In this installment of of presidential children's book illustrations, comic book legend Jack Davis presents the life of America's 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt. Despite their ample brown and orange hued delights, these drawings offer nothing close to the lovingly rendered detail of the ones he did depicting the life of Abraham Lincoln. While some of the full-page drawings feature the careful cross-hatching and stylized realism found in the best of Davis' commercial work, many of them appear to have been handed over to an assistant for hasty finishing.
It is unknown if this is the result of tight deadlines, an overbooked client card, or just lack of interest on Davis' part. Perhaps turn of the century America didn't resonate as deeply with him as did the civil war era. Or perhaps he was simply drawn less to Roosevelt than Lincoln. Certainly, he is not alone. Despite his central place in the presidential pantheon, Roosevelt remains a controversial figure. One of the architects of the modern presidency -- larger than life, media-friendly, and the central figure in his own bona fide cult of personality -- Roosevelt is both lionized as a "trust busting" conservationist and pilloried as a jingoistic war monger.
In his article for the Ludwig von Mises Institute site, "No More 'Great Presidents,'" Robert Higgs goes so far as to call Roosevelt a "proto-fascist." Bemoaning the swollen place of the presidency in the current political scene, Higgs outlines the role of the executive branch in an administration which "governs best by governing least." Which hurts a country more, he asks: a term dogged by political scandal (as in the case of Grant or Harding) or one perusing a murderous agenda (i.e. Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt)?
Happily, in our present day and age, we aren't forced to choose between either of these over-simplified polarities. Nowadays, corruption and imperialism are two great tastes that seem to go great together. Fortunately for Davis' young audience, his illustrations indict Roosevelt for political sins no greater than ambition and big game hunting.