Pabst Mansion

Teddy at the Pabst

February 28, 2022

1899 was quite a year for future president Theodore Roosevelt; his book, “The Rough Riders” was published; he was sworn in as the 33rd governor of New York; and he delivered his famous speech “The Strenuous Life” in which he detailed his difficult upbringing and how it led him to be what he considered to be an American in the truest sense. But one small moment of Teddy’s personal life at the turn of the century shines a light on Milwaukee’s own Frederick Pabst.

On June 28th of that year, Milwaukee hosted a flower parade headed by Roosevelt and Pabst. Pabst amiably lent his plain carriage to the governor as the two of them waved to 250,000 spectators along Grand (now Wisconsin) and Prospect Avenues. Shouts of encouragement to run for president from Milwaukeeans and lively roars of approval came from fellow Harvard alumni as Roosevelt and Pabst made their way to the Deutscher Club (now the Wisconsin Club), the Press Club, and the Milwaukee Club. Ever humble, Roosevelt stated that, “They don’t know me as they do in New York, hence I am popular” in response to the crowd’s enthusiasm. After the parade, Roosevelt was given a tour of both the Pabst breweries and the Pabst Mansion by the Captain himself.

Teddy Roosevelt (second from right) rode in the Pabst family carriage for his 1899 visit to Milwaukee

Although Roosevelt’s 1899 visit to the Pabsts’ residence may not seem eventful to us today, it was memorable enough for Roosevelt to recall it five years later in 1904 in a letter to Emil von Schleinitz upon learning of the Captain’s death. Roosevelt stated he shall “always cherish a lively remembrance of the courtesy with which Captain Pabst treated me when I visited Milwaukee.” Indeed, the trip as whole was declared by the governor to be the “jolliest fun I’ve ever had,” and The New York Times reported that he commented to ex-Governor of Wisconsin George Peck that he wished he could stay and go on a bender, to which Peck joked that he would have to pardon him, one governor to another.

Roosevelt wasn’t the only one who had fond memories of the day: Elsbeth Pabst recalled how excited and nervous she was to meet the governor, until he walked through the door and threw her up in the air. His strong arms and friendliness upon greeting everyone in the house had Elsbeth remembering him as “a wonderful man!”

Unfortunately, Roosevelt’s good luck in the Cream City would not last long. In 1912, the now ex-president visited Milwaukee again, this time to campaign for his attempted third term as president. While exiting the Gilpatrick Hotel (now the Hyatt Regency) Roosevelt was shot in the chest by Bavarian immigrant John Schrank, who believed Roosevelt was power hungry and corrupt for his wishes to serve a third term, which had never been done before. Despite the fact that Roosevelt was indeed hit in the chest by the bullet, he refused any sort of doctor examination until he delivered the speech he had come to Milwaukee to deliver. He arrived at a crowd of over 10,000 people at the Milwaukee Auditorium and told them that he had just been shot but “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose,” solidifying the party’s nickname in reference to their strength and perseverance. Once the speech was finished he finally allowed the injury to be looked at. Amazingly, the bullet had not gone far enough into his chest to cause life-threatening damage due to the long speech being folded in his breast pocket along with his glasses case.

Letter of condolence from President Theodore Roosevelt upon hearing of Captain Pabst's death in 1904.

Through these two short visits to Milwaukee, Teddy Roosevelt established himself as an interesting character in the city’s history. And despite the fact that Wisconsin went to Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election, not Roosevelt, his presence in Wisconsin may have helped him grab the state’s electoral votes in the 1904 election in which he won the presidency, and his legacy as one of the many famous visitors to the Pabst Mansion stands today.


By Nora McCaughey