When Teddy Roosevelt came to Kansas City

Teddy Roosevelt's visit to Kansas City in 1903. Photo courtesy Kansas City Public Library - Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Teddy Roosevelt’s visit to Kansas City in 1903. Crowds lined the Paseo. Photos courtesy Kansas City Public Library – Missouri Valley Special Collections.

As the PBS series on the Roosevelts continues this week, few in Kansas City remember the time when President Theodore Roosevelt visited Kansas City. But on May 1, 1903, crowds filled the streets to see him.

“For nearly three hours this forenoon President Roosevelt rode between solid banks of cheering people that lined miles and miles of Kansas City streets” the Kansas City Star reported.  “Then at convention hall he spoke to 15,000 people and many people were turned away.”

The President’s trip, called his Tour of the West, had begun a month earlier when he left Washington on a special six-car train. He traveled 14,000 miles, stopping to make speeches and meet people along the way, spending 66 days on the road.

roosevelt-2Then on May 1, 1903, he arrived in Kansas City. The train stopped at 15th and Askew and was met by a reception committee and militia. The parade then marched down 15th Street to the Paseo, where the grand boulevard was lined with more than 20,000 school children from public schools, private schools, Catholic schools and negro schools, singing, cheering and waving flags.

“Looking up the Paseo, the President can see a cleared space in the center, the gray macadam gleaming in the bright sunlight. The walls of the long corridor were thousands of children waving tiny flags like the myriad leaves of an autumn forest,” The Star reported. The president stood up in his carriage bowing and waving for most of the trip to the convention hall, “lifting his hat so often that it might truly be said that for three hours he rode bareheaded.”

The Convention Hall had never held more people, the Star said, and Roosevelt spoke for nearly an hour while thousands sat and stood in silence.

“The people were undoubtedly pleased with the President’s visit. School children and grown folks acted as if they were delighted as he passed by and greeted them. The President himself was immensely pleased with his welcome. He said so, most emphatically. He regretted that he could not stay longer.”


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