Photo by John N. Teunisson. Courtesy of the Louisiana State Museum
On October 26, 1905, thousands of New Orleanians turned out to cheer President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to New Orleans in the waning days of the city’s last yellow fever epidemic.
At the urging of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation and against his advisors’ advice, Roosevelt kept New Orleans in his tour of the South as a message to the nation that the city had survived the epidemic.
Roosevelt arrived early morning by train and after a tour of the port aboard the steamer “Comus,” his entourage set out in carriages for a parade along Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue. Reporting the next day, the New Orleans “Daily Picayune” claimed over 300,000 cheering people lined the avenues to see the charismatic “Bully Pulpit” president. Along the way, he stopped to greet a group of waiting African-Americans and school children gathered at Lee Circle before moving on to City Hall (then at Gallier Hall), where he encountered police and military troops trying in vain to hold back a crushing mob of thousands.
From City Hall, the president’s entourage slipped quietly out a side door and moved on to the St. Charles Hotel and a lavish banquet in his honor. There, among others, he greeted Confederate and Union veterans. Seen in this photograph taken by photographer John Teunisson, Mayor Martin Behrman (sitting at Roosevelt’s right) whispered to the president: “I’m glad you won’t be here long. I’d rather this city would stay Democratic.”
In his speech, Roosevelt praised the city for how it “controlled and conquered” the yellow fever epidemic and for how it had healed deep wounds caused by the Civil War.
“Oh, my fellow countrymen,” the president said, “think what a fortune is ours, that we belong to this Nation, which having fought one of the mightiest wars of all times, is now united and claimed by the whole people as their own; claimed as their heritage of honor, and glory…”
Later that day, Roosevelt boarded the “Magnolia” for a trip down to the Gulf and battleship “West Virginia” for his return to Washington. During the trip, the “Magnolia” struck another vessel and the president had to board another boat to complete the journey.
The “Daily Picayune,” waxing on about Roosevelt’s “magnificent physique,” hailed the Republican president’s visit a historic success.
“Each and every one that saw his smiling face,” continued the paper, “received his greeting, or his kindly words, went away a personal friend of the forceful, jovial and tactful hero of the battlefield and of international statecraft.”