Roosevelt the Reformer

Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Movement, and Big Stick Diplomacy

On September 14, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt rose to the presidency amid the tragedy of William McKinley's assassination. He immediately reassured the nation of his intent to "continue, absolutely unbroken, the policies of President McKinley for the peace, prosperity and honor of our beloved country." Despite this pledge, Roosevelt would leave an indelible mark on the nation's foreign and domestic policy as he quickly began to follow his own path. Explore how Roosevelt's "Square Deal" advanced the reforms of the progressive era, and how his "big stick" contributed to America's rise to global prominence.

This education program is made possible through the generous support of Transitowne Dodge.

Registration Information

Reservations are required. For reservations call the education office at (716) 884-0095.

Morning or afternoon sessions available.

Program length is 2 hours.

Minimum tour size: 10

Maximum recommended tour size: 100 (More effective with smaller numbers.)

For tours over 100, please inquire.

Fee: $3.00 per student.

One free teacher/chaperone per ten students.

Reduced cost busing is available through the Buffalo Alliance for Education's Field Trip Fund. This program is open to all public, private and parochial schools in Erie and Niagara County. To apply for transportation funding, check the BAE web site at For more information, call (716) 845-6500.

Program Description

The program will consist of two activity rotations of one hour each. (Please note that our capacity is limited. Depending upon the size of the tour, the students may complete the program in one group, or be divided into two equal groups rotating through different activities concurrently. Assume maximum capacity per activity group of 50) Please have the students divided into groups prior to arrival, with no more than 50 students per group.

1. Tour. A brief a/v program introduces students to the circumstances of William McKinley's assassination and Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration in Buffalo in 1901. Afterwards, a guided tour visits four restored rooms representing the year 1901, the time of Theodore Roosevelt's visit to the Wilcox home. The tour provides further detail about the unusual circumstances of Theodore Roosevelt's 1901 inauguration, a turning point which unexpectedly brought Roosevelt to power and launched his policies. It also introduces students to the lifestyle of an upper-class Victorian family, as typified by the Wilcox home, and which was also enjoyed by Roosevelt himself. New technologies being introduced at the time, and how they were altering life and society at the beginning of the 20th century, are addressed as well. Provided study questions direct focus to related themes.

2. Document analysis activity. As reflected by his presence on Mount Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt was once regarded by the majority of Americans as one of America's greatest presidents. He dramatically altered the course of government from his predecessor, William McKinley, and many of his achievements continue to affect the nation to this day. During this time, America faced dramatic social changes brought on by industrialization. It also tried to define its new place on the world stage as America's international stature grew. The rapid transitions forced the nation to confront the question of what constitutes a good society. This program addresses how Roosevelt sought to address this question. Small groups are presented with a political cartoon of the Roosevelt era, a related historical quote, and a series of questions to guide their inquiry and study. Each image is chosen to represent an aspect of Roosevelt's domestic or foreign policies. Following brief group discussion will allow participants to share these key aspects of Roosevelt's administration.

Curriculum Links

This activity is designed to actively engage students in examination of primary documents and engage critical thinking skills in interpretation. It can address numerous aspect of the New York State Curriculum. Please note, however, that in order for the program to address all identified curriculum areas, the full program must be implemented, including recommended in-class pre-visit and post-visit activities. It also constitutes document-based analysis and questions, which will provide an opportunity to practice skills needed for NYS Regents testing. NYS Curriculum areas that can be addressed by the program include:

SS 1 - History of the United States and New York

Particular Social Studies emphasis is on curriculum areas relating to the progressive movement and social reform in America, and on the rise of America in global politics.

SS 5 - Civics, Citizenship and Government

ELA 1 - Language for Information and Understanding

ELA 2 - Language for Literary Response and Expression

ELA 3 - Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation

Arts 1 - Creating, Performing and Participating in the Arts

Arts 2 - Knowing and Using Arts Materials and Resources

Arts 3 - Responding to and Analyzing Works of Art

Arts 4 - Understanding the Cultural Dimensions and Contributions of the Arts

MST 5 - Technology


  • The circumstances of the assassination of President William McKinley and the inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt in Buffalo in September of 1901.
  • The importance of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency as a major turning point in American history.
  • Life of a typical upper class American family, such as Theodore Roosevelt or the Wilcox family, at the turn of the 20th century.
  • Technology and inventions available in the American home of the early 20th century, and the impact they had on life at the time.

Suggested Pre-Visit Preparation

In order for students to benefit fully from their on-site visit, it is helpful if they have received some prior preparation on what to expect and to introduce themes that will be explored during their visit. We recommend that some class time prior to their visit be devoted to this purpose. The following activities are recommended:

1. Getting Started: Inquiry Question - illustration analysis activity.

2. Setting the Stage - Brief introductory reading.

3. Locating the Site - Map activity introducing Buffalo of 1901.

4. Touring the Pan - If students have computers with internet access available, have them study the virtual tour of the Pan-American Exposition, which can be found at Ask students to "tour the Pan" and make a list of three things they would want to see if they went to the exposition, and describe why these attractions would be of the most interest to them.

5. Reading 1: "It is a dreadful thing to come into the Presidency this way.."

6. Document 1: The Illustrated Buffalo Express, September 15, 1901.

7. Reading 2: Roosevelt's First Presidential Proclamation

8. Drawing 1: Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, New York, 1873.

Suggested Post-Visit Review

1. Reading 3: The Bully Pulpit - The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

2. Drawing 2: Sketch of the inauguration, September 14, 1901.

3. Photo 1: The Wilcox library today.

4. Photo 2: The Wilcox House, September 14, 1901.

5. Photo 3: The Wilcox House, September 1971.

6. The turn of the 20th century was a time of rapid scientific progress. As the home of a wealthy family, and a home that had undergone recent renovations, the Wilcox home had several "modern" conveniences that many Americans did not possess in 1901 (indoor plumbing, central heating, and possibly limited electrification). Hold a class discussion on what examples of 1901 technology could be observed during the Site visit. (ex. How was the home heated? How was it lit? What forms of communication were available at the time?) What forms of technology are used today that were not available in 1901? How might daily life of 1901 have been affected by the limits of the available technology?

Suggested Post-Visit Activities

1. In class, create a list of the major policies of Roosevelt's presidency that were discussed during your visit. Define the broad issues behind Roosevelt's policies (ex. conservation vs. use of natural resources, America's role as a global police power). Have students read the national and international news for two weeks and look for examples of how the same issues arise in today's politics.

2. Suggested Post-Visit Activity: In the classroom, have students clip and bring in a modern political cartoon and be prepared to discuss its meaning. Use analysis techniques practiced at the site to study persons, symbols and actions portrayed.

3. Suggested Post-Visit Activity: In the classroom, discuss the meaning of symbolism, exaggeration and caricature, and the roles they play in political cartoons. Have students (or small groups) create a political cartoon of their own.

  • Have students create a cartoon about Theodore Roosevelt, based on what they have learned in their classroom studies and site visit. They could also be assigned to conduct brief research from online or printed sources to gather background information. A short biography can be found in the Informational Resource section of our Education web page at This can be printed out and reproduced for distribution. Or:
  • Have students create a political cartoon about current events. Assign students to study a newspaper for inspiration.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site
641 Delaware Avenue

Buffalo, NY 14202


(716) 884-0095

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