President Roosevelt and the Capitol Dedication

On the rainy morning of October 4, 1906 at approximately 10:30 a.m. members of the Capitol Dedication Commission left in horse-drawn carriages for the train station to meet the orator of the day — President Theodore Roosevelt.

Despite the weather, the crowd within the train station was filled with people who were eager to catch a glimpse of the nation's Chief Executive. Presidential security was tight with Secret Service agents scattered among the crowds at the station and in other parts of the city. A few of these men wore official looking badges on their left breast, but most of them were without any distinguishing marks.

Governor Pennypacker was the first man to climb the steps of the railroad car to meet the President. All of the committeemen, attired in conventional dress for men on such ceremonial occasions — light trousers, frock coat, and silk hat — entered the car and there was a brief informal reception with introductions all around. Governor Pennypacker presented President Roosevelt with the gold medal that the state had made for him. Mayor Edward Gross, representing the city, presented him with the solid gold medal that the Citizens' Committee had cast especially for him.

When Roosevelt disembarked from his train car, the crowd began to cheer all through the crowded station and along the passageway to the waiting carriages. The President with his unshakable nerve and energetic verve made his way through the railroad station, rain hat in hand, bowing and smiling to the cheering thousands. Governor Pennypacker led the way to the new Capitol, where he hosted a hurried inspection of the building. The President visited the Governor's office, the legislative chambers of the Senate and the House, and witnessed the beauty of the building and the handsome decorations. Roosevelt personally congratulated architect Joseph Huston on the splendid edifice he had designed and successfully carried to a finish. The President found all of the clerks and state employees at work in the several departments for it was not an official state holiday. Roosevelt's admiration was boundless and he proclaimed the new Capitol "the handsomest state capitol I have ever seen."

At the dedication ceremony Governor Pennypacker received warm applause following his speech. Just as he finished and turned to present President Roosevelt, the vast audience gave him absolute silence. "Of all the rulers in the universe," said the Governor, "the greatest and best beloved is the President of the United States. We have him with us today and I now present him to you."

President Roosevelt arose, bowed right and left, and raised his hand for silence. Then, in ringing voice, he plunged into his speech, following closely the printed notes that he held in his hands. Aside from the president's commendation of prominent Pennsylvanians and praise of the record of the legislature in extraordinary session, the leading features of the President Roosevelt's address at the dedication of the new Capitol were his advocacy of increased power of the Federal government and a recital of what the Federal government had accomplished in the past few years. He refrained from saying anything that could have been distorted into approval or even acknowledgment of the corrupt state political machine at the turn of the twentieth century.

The President expressed his support of interpreting the constitution in broad and liberal fashion so that the federal government could exercise greater and surer control of corporations. Roosevelt felt that the subject was worthy of the consideration of the people as a whole; the subject was far too important to be left to the decision and determination of a few men.

The President's address as a whole was made to the entire country, not just to the people of Pennsylvania. His concluding words recommended that all men be guided by "a sense of honorable obligation to their fellows that will bind them as by bands of steel, to refrain…from doing aught to any man which can not be blazoned under the noonday sun." Perhaps he was hoping that this advice would be taken to heart by some Pennsylvanians who occupied high official positions.

President Roosevelt and his entourage departed from Harrisburg about three o'clock to return to Washington, D.C. Although Harrisburg was enshrouded with gloomy clouds, the light spirits of the visitors still prevailed. It had been a memorable day. Roosevelt had been duly impressed with the new Capitol of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and considered the dedication a great event, highly creditable to all concerned, and long to be remembered.