“Keeping Cool”

August 6, 1904

William A. Rogers

“Keeping Cool”

Presidential Administration, Theodore Roosevelt; Presidential Election 1904;

Roosevelt, Theodore; Fairbanks, Charles;

No 'Places' indexed for this cartoon.

No caption

Cartoonist W. A. Rogers did not apparently think the 1904 Republican ticket of President Theodore Roosevelt and his vice presidential running mate, Senator Charles Fairbanks, was a compatible one.  The artist depicts Fairbanks cramped and frozen in a block of ice, as Roosevelt, in his Rough Rider uniform, shivers from the cold.  Fairbanks, though, proved to be an effective campaigner, while Roosevelt reluctantly heeded the tradition against sitting presidents electioneering.  In November of that year, voters elected the two men by a landslide.

Charles Fairbanks was born into a family of poor Ohio farmers in 1852.  He attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where he edited the school newspaper.  After graduation in 1872, he took a job with the Associated Press in Pittsburgh before matriculating at the Cleveland Law School.  Passing the bar in 1873, Fairbanks moved to Indianapolis, Indiana, where he worked as a lawyer for a railroad company.  His successful legal career, including a stint as counsel to financier Jay Gould, and wise investments allowed him to purchase railroads and become a millionaire.  

A supporter of protective tariffs and the gold standard, Fairbanks became active in Republican Party politics.  In 1888, he managed the unsuccessful campaign of Walter Gresham, the former treasury secretary, for the GOP presidential nomination.  In 1892, Fairbanks failed in his bid for a U.S. Senate seat, but his prominence on the money question led to his selection as the keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in 1896.  That same year, he was elected to the Senate, and reelected in 1902.  Although he was not very influential in the Senate, Fairbanks had close ties to President William McKinley, who choose him in 1898 to chair a joint commission to resolve a boundary dispute between Canada and the United States.  The city of Fairbanks, Alaska, is named after him (and probably accounts for the cartoonist's choice of an ice block).

In 1900, Fairbanks was considered as a possible running mate for McKinley, but the ticket would have lacked geographical balance since both men were Midwesterners.  In 1904, though, delegates to the Republican National Convention selected him as the party's vice presidential nominee, recognizing that the senator's conservative philosophy and Indiana home were a good contrast to President Theodore Roosevelt's progressivism and New York residency.  Fairbanks took an active part in the campaign, delivering speeches in 33 states.  In November, the Roosevelt-Fairbanks ticket scored an impressive victory--336-140 in the Electoral College and 56%-38% in the popular vote--over the Democratic ticket of Alton Parker and Henry Davis.

Fairbanks was a typical vice president of the period who mainly attended ceremonial functions and had little influence on policy or administration.  In 1908, Roosevelt's handpicked successor, William Howard Taft, secured the Republican presidential nomination, although Fairbanks received Indiana's first-ballot votes as a favorite-son candidate.  Four years later, Fairbanks endorsed the reelection of the more conservative Taft over his new rival, former president Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive Party ticket.  In 1916, Fairbanks was again chosen as the Republican vice presidential nominee.  He and his presidential running mate, Charles Evans Hughes of New York, were defeated as President Woodrow Wilson won a second term.  Fairbanks died in 1918, leaving an estate worth nearly $5 million.

Robert C. Kennedy

“Keeping Cool”
July 14, 2024

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