The Unusual Journey of Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin

Before becoming president and moving to the White House, Theodore Roosevelt made a ponderosa pine log cabin in the Dakota Badlands his temporary home. The Maltese Cross Cabin was a place he came to live the life of a cowboy, in a secluded area that was basically the opposite of the bustling streets of his native New York City. But the house didn't stay secluded for long: Throughout the first half of the 20th century, it was exhibited in cities across the country, making it one of the most well-traveled former homes of any U.S. president.

Though it looks humble by today's standards, the Maltese Cross Cabin was regarded as a mansion by Dakota ranchers in the late 1800s. After Roosevelt purchased primary interest in the Chimney Butte Ranch—or the Maltese Cross Ranch, as it was known by locals—he had a one-and-a-half story cabin constructed on the property. It had many features that were luxurious for the plains of the Dakota territory, such as three rooms, wood floors, and a pitched, shingled roof that housed space for a loft. It was the New Yorker's main Dakota home when he made trips to the area in 1883 and 1884, when the Elkhorn became his primary ranch.

Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt in hunting outfit.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

When Roosevelt assumed the presidency at the turn of the 20th century, the Maltese Cross Cabin embarked on an eventful new chapter. It was no longer owned by TR by that time, but thanks to its former owner's new title, the building was more famous than ever. The organizers of the North Dakota exhibit at the 1904 World's Fair hatched a plan to share the landmark with a wider audience. The state purchased the cabin, took it apart, and shipped it to St. Louis where it was reassembled in time for the World's Fair on April 30, 1904. The 20 million people who attended the exposition were able to see the rugged cabin that once housed the president without trekking to the Badlands as TR had 20 years earlier.

The exhibit was a success. In fact, it was so well received that Portland, Oregon, asked to show the cabin at the city's Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition the following year.

So the Maltese Cross Cabin made another trip—this time to the West Coast, where it would stay from June 1 to October 15 of 1905. When the exposition concluded, the structure was shipped back to North Dakota for the state fair in Fargo. The next time it was moved—now to Bismarck in North Dakota—excitement around the artifact had faded, and it was left on the grounds of the state capital for years, where it fell into a state of disrepair. It wasn't until the Daughters of the American Revolution took possession of the cabin in 1919 that it was restored to its former glory.

In 1959, the cabin made its final journey. Some of TR's old ranch land in North Dakota had been made into a National Park, and the National Park Service wanted to return the structure to its original home. They worried that the cabin wouldn't be able to handle another disassembly, so instead of breaking it down, they secured the entire 26-by-18-foot house to a flat-bed truck and drove it 135 miles across the state.

The Maltese Cross Cabin has resided at Theodore Roosevelt National Park ever since. But it wasn't exactly returned to its original location: Roosevelt's ranch house sits several miles away from the spot where it was constructed in the early 1880s. Despite the numerous trips and deconstructions, many aspects of the building, including its ponderosa pine logs, have remained the same throughout the decades.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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Roosevelt's "The Man in the Arena"

Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt gave what would become one of the most widely quoted speeches of his career. The former president—who left office in 1909—had spent a year hunting in Central Africa before embarking on a tour of Northern Africa and Europe in 1910, attending events and giving speeches in places like Cairo, Berlin, Naples, and Oxford. He stopped in Paris on April 23, and, at 3 p.m. at the Sorbonne, before a crowd that included, according to the Edmund Morris biography Colonel Roosevelt, “ministers in court dress, army and navy officers in full uniform, nine hundred students, and an audience of two thousand ticket holders,” Roosevelt delivered a speech called “Citizenship in a Republic,” which, among some, would come to be known as “The Man in the Arena.”

In addition to touching on his own family history, war, human and property rights, the responsibilities of citizenship, and France’s falling birthrate, Roosevelt railed against cynics who looked down at men who were trying to make the world a better place. “The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer,” he said. “A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life's realities—all these are marks, not ... of superiority but of weakness.”
Then he delivered an inspirational and impassioned message that drew huge applause:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

The speech was a wild success. According to Morris—who calls it “one of [Roosevelt’s] greatest rhetorical triumphs”—“Citizenship in a Republic” ran in the Journal des Debats as a Sunday supplement, got sent to the teachers of France by Le Temps, was printed by Librairie Hachette on Japanese vellum, was turned into a pocket book that sold 5000 copies in five days, and was translated across Europe. Roosevelt, Morris writes, “was surprised at its success, admitting to Henry Cabot Lodge that the reaction of the French was ‘a little difficult for me to understand.’”

He might be even more surprised to learn that the most famous section of his speech still resonates and inspires, even today. It was quoted by Nixon in his resignation speech and has been paraphrased in TED Talks. It has a place in sports history, too: Before the 1995 World Cup, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of the passage to Francois Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team—and they won, defeating the favored All Blacks of New Zealand. Washington Nationals player Mark DeRosa would read it to himself before big games; before the Nationals faced the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Division Series in 2012, DeRosa read it aloud to his teammates. “That’s a quote I’ve always gone back to,” he told the Washington Times. “I go to that a lot, I really do. I’ve done it since college. I like it because people think they know, but they have no idea what we’re thinking from pitch to pitch. With our backs against the wall I wanted to say something that brought us together, a little band of brothers. Go out and fight. See what happens. I felt it was fitting. It fires me up when I read it.” The team was victorious.

The speech has its cultural touchstones, too: One wonders what TR would have made of his words being tattooed on Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth's arms and used in a Cadillac commercial.

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