Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi: firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 13 April 2012 00:00
It is once again time for the Dr. John A. Gable Lecture Series sponsored by the Friends of Sagamore Hill (FOSH) and held at Christ Church Parish Hall. The series kicked off on March 29 with a talk by Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Wynn speaking on “Theodore Roosevelt: The Intellectual: TR as writer, contributor, and correspondent.” The next lecture in the series takes place on Thursday, April 12 at 7:15 p.m., as James L. Coll, associate professor of American and Constitutional history at Nassau Community College speaks on “The Progressives and the Constitution.” Admission is free and refreshments are served.
Mr. Coll is with the NYPD and was named Cop of the Year in 2009 for his unit’s work on the US Airways Flight 1549 rescue of the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River. He was also part of a unit sent to help after the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti. Mr. Coll received his M.A. from Hunter College in 2001 and is working toward his Ph.D.
The last lecture of the series takes place on Thursday, May 24. FOSH President Gerry Alfani said the third lecturer was recommended by Sagamore Hill National Historic Park Superintendent Thomas Ross. “Clay Jenkinson is with the Dakota Institute. Tom [Ross] has heard him and said he’s dynamic.” Mr. Jenkinson is a sought-after public speaker and a popular portrayer of several historically significant representatives of America’s past. Among them is Theodore Roosevelt. He is known for bringing his particular brand of “living history” to his lectures.
Mr. Jenkinson, a scholar, moderator of the Theodore Roosevelt Symposium, director of the Dakota Institute, and chief consultant for the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University will speak on “Theodore Roosevelt’s Sojourn in the American West.” That part of the west is where TR went to recuperate and re-invent himself after the death of his wife and his mother in one day, on Feb. 14. 1884, Valentine’s Day. That was two days after his first daughter Alice was born.
All the lectures take place in the Christ Church Parish Hall at 61 East Main Street in Oyster Bay. It is the church TR attended with his wife and children.
FOSH president Alfani said of Lieutenant Colonel Wynn’s talk on March 29, “I enjoyed it immensely. He took a different outlook on TR, on his being a writer and a newspaper correspondent. You generally don’t hear that. Typically you hear about TR, the big game hunter and the politician, and he took it one step further. He was a very dymamic speaker.”
Oyster Bay Historical Society Executive Director Phillip Blocklyn also attended the lecture given by Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Wynn, a colonel in active service with the Marine Corps who teaches at SUNY Maritime. He is a noted collector of Roosevelt books and documents and anything relating to TR –- especially books and printed matter. He spoke on Roosevelt’s contributions as an author and correspondent and as a general intellectual.
Colonel Wynn said TR was interested in politics, natural history, and history in general. He either spoke or had a reading knowledge of several languages and for a president, he was pretty much an intellectual. He was intellectually curious and wrote about many subjects other than politics.
Mr. Wynn said TR was an avid letter writer and a voracious reader. He read a book a day and corresponded with authors. TR had a very large library and read very quickly and remembered everything he read. He had a wonderful memory, said Mr. Wynn.
Colonel Wynn was an engaging speaker and took questions from the floor. “Before the lecture people were talking about the late Nick LaBella [who was the superintendent of Youngs Cemetery where TR is buried] and what questions he might have asked after the lecture,” Mr. Blocklyn recalled.
“One good question was ‘what was Edith Roosevelt [TR’s wife] like intellectually?’ Mr. Wynn said she was in many ways TR’s intellectual superior and like him, had a very broad and active intellectual life, although they had different interests.” Mr. Wynn added that Edith Roosevelt was more literary than TR and was interested in first class literature; fine literature.
Mr. Blocklyn’s background includes being an antiquarian book seller and is the overseer of the OBHS collection of material related to TR’s community in Oyster Bay. He said that Edith Roosevelt had a long correspondence with the librarian at the New York Society Library (NYSL), Marion King.
“Edith never saved her letters, but the letters she sent to others, people kept,” Mr. Blocklyn explained. The NYSL recently published the librarian’s correspondence with Edith. Ms. Roosevelt was very close to other writers. She knew and spoke with Henry James among others, as did TR himself.”
Mr. Blocklyn said Marion King’s book, The Presidents’s Wife and the Librarian covered 27 years of correspondence, and was a big exhibit at the NYSL a couple of years ago. The NYSL is the oldest library in New York State in continual operation from before the Civil War. He said that in Colonial times, libraries were private and often described themselves as a reading society. People paid a fee to join the club. [Interestingly, Mr. Blocklyn added that the OBHS is planning an event with the Post Library Association on May 23 in honor of Fleet Week.]