clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

President Theodore Roosevelt visited Utah in 1903 to defend a Mormon apostle

Theodore Roosevelt riding through Salt Lake City.
Theodore Roosevelt riding through Salt Lake City.
Deseret News Archives

Editor's note: With the election season winding down and a new president about to take office, the Deseret News has decided to review the presidents who have visited Utah and explain what they did while they were on their trip through the Beehive State.

Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Utah came with some political hopes.

While in town in May 1903, Roosevelt met with Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Tracy and Utah's Sen. Reed Smoot, who had faced questions from voters and political elites about remaining a senator while he was also a Mormon apostle. Roosevelt, a Smoot supporter and defender, came to Utah to spread his case. He had previously issued a statement defending Smoot’s election to Congress.

Roosevelt had visited Utah earlier as a vice presidential candidate in 1900, KSL reported. He would later visit in 1912 at the end of his term.

During his 1903 visit, Roosevelt celebrated Utah for its ability to use natural resources. He also said it’s important for the state to build reservoirs for storage and to maintain its natural forests.

“You took a state which at the outset was called after the desert, and you literally — not figuratively — you literally made the wilderness blossom as the rose,” Roosevelt said in his speech. "The fundamental element in building up Utah has been the work of the men in Utah, the work of the citizens of Utah.”

Roosevelt also talked with schoolchildren when he was in Salt Lake City, telling the youngsters to work hard and play hard.

“I have but one word to say to you,” he said. “I am very glad to see you. I believe in work and I believe in play. Play hard while you play; and when you work don’t play at all. That is good advice for children, and it is good advice for grown folks too. It is a great pleasure to see you.”

Roosevelt’s visit proved to be influential, though, as he is still the only commander in chief to visit the governor’s mansion, according to the state.

NEXT UP: William Howard Taft


Ulysses S. Grant

Rutherford B. Hayes

Theodore Roosevelt

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.