New Frontiers

Alaska Gold RushIn Entrenchments at Pasay, Luzon, Phillipines

It was 1901, just four years after America's second Gold Rush-- this time in the "last frontier," Alaska. The United States had just defeated an old world power in the Spanish-American War and gained a colony--the Philippines. It was a new century, the country was feeling its imperialist oats, the economy boomed; America's collective consciousness was brimming with optimism.

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In September, President William McKinley, having just completed an extensive tour of the western states, traversed the entire country, from Oakland to Buffalo, to visit the Pan-American Exposition. The President who had confidently campaigned for reelection from his front porch in Canton, Ohio was emerging as a forceful spokesman for the American of a new century. On September 6, McKinley, the image of solidity, a clean-shaven personification of Republican comportment, was shot by a self-proclaimed anarchist. Though the President held onto life for a week before succumbing to the assassin's bullet, the nation's optimism ebbed quickly. The country needed both reassurance that McKinley's cautious conservatism would remain intact and a positive persona to lead the way. Enter the Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt began his public career in the New York State Assembly in 1881. He later progressed from Civil Service Commissioner to Police Commissioner of New York City, then Assistant Secretary of the Navy,
Colonel in the Spanish-American War, Governor of New York, and Vice President in the election of 1900. Roosevelt's Presidential administration marked the firm beginnings of the Progressive Era--a period where government took an active role to restrict commercial monopolies, set national standards for food and drugs, and conserve the natural environment. Historians have generally considered Roosevelt one of the inventors of the modern Presidency, in which the Executive sets strong policy and takes a lead in proposing new legislation. Like every Chief Executive before and after, he used political patronage as a leverage to power. However, Roosevelt recognized that it was not only important to work within the existing power structure but to condition it by going directly to the American public. He did so by carefully cultivating his relationship with the press. As President he had a unique opportunity to use the media to carry forward his reformist views and to heal the psychological wounds that the nation sustained from McKinley's assassination.


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