William McKinley. Prior to becoming president, Roosevelt was a deputy sheriff in the Dakota Territory, Police Commissioner of New York City, U.S. Civil Service Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Colonel of the Rough Riders for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Roosevelt was elected to the New York State Assembly, Governor of New York, and Vice President of the United State. In fact, his nomination as vice president to run with William McKinley by the Republican Party was to get him out of New York because he was reforming the status quo out of existence.
On September 14, 1901, at 42 years and 322 days of age, Roosevelt became the youngest President when McKinley was assassinated (Kennedy was the youngest elected president when he was inaugurated at 43 years, 236 days). As president he was a trust buster, conservationist, and his slogan of “Speak softly and carry a big stick” set the tone for military and foreign policy that even impacts today’s policies. Roosevelt was the first U.S. citizen and sitting president to win the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the 1905 peace treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War.Roosevelt initiated the “Golden Age of American Coin Design.” Using his bully pulpit, he held the designs of the U.S. Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber in contempt. In fact, Roosevelt had called Barber’s designs “atrociously hideous.” Roosevelt ordered coinage whose designs were more than 25 years old to be redesigned. Roosevelt was a fan of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and asked him to help redesign American coinage.
After Saint-Gaudens died of cancer, Roosevelt continued to look to revitalize U.S. coinage. He seized upon Abraham Lincoln’s 100th birthday to redesign the small cent. He was steered to Victor David Brenner, whose bust of Lincoln was used as the model for the new Lincoln Cent first issued in 1909. Not only was Lincoln the first president to appear on a circulating coin, but Brenner’s obverse design is still in use today.
Roosevelt called his coinage redesign his “pet crime.”Up until now, the president who is credited with starting the renaissance of American coinage design has not been honored on a United States coin. His image has appeared on coins but as part of an image of Mount Rushmore. You can find Roosevelt on the 1991 Mount Rushmore silver dollar and clad half dollar. Mount Rushmore also appeared on the reverse of the 2006 South Dakota State Quarter.
Interestingly, the 2013 Mount Rushmore National Memorial quarter that will be released later this year will only show Washington and Jefferson during its sculpture. Lincoln and Roosevelt are not part of this image.
Teddy is now featured on the current one-dollar coin. The coin has a portrait Roosevelt facing to his right that even gives the impression of someone looking into the distance. It is fitting for a man who was always looking forward to preservation of America’s ideals and its place as a world leader.
- 2013 Theodore Roosevelt Dollar and 1991 Mount Rushmore Golden Anniversary Commemorative Silver Dollar images courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
- Image of the 1907 Indian Head $10 Gold Eagle courtesy of U.S. Rate Coin Investments.
- Theodore Roosevelt card with 1919 Buffalo Nickel property of the author.