May 12

This Day in History

Presidential

May 12, 1903:

Teddy Roosevelt's trip to San Francisco is captured on film

On this day in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt's trip to San Francisco is captured on moving-picture film, making him the first president to have an official activity recorded in that medium.

A cameraman named H.J. Miles filmed the president while riding in a parade in his honor. The resulting short move was titled The President's Carriage and was later played on "nickelodeons" in arcades across America. The film showed Roosevelt riding in a carriage and escorted by the Ninth U.S. Cavalry Regiment, which was unusual for the time, according to the Library of Congress and contemporary newspapers, because it was an all-black company.

Roosevelt was the first president to take advantage of the impact motion pictures could have on the presidency. The photogenic president encouraged filmmakers to document his official duties and post-presidential personal activities until his death in 1919. He purposely played directly to the camera with huge gestures and thundering speeches. The Library of Congress holds much of the original film footage, including that of his second inaugural ceremony in 1905, a visit to Panama in 1906 and an African safari in 1909. Roosevelt appeared on camera with many notable people of his time, including European kings and queens, as well as Hopi Indians and Masai warriors in Africa. In 1912, Roosevelt's unsuccessful campaign for president on the Progressive ticket was also captured on film. Later that year, Roosevelt again made two presidential "firsts." On October 11, 1910, he became the first (former) president to not only fly in an airplane but also to be filmed while flying in an airplane.

Even Roosevelt's funeral in Oyster Bay, New York, in 1919 was memorialized on camera. The filmmaker documented the procession and memorial service, and included shots of Roosevelt's successor, William Howard Taft.

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