Theodore Roosevelt, the Unscrupulous Concessioner, and the Insane Adversary
By Jeremy Johnston, PhD
September 5, 2019
Join us for our September Draper Natural History Museum Lunchtime Expedition lecture, when our own Jeremy M. Johnston presents Theodore Roosevelt, the Unscrupulous Concessioner, and the Insane Adversary. Johnston is the Tate Endowed Chair of Western History, Goppert Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum, and Managing Editor of The Papers of William F. Cody. The talks in this series are free, and take place in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Coe Auditorium the first Thursday of the month.
In the fall of 1902, James Fullerton, a resident of Red Lodge, Montana, accused Major John Pitcher, the military superintendent of Yellowstone National Park, of incompetence and corruption. Fullerton claimed Pitcher turned a blind eye towards poachers and saloon keepers. He also alleged Pitcher provided political favors to concessioner Harry Child, whose Yellowstone Park Association held a lodging and transportation monopoly in the park, at the expense of other entrepreneurs within the park. President Theodore Roosevelt visited Yellowstone in 1903 and assured the public that Fullerton’s claims against Pitcher were utterly false. However, Fullerton, likely backed by the troublesome Ella Collins Waters who ran the steamboat concession and a questionable animal display located on Dot Island, continued to criticize Roosevelt’s management of Yellowstone.
Eventually, the courts deemed Fullerton insane and committed him to an asylum, an action that inspired his later attacks against Roosevelt in his book Roosevelt’s Adversary. Regardless of Fullerton’s public attacks, Roosevelt supported the operations of effective concessioners while at the same time taking decisive action to expel those who did not adhere to park policies, such as Waters. For the remainder of his presidency, Roosevelt backed the military administration of Yellowstone and their efforts to protect the wildlife and ensure visitors received proper services from concessioners who held leases within the park. Roosevelt’s challenge to Fullerton’s criticisms and his expulsion of Waters from Yellowstone significantly diminished the notion that political connections guaranteed the protection of a few unscrupulous and monopolistic concessioners within Yellowstone, contributing to the further advance of the vision of Yellowstone National Park existing “for the benefit and the enjoyment of the people.”
About our speaker
Jeremy M. Johnston is the Hal and Naoma Tate Endowed Chair and Curator of Western History, the Ernest J. Goppert Curator of the Buffalo Bill Museum, and, the Managing Editor of the Papers of William F. Cody. Johnston attended the University of Wyoming, from which he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1993 and his Master of Arts in 1995. He earned his PhD in American Studies at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2017. His doctoral dissertation examined the personal and professional relationship between Theodore Roosevelt and William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, soon to be published by University of Oklahoma Press. Johnston published various articles in Annals of Wyoming, Colorado Heritage, Points West, Readings of Wyoming History, and Yellowstone Science. Johnston is the recipient of the 2006 Coke Wood Award, sponsored by Westerners International, for his article “Progressivism Comes to Yellowstone: Theodore Roosevelt and Professional Land Management Agencies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem.” Collaborating with Dr. Charles Preston, former curator of the Center’s Draper Natural History Museum (now Curator Emeritus and Senior Scientist), he published an annotated version of Ernest Thompson-Seton’s Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly, published by University of Oklahoma Press.
Draper Natural History Museum Lunchtime Expeditions are supported in part by Sage Creek Ranch and the Nancy-Carroll Draper Foundation.
Join us the first Thursday of each month February through December for a Lunchtime Expedition! These free lectures explore a variety of natural history subjects and issues. Lectures take place in our Coe Auditorium at 12:15 p.m. and are free and open to the public.