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Patrick Springer, Published July 29 2012

Teddy Roosevelt Center looking for memorabilia with ties to president

FARGO – Cleo Boschee has a branding iron from Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch in western North Dakota he bought from a museum that sold its inventory when it closed years ago.

The branding iron, with the distinctive brand of a simplified elk horn, might be displayed someday with the collections of the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University.

The iron, which still bears the tag from the defunct museum in Belfield, is one of the prized items in Cleo and Joan Boschee’s collection of Teddy Roosevelt memorabilia.

“We’ve got all kinds of pictures, postcards, campaign buttons, plates, that kind of stuff,” said Cleo Boschee, a retired school superintendent who lives in Wishek. “We’ve got a lot of it hanging on our walls.”

Those at the Theodore Roosevelt Center want to know about any other Teddy Roosevelt memorabilia tucked away in North Dakota’s attics.

“We want to do this sweep of the state,” said Clay Jenkinson, a Theodore Roosevelt scholar who serves as a consultant for the project. “We want to see what’s out there.”

Already, the center has received donations from residents across the state, or permission to photograph or copy Roosevelt memorabilia.

Archivists are pursuing leads, including a report that North Dakota State University once had a bust of Roosevelt. “We’ll track it down,” Jenkinson said.

The center has embarked on an ambitious effort to build an electronic archive of an estimated 1 million pages of diaries, photographs, presidential papers, films, newspaper clippings and other documents associated with Roosevelt.

The aim of the project, with an estimated price tag of $5 million to $10 million, is to assemble a digital presidential library devoted to Roosevelt.

Among the digital archive’s signature items are recently discovered copies of letters Roosevelt wrote to his “dear wifie” during his famous 1883 trip to the North Dakota Badlands.

Now the center has turned its attention to Roosevelt’s less-celebrated connections to North Dakota, including creation of an interactive map.

Points of interest will feature Roosevelt’s conservation footprints in North Dakota, including the Chase Lake National Wildlife Reserve, Stump Lake National Wildlife Reserve, and Sullys Hill National Game Reserve, in addition to the national park that bears his name.

The map also will highlight the cornerstone of the library in Fargo he dedicated in 1910 – when he famously credited his experience as a cowboy in North Dakota for molding him into the man who became president.

The cornerstone now resides in the collections at Bonanzaville, but some are working to return it to its original location near Island Park.

Plans also call for a driving tour of Roosevelt sites in North Dakota.

The virtual library’s partners include Harvard University, the Library of Congress and the National Park Service, including Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt’s estate on Long Island in New York, his birthplace in New York City, Mount Rushmore and, of course, Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Eventually, in perhaps 10 years, the center hopes to have a building so it can exhibit its physical collections along with its digital archives.


Roosevelt treasures

If you have items connected to Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota, you can contact the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University by emailing Clay Jenkinson, project consultant, at Clayjenkinson2010@

gmail.com or Sharon Kilzer, project manager, at Sharon.kilzer@ dickinsonstate.edu


Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522