Theodore Roosevelt and the Growth of the Gridiron

Aug 15, 2017

This summer the TR Center has eight interns working across the U.S. and from Scotland. Each intern is producing a digital humanities project. Christa Daugherty shares her process and her timeline of TR's role in sustaining the fame of football.

While I have been working for the Theodore Roosevelt Center, I have also been reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit. For those not familiar with the book, it gives a comprehensive look at the Progressive Era through the careers of Roosevelt and William Howard Taft as well as via the rise of investigative journalism. I was repeatedly amazed to find documents I catalogued for the Center discussed in detail in the book. I felt like I lived and breathed Teddy Roosevelt this summer, especially since time and again, the issues in Roosevelt's time are echoed in modern struggles.

One topic the book does not delve deeply into, however, is Roosevelt's role in sustaining the game of football, another Roosevelt-era issue that has arisen again. In fact, in just the last few weeks, a new study emerged about football's relationship to degenerative brain injury. So when I was asked to depict graphically an aspect of Roosevelt’s life or work, I decided to study further his involvement in the growth of the gridiron. A sports fan, history buff, and design fiend, I had a ball with this project. An American Studies class I took at Penn State on sports in society had taught me a great deal about this troubled era of football’s past, but I learned so much more as I delved into Roosevelt’s correspondence and researched additional milestones in the reform of the sport. Roosevelt’s family, his philosophies, and American culture intertwine so well with football in this era that any viewer of the timeline should learn about much more than the sport in its darkest days.

I designed the timeline with Tiki-Toki, a very user-friendly timeline generator. To store the images and link them to my timeline, I used Sirv. Each of the timeline's 70 stories contains one or more images; though a handful are from Wikimedia Commons or Flickr, most come directly from the Theodore Roosevelt Center’s digital library. Some are cartoons, some are photographs, and there are even two videos, but most are letters between Theodore Roosevelt and those involved in playing, cheering for, or reforming football. Via the “Find Out More” buttons, the stories link to records in the digital library, though most of the “Notable Football Events" link instead to outside sources. Many stories also offer additional links to further details about notable people and events.

TR Saves Football

Posted by Christa Daugherty on Aug 15, 2017 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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