What was called “a monster overflow meeting” took place in Amsterdam on Oct. 29, 1898, when Theodore Roosevelt barnstormed the Mohawk Valley during his campaign for governor.
The energetic Roosevelt recently has been in the spotlight of a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.”
The Amsterdam Recorder began its coverage of Roosevelt’s four-car eastbound campaign train in St. Johnsville.
There he was met by Amsterdam dignitaries including former Congressman John Sanford and newspaper publisher William Kline.
When the train stopped in Fort Plain, the Old Fort Plain Band performed and cadets from the local military school, Clinton Liberal Institute, paraded. The engineer wanted to meet the candidate so, on the trip from Fort Plain to Fonda, Roosevelt rode in the cab of the locomotive. Some 1,500 people greeted the train in Fonda.
In Amsterdam, the crowd at the train station was estimated at 2,000 with another 5,000 lining the route of a parade from Railroad Street to the Opera House on East Main near Walnut Street.
The 13th Brigade Band led the march.
The throng assembled to hear Roosevelt was too big for the Opera House and some men may have been miffed that the first six rows were reserved for “the ladies.” The Recorder wrote that women, not having the right to vote, did not often attend political rallies. But since the candidate was a war hero and a Republican, the ladies were allowed, the paper said.
Col. Roosevelt flayed the Democrats of the New York City machine, Tammany Hall. Mason Mitchell, an actor who also had served with the Rough Riders, gave a graphic description of fighting at Santiago, Cuba.
From June through August 1898, Roosevelt and his fellow Rough Riders had fought in the Spanish American War, a conflict that lasted three months.
Amsterdam’s National Guard unit never made it to the war. Company H left the newly built South Side Armory on May 2, 1898. The guardsmen got as far as Florida but did not see combat.
Roosevelt was elected governor in the 1898 election, carrying Amsterdam by 422 votes. It was not a Republican sweep; Amsterdam elected a Democrat as mayor that year, Zerah H. Westbrook.
Teddy Roosevelt roomed with Lucius Littauer of the Gloversville glovemaking family when both were students at Harvard. The Gloversville Leader reported in 1900, as Roosevelt was beginning his campaign for vice president, that the candidate told the Harvard Club that Littauer was his most intimate personal friend and closest political advisor.
Elected vice president in 1900, Roosevelt became president in 1901 when President William McKinley was assassinated.
Elected to Congress in 1896, Littauer was a staunch Republican and advocate for high tariffs on foreign-made gloves, according to Barbara McMartin in her book, “The Glove Cities.”
Littauer was accused of using his influence to get a contract for his company for gloves for the Army, according to McMartin. The charge was never proved although McMartin said the scandal prevented him from serving in Roosevelt’s cabinet. Littauer chose not to seek re-election to Congress in 1906.
Roosevelt served as president through 1909 and made an unsuccessful presidential bid in 1912.
In addition to the rally of 1898, Roosevelt visited Amsterdam in 1900, 1910 and 1914. When he died in 1919 at age 60, the city held a Roosevelt Day in which clergymen paid tribute to “the great statesman.”
When Amsterdam built a junior high school on Guy Park Avenue, it was named for Roosevelt on Oct. 2, 1925. The building was demolished in the 1970s, replaced by the Theodore Roosevelt senior apartments.