Photo Of The Day: The True Story Behind That Picture Of Teddy Roosevelt Riding A Moose

Published February 17, 2016
Updated February 5, 2018

Here's the unexpected tale of exactly how and why future U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt ended up riding that moose through a lake.

Teddy Roosevelt Riding A Moose

Image Source: Imgur

Teddy Roosevelt is one of America’s most beloved presidents and outdoorsmen. He was America’s own invincible man, cheating death at every turn and amassing a list of accomplishments that includes becoming the first American to win a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as being the youngest man to be elected president (at the time).

One thing he did not do, however, was ride a moose through a lake.

Despite the above photo’s recirculation around the Internet every once in awhile (as well as on shirts and posters with the caption “you will never be Teddy Roosevelt riding a swimming moose cool,”) the photo is indeed a pre-Photoshop fake.

Heather Cole, the curator of Harvard’s Theodore Roosevelt Collection, deserves the credit (or blame, depending on how you see it) for correcting the record and ruining every Teddy Roosevelt fan’s favorite picture.

The photo first came about during the presidential race of 1912. Roosevelt was a third party presidential candidate running on the new Progressive Party ticket. Like the Democrat and Republican parties Roosevelt was running against, the Progressive Party had an animal mascot: the Bull Moose.

Roosevelt was running against Republican presidential incumbent William Howard Taft and Democrat Woodrow Wilson in what would come to be the last time a political party outsider was a true contender for president.

The photography firm Underwood and Underwood immortalized this presidential race with a set of doctored photos titled “The Race for the White House,” which was published in the New-York Tribune on September 8, 1912.

1912 Campaign Photo

From left to right, each candidate with the animal that served as their party’s mascot: William Howard Taft on an elephant, Teddy Roosevelt on a moose, and Woodrow Wilson on a donkey. Image Source: Houghton Library Blog

To mount Roosevelt onto a moose, Underwood and Underwood painstakingly cut out an image of him riding a horse, and then pasted it onto a picture of a swimming moose. The fatal mistake can be seen just above Roosevelt’s knee, where falsified ripples in the water give away the con. Luckily for Roosevelt, he has plenty of other real accomplishments of which we can all be in awe.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines graduated with a Bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University, and his writing has appeared in Men's Journal, Inverse, and VinePair.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.