My brothers are great hockey fans and they have the crazy goal of attending a hockey game in every city that has an NHL team. My interest in hockey is rather limited, but I have a parallel goal: to introduce them to a bit of history of the city they are visiting.
Last weekend, we hit the road to Buffalo, NY. Once a prosperous and important port city, Buffalo has been in decline since the 1950s and may not be the kind of place that tourists swarm to. But Buffalo is where took place an event that had a certain importance in American history: the swearing in of President Theodore Roosevelt.
In 1901, he was vice-president. That year, a major world exhibition was held in Buffalo. It was the beginning of a new century, a century that was promising for the United States, and the Pan-American exhibition in Buffalo was supposed to showcase this. The event that was meant to be synonymous of high hopes, however, ended tragically: while shaking hands in the crowd, President William McKinley was shot by an anarchist. He died a few days later.
Upon hearing the news, Roosevelt rushed to Buffalo but arrived after the death of the President. He was welcomed in Buffalo by his friend Ansley Wilcox. To prevent the United States from staying too long without a head of state in office (especially after such tragic circumstances), it was decided to swear in Theodore Roosevelt president in Buffalo itself. The small library of the Wilcox House would host about fifty dignitaries who came to watch Theodore Roosevelt take the oath and become the 26th American President.
I think it’s no exaggeration to say that Theodore Roosevelt was one of the American presidents who had have most impact on American and world history (he won a Nobel Prize for his role as a mediator in certain world conflicts). It is therefore understandable that the house where he was sworn in be designated a national historic site and turned into a museum.
Beyond the room where Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in, there is in the museum much information about the era of change that the United States were going through. The coming to power of the new President is put in context and an exhibition presents the many challenges that lied ahead. The upper floor of the house is dedicated to Roosevelt’s achievements while he was President. Everything is presented interactively. Even my family, who are not all history buffs, enjoyed the visit and the conversations on the way back were not only about hockey (phew!).