“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1 – 3, Washington, D.C, February, 1898)

“Mr. Crane’s Vivid Story” (scenes 1 – 3,  Washington, D.C, February, 1898)


Poster advertising Edward Amets faked recreation of the battle of Manilla Bay, circa 1898



USS Maine Tablet (1912), old Rochester City Hall, Fitzhugh Street

Scene 1: Havana, February 1898



from 1896 film, Boxing match or Glove Contest

Scene 2: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, February 1898

600x300xBuffalo.jpg.pagespeed.ic_.Gy-iNOWiNpScene 4: Montana, February 1898

Scene 5: New York, February 1898220px-StephenCraneandCora1899

Scene 6: The Cuban Countyrside, February 1898


Scene 7: Havana, May 1898










Scene 8: Havana, May 1898evangelina-cosío-cisneros%202

Scene 9, Siboney, Cuba June 1898crank 2

More about early war films  Filming, faking and propaganda: The origins of the war film, 1897-1902

and see On Spanish-American War Monuments and Rochester. And remembering the Buffalo Soldiers on Veteran’s Day

Scene 3 Washington, D.C


Stephen Crane reporting on the Greco-Turkish War, 1897


(Theodore Roosevelt in his Navy War Office. The phone rings.  He fumbles with the receiver, cursing and muttering)


replica of the telephone President McKinley used in the White House during the Spanish-American War

Voice: Mrs. Penelope Davis of Richmond, Virginia to see you.  Back from her year in Paris.

Roosevelt: Send her in.

Penelope:   (excited)   Teddy, Teddy, ce’st moi!   How is my dear Teddy, mon petite Teddy!  (touching Roosevelt’s large frame).

Roosevelt: Mrs. Penelope Davis, I presume.  No doubt bearing pate, truffles, and bon bons.

Penelope:   You are such the mind reader!  You must be a marvel at phrenology!  (She hands him a package as she holds her hand on her head.)


Roosevelt when serving as Assistant Secretary to the Navy

Roosevelt: And how was gay Paree?

Penelope: Absolutely wretched.  They made us sleep on feather beds; there wasn’t a stitch of buffalo meat to be had, and the only wild Indians I saw were selling postcards of the Eifel Tower.  You would have despised it.

Roosevelt: Well, perhaps shooting Frogs on the River Seine would have been good sport.  Although, it’s hard to aim while holding your nose.  (he holds his nose)

(The phone rings. Again Roosevelt fumbles and curses.)ImpUS7

Roosevelt: What?  Dear God.  How bad is it?  Get back to me as soon as you know.

Penelope: What is it? Teddy, you look like you’ve seen a ghost.

Roosevelt: More like 250 of them.  The Maine has blown up in Havana Harbor.

Penelope: Oh, my!  (she appears faint)  I don’t understand.  Why was the Maine there?  I’ve been abroad so long . . .

Roosevelt:   The Maine was sent to Cuba to protect American citizens.  While you’ve been gone things have heated up.  (He goes to the War Department map)

Here’s Cuba, you see. Not more than two day’s sail from Florida.  Cuba is Spain’s last colony in the New World.  The Bourbon monarchy has been running the island into the ground for years.  The Cuba people have revolted. They’re tired of the Old World and I can’t blame them.


from Richard Harding Davis, The Cuban and Porto Rican Campaigns (1899)

Penelope: But to blow up the Maine.  All those innocent boys!

Roosevelt: We don’t know yet what happened.  But I wouldn’t put it past those syphilitic bastards.

Penelope: Teddy!

Roosevelt: I feel as bad about those boys as you do.  But this means war for sure and I’m glad of it.  If the Navy has anything to say about it, America is about to become a world power.  Maybe the world power.  Cuba is in our backyard and we can’t stand for this.

Penelope: But to be glad for war . . .

Roosevelt: Listen, Penelope.  War is a bloody business but we need a bloody business.  Look at us.  We are a nation gone soft.  We eat canned foods and take nerve tonic .  . .

Penelope: (interrupting) And talk on the telephone.tr5

Roosevelt: (continuing) Nowadays we can’t go two miles without an automobile. It’s a generation of Nancy Boys.  Men who should be building their bodies spend all their time looking at stock ticker tapes. Buying, selling, buying, selling.  This war will revitalize us; cleanse us of that morbid love of self which serves no higher purpose than to parade down Fifth Avenue in a top hat.

Look at Richmond. It’s no different.  It’s been over thirty years since the south heard the rebel yell.  I may be a Northerner but it’ll be like Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee come to life!


Statue of McKinley with phone, Rapid City, South Dakota

Penelope: Teddy, I’m swooning!

Roosevelt: (taking a pointer to the map).  He we are (pointing to Washington) and (moving the pointer) here’s Havana.  It’ll be war for sure and I’ll be damned if Teddy Roosevelt isn’t the first one there!

(the phone rings. Roosevelt jumps up, fumbles and mutters)

Penelope: (on her way out). Oh, Teddy come back in one piece and a hero.  (Roosevelt is distracted and gestures goodbye).  (Penelope gives one final glance).  I never use that contraption.  Now I see what the telephone is good for.  It rings and you’all jump!


Barack Obama speaking in the Roosevelt Room in the White House. Behind, portrait of Roosevelt as a Rough Rider in Cuba

About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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