Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Institute President 110 years ago with US President as guest of honour

This mysterious more than century old glass plate negative photograph of US President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) at a dinner hosted by journalists in London had no date.

It’s languished in the archives of the George Bain news agency at the US Library of Congress with no other identification.

We can now reveal that this was ‘a midnight supper’ hosted by the President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists in the banqueting room of Stationers’ Hall in the City of London in June 1910.

Original Chartered Institute of Journalists Presidential gold medal being worn in the 1910 photograph by Harry Levy-Lawson MP at the midnight supper in Stationers’ Hall.

Most of the country’s national and provincial newspaper editors were there along with all of the London US correspondents and those journalists accompanying Roosevelt on his world tour.

The Institute President is newspaper proprietor and Mile End Liberal MP Harry Levy Lawson (1862-1933).

He is seated in the middle and can be seen wearing the Institute’s original gold Presidential medal.

This was first struck in 1906.

Harry Levy-Lawson MP. Image Vanity Fair Public Domain

Theodore Roosevelt had just finished two terms as US President and had arrived in London after travelling across Africa and Europe.

He is sitting to the right of Harry Levy-Lawson with the US ambassador Whitelaw Reid on Lawson’s left.

It’s another time and age, when the President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists lived in a mansion- Hall Barn in Beaconsfield Buckinghamshire, owned we hasten to add by Levy-Lawson and not the Institute.

Hall Barn, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. Image Public Domain.

He saw active service in the Great War, was mentioned in despatches and in 1916, on the death of his father, succeeded to the title 1st Viscount Burnham and took his seat in the House of Lords.

He also succeeded his father in the management and ownership of the Daily Telegraph.

It might be apparent that there is an absence of representation of women in these archive photographs.

It was a patronymic society when women were fighting for the right to vote.

Suffragists and suffragettes were campaigning with petitions and demonstrations.

Suffragette demonstration outside Houses of Parliament before the First World War. Image: George Bain archive, Library of Congress. Public Domain.

Suffragettes were taking ‘direct action’ to fight their cause- in this case burning down the tea pavilion at Kew Botanical gardens.

Tea House at Kew Gardens destroyed by arson in direct political action by Suffragettes in their fight for votes for women and other equal rights before the Great War. Image: George Bain archive, Library of Congress, Public Doman.

Roosevelt is a largely forgotten President unless you are a student of US political history. However, he was at the time one of the most important and influential world leaders.

He’d completed two terms of Office from 1901 to 1909.

He became President in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley.

By the time he arrived in London he had shot an elephant on safari- something that would not do much for the reputation of a present-day US President.

Theodore Roosevelt pictured in 1910 having hunted and killed an elephant while on his post Presidential tour of African countries. Image: Public Domain.

He is also reputed to have been the origin of the word ‘Teddy’ for ‘Teddy Bears.’

This stemmed from his decision to spare a wonderful brown bear that had appeared before one of his hunting parties in the American wilderness.

Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt would experience an assassination attempt two years after attending the Institute of Journalists’ dinner in London.

He was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and shot in the chest by saloonkeeper John Flammang Schrank. He carried on speaking when he judged that the bullet had not penetrated his lung.

Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 having survived two terms of US Presidential office. He would also survive an assassination attempt on his life in 1912. Image: Library of Congress. Public Domain.

It would remain there for the rest of his life.

The Institute’s dinner was reported in the most prominent national liberal daily of the time, The Daily News, edited by Alfred George Gardiner (1865-1946) who later became famous as the columnist ‘Alpha of the Plough.’

Gardiner served two terms as President of the CIoJ and used the Reform Club in Pall Mall as his ‘writing office.’

Alfred George Gardiner- two times President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists. Image: Imperial War Museum. Public Domain.

At the time The Daily News eclipsed the Manchester Guardian which was only a provincial morning paper and had the notoriety of having supported the pro-slavery Confederate cause during the American Civil War.

The Daily News newspaper report of the event stated: ‘In proposing the health of Mr. Roosevelt, the Chairman said they could say of their guest that he was a man who said what he believed to be true and was afraid of nobody. His destiny was to be a perpetual tonic.’

In reply, Roosevelt said ‘he had thoroughly enjoyed his stay in England. To judge by some of the comments he had received there were people who had not shared his enjoyment (Laughter).

There were cheers when he said:

‘It was a pleasant thing to know that the relations between the United States and Great Britain were so much better, and he ought to point out that they had steadily improved almost in proportion as the United States had grown stronger and less sensitive to what was said of it from outside.’

Roosevelt had been a Republican President and had always cultivated respectful and friendly relations with journalists and the media.

His main message was the importance of peace in the world:

‘He thought that in modern life there was a tendency, hitherto unknown in the world, for a power, as it grew more strong, to also grow more careful of the rights of others, or at least more reluctant to infringe unwarrantably on the rights of others.’

The back of the Institute’s original Presidential badge indicates when it was first made in 1906 and presented by Major Gratwicke. It was re-issued to the Vice President in 1973 after a new and larger Presidental badge was created for the Institute’s President in that year.