Image courtesy The Rough Rider Archive, City of Las Vegas Museum and Rough Rider Memorial Collection, Las Vegas, New Mexico, 108.8.28
During the late nineteenth century, Cubans revolted against Spanish rule for decades. Americans watched paid great attention to the efforts to rid the island nation of Spanish control since the United States had many strategic and economic interests in Cuba. Many in the United States supported a war in Cuba against Spain. By 1898 with public opinion for war high, the United States declared war. Theodore Roosevelt, an ardent supporter of aggressive action in Cuba, led a cavalry regiment labeled the Rough Riders; formally known as the United States First Volunteer Cavalry, served in the Spanish-American War in the Cuba theater. The efforts of these American Rough Riders were symbolic of the nation at the time; young, headstrong and ready to take on the world. Members of Roosevelt's force, vital in the United States' imperial war against Spain and ostensibly in aiding the Cuban movement for independence, were added to the Wild West to perform a re-enactment of the patriotic and heroic Battle of San Juan Hill, a monumental victory during the war. That scene provided the climax to the show from 1899-1900 and 1902-1903. By leading the expanding nation in an overseas battle with imperial implications, as white men had done in the West, Roosevelt's Rough Riders represented the control, dominance, and power that American manhood had on a global stage. Furthermore, the San Juan Hill re-enactment contributed to the show's appeal to manly virtues, particularly demonstrating the martial virtues. This section on Roosevelt's Rough Riders examines further connections between manliness and imperialism because in this era and context, manliness equated with imperial drive and in the bringing of American civilization to others as a part of extending the United States' sphere of influence (Hoganson, 5 and Bederman, 27). Colonial expansion became a major component to national progress and intimately tied to notions of race and manhood. This section further demonstrates Buffalo Bill Cody's commitment to advocating a type of American manhood, the same often credited to Theodore Roosevelt alone, by including members of the Rough Rider regiment and making the San Juan Hill performance the pinnacle of the show. The Wild West's portrayal of San Juan Hill helped shape the meaning the public took from Roosevelt's Rough Riders' actions in the Spanish American War and in contributing to the American manly image. Furthermore, visitors can learn more about the members and memory perpetuated by Roosevelt's Rough Riders who played for Buffalo Bill. The documents, with concept highlighting and TokenX, comprise the key to this section's analysis, visualizations, and the connection with ideals of manhood. In the documents, visitors will find concepts such as heroism, fame, manly attributes, and imperialistic conceptions intersecting Roosevelt's Rough Rider regiment with Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World.