President George Bush's recent trip to Nebraska was a logistical tour-de-force. The
presidential advance team, scads of Secret Service men, state and local police, the
presidential helicopter, limousine, and Air Force One were just some of the elements
coordinated for the two hour visit.
Bush's campaign for the presidency required the same sort of mobilization of people and
machines. What a contrast to Theodore Roosevelt's 1900 whistle-stop across the state! Like
Bush, "T.R." was a very popular Republican. Like Bush, he was enthusiastically received by
huge crowds of Nebraskans. But there the similarity ends.
Instead of two hours, Roosevelt spent four days crisscrossing the state. Wearing a sprig of
goldenrod, "the Colonel" traveled from Falls City to McCook his first day, passing through
thirteen different counties and making thirteen speeches. No public address systems or
satellite up-links here! "His voice had at that time begun to show signs of wear and he
limited his speeches to five minutes," one reporter noted.
Yes, the press corps was in evidence, but instead of hundreds of reporters, photographers, and
videographers, fourteen newspaper correspondents accompanied the train. Still, they created
a 1900-style media blitz, sending out "over 50,000 words by wire each day."
Seventy thousand greeted T. R. in Lincoln the second day. The "demonstration that
surpassed all hope or expectation" was the highlight of a day including stops at Plattsmouth,
Ashland, Seward, York, Aurora, Grand Island, Kearney, Lexington, and North Platte.
The third day's journey took Roosevelt through the Sandhills to the Pine Ridge. "At Chadron
occurred one of the most pleasant features of the trip, when Colonel Roosevelt was present
with a handsome pair of gold spurs. The presentation took place in the presence of a large
gathering of cowboys and rough riders who had greeted the visitor with characteristic
demonstrativeness. While in Chadron Colonel Roosevelt met some of his former comrades
in arms and was treated to a touch of the strenuous, in being conveyed about the place in a
vehicle driven at breakneck speed, but even that feature of the visit he seemed to enjoy,
although some of those who rode with him were somewhat nervous."
By the time soon-to-be-vice-president Roosevelt left the state, he'd covered over 9,000 miles
and visited forty-four Nebraska counties. His next trip to Nebraska would be as President
(after McKinley's assassination) in the fall of 1902.