Roosevelt the Reformer: Theodore Roosevelt as Civil Service Commissioner, 1889-1895

By Richard D. White Jr. | Go to book overview
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2
1890
Attacked from All Quarters

WASHINGTONIANS AWOKE to a miserable winter morning on New Year's Day 1890. The temperature hovered just above freezing, and a cold drizzle seeped from the lowering gray overcast. The gloomy weather, however, failed to dampen the spirits of Theodore and Edith Roosevelt. Bundled warmly in their carriage, they rode along the glistening pavement of Connecticut Avenue and headed south toward the center of the city. The Roosevelts were excited, on their way to their first reception at the White House. Arriving shortly before eleven, they jostled their way through the crowd shivering in the rain. Theodore found their place near the end of the long line of top-hatted legislators, cabinet members, plumed diplomats, military officers, and fur-draped ladies. As a civil service commissioner, Roosevelt followed the strict protocol of Washington rank, trailing just behind the secretary of the Smithsonian, his friend Professor Samuel Langley, and just in front of members of the Interstate Commerce Commission.1

When the doors to the White House opened, the long line of dignitaries snaked through the East Room, where lush foliage plants decorated the mantels and tropical palms bordered the walls, while a scattering of scarlet poinsettias and pink azaleas cast a holiday brilliance about the room. Beneath the great sparkling chandeliers, each entwined with verdant smilax, stood the scarlet-coated Marine Band, conducted by John Philip Sousa,2 which serenaded the guests with a medley of military marches. President Harrison, a short, square-faced man with cold, steel-blue eyes and a full sandy beard, stood alone in the

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