Roosevelt’s Tiffany Bowie Knife

Only Tiffany would do for TR

Only Tiffany would do for TR

I had a client send me an article of the 1st public reference of the word “dandy” and the writer claimed it was about Theodore Roosevelt.  You can see by this photo why the guide who was hired to take him on the Bison hunt in Dakota Territory called him a “dandy” and why he had second thoughts about the whole thing when this man got off the train.  The high voiced spectacled man insisted he wanted to hunt on horseback and the guide informed him that no “greenhorn” from the east was going to use any of his horses – Roosevelt would ride in a buckboard.  It was only after Roosevelt offered to pay $50 for one of the man’s horses that he was able to get what he wanted – and show the man he could actually ride.

Roosevelt first went to the badlands to hunt that bison and he had his clothing, knife and gun made to his specifications.  Of course, he had the local photographer take his photo in studio to show the amazing outfit he had assembled – The buckskin shirt you see on him here was made for him for the outlandish price of $100 – a steep amount indeed (when you consider he offered to buy a horse for $50).  But when you add the silver and gold gun with ivory handles and the knife you see tucked in his buck skin pants, his investment just to look good for his bison hunt is impressive.  His bowie knife was made by his friends at Tiffany’s – who would supply him for much of his life.  In fact, it was Tiffany who funded special rifles for the Rough Riders at Roosevelt’s request.

I was fortunate to come upon a reproduction of his knife which I take in a glass case to many of the events at which I speak.  The side you see here pictures Davy Crocket, on the flip side is his name spelled out in cursive.  The blade on the Davy side features bears, while the opposite has a scenic deer motif.  The knife is silver and heavy and larger than life, just like its owner was!

Only the best for “Teddy”.

He killed a cougar once with only a knife:-

Keystone Ranch, Colo., Jan. 14th, 1901 –
“Soon we saw the lion in a treetop, with two of the dogs so high up among the branches that he was striking at them. He was more afraid of us than of the dogs, and as soon as he saw us he took a great flying leap and was off, the pack close behind. In a few hundred yards they had him up another tree. This time, after a couple of hundred yards, the dogs caught him, and a great fight followed. They could have killed him by themselves, but he bit or clawed four of them, and for fear he might kill one I ran in and stabbed him behind the shoulder, thrusting the knife right into his heart. I have always wished to kill a cougar as I did this one, with dogs and the knife.”

Was it the silver 1884  Tiffany Knife?  We’ll never know!



Why Roosevelt was different than other Presidents

Speaking to the people

Speaking to the people

I have had a lot of discussions with people after the mini-series on PBS and I am amazed at the different perceptions / comments on how they felt Burn’s portrayed TR.   A few comments have centered around the idea that Roosevelt was a “war monger” or “quick to decision”.  Here is my rebuttal to both:

Dig deeper than the PBS series could.

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” was a preventative approach to war, not the reason for one.  Roosevelt knew that having a strong military and showing the world that the United States was prepared to take action if attacked, meant that the potential enemies would think twice before doing so.  They did – The United States was not involved in any major conflicts during Roosevelt’s Presidency.  (We did support Panama in their quest for independence, but the U.S. was not directly named in the conflict)  Additionally, Roosevelt was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with brokering peace in the Russo- Japanese War.  That’s not very “war mongering” – it actually is the exact opposite.

As a leader in the battle of San Juan Heights, TR lost friends and many of his men, so he knew the direct cost of war.  His position was peace, with an understanding that he would defend his countrymen if we were placed in a position to do so.

The idea that he was too quick in making a decision I would frame with an understanding of the man.  Roosevelt was an extremely well read historian with a photographic memory.  When he looked at a problem, he did so with a computer-like mind, sifting through history  to assess other societies faced with similar circumstances. He then compared that to his current time, along with inputs from those around him.   His decisions were quick in the sense that he didn’t dawdle,  but to imply that being quick meant they were not well reasoned would frankly place the odds against him.  Most of his decisions of the time are still embraced as laws and common sense we follow today.  The Pure Food and Drug Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the National Forest Service, National Wildlife Refuges, National Monuments.  Roosevelt made decisions as a leader looking to the future, based on the current needs and experiences and history of the past.   His decisions continue today to be embraced, meaning he beat the odds -few of his ideas have been replaced with better ones.  That’s why today’s politician’s want to be measured as “good as TR”