Myths, lies, and old wives’ tales loom large in the outdoor pursuits. Here at MeatEater, we’re dedicated to separating facts from bullsh*t, so we created this series to examine suspect yarns. If there’s a belief, rumor, or long-held assumption you’d like us to fact check, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Theodore Roosevelt rode a moose as a campaign stunt while seeking a third term as president. The picture was supposed to be a symbol of his new-found Progressive Party, which was nicknamed the Bull Moose Party.
The photo first appeared in the New-York Tribune on a page dedicated to the 1912 presidential race. In a series of three pictures, each candidate is shown riding the animal that represents their political party: Republican William Taft on an elephant, Progressive Teddy Roosevelt on a moose, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson on a donkey. The photo was also printed in the San Francisco Call, Richmond’s Times Dispatch, and Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle.
The photo has made a resurgence in recent years and regularly circulates as a meme with text saying, “You may be cool, but you will never be Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose cool.”
According to Heather Cole, curator of Harvard’s Theodore Roosevelt Collection, the graphic is an early example of photoshopping. It was the work of photography firm Underwood and Underwood, who painstakingly cut out an image of TR riding a horse and pasted it onto an image of a swimming moose. The photos of Taft and Wilson are also manipulated.
Although Teddy was a badass who did a ton of badass things, riding a swimming moose wasn’t one of them. This is simply a case of fake news, but admittedly, we wish it were real.