Rough Riders, from the series History
2014 archival pigment print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Donald Standford Rosenfeld Jr.
Rough Riders was the nickname given to a unit of cavalry volunteers recruited by Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in 1898 to fight in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Comprising a diverse group of Western riflemen, Ivy League athletes, Texas Rangers, and Native Americans, they became instantly famous—symbols of a new American masculine ideal rooted in the West. Roosevelt cultivated this image through written accounts of the group’s triumphs and defeats, which helped to enhance his own carefully crafted personal mythology. Although not represented in Levinthal’s photograph, Roosevelt became synonymous with the Rough Riders and celebrated as the ultimate cowboy-soldier-statesman icon.