As the stars and stripes fly this time of year, we remember the men and women who blazed the trail for a nation founded on freedom. It’s the perfect time to celebrate a few great American adventurers who opened doors, preserved lands, and set examples for us to follow.
Theodore Roosevelt: Adventure brings strength.
“Get action. Seize the moment. Man was never intended to become an oyster.”
There are two things for which Theodore Roosevelt is most famous: being the 26th president of the United States of America, and inspiring the beloved Teddy Bear. But for adventurers, Teddy Roosevelt provides a different kind of inspiration.
Born with severe health challenges, Theodore Roosevelt learned early on that staying active and pushing himself was the best way to alleviate the symptoms of his intense bronchial asthma. But when tragedy struck and Roosevelt’s mother and wife died on the same day, Theodore’s health began failing again. He found strength by moving to the open spaces and rugged cowboy life of the Dakota Territory: riding, hunting, and even chasing outlaws. He later returned to the city and his political career, but his experience in the great outdoors stayed with him, inspiring the attitude of tenacity and grit that guided him through his presidency.
Nellie Bly: Adventure can impact the world.
“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.”
Nellie Bly never shied away from adventure. In fact, no matter how often she was denied opportunities because of her gender, she continued to create world-changing adventures for herself.
Her first position on a newspaper came from a scathing letter she wrote to the editor. Once hired, she wrote revealing stories about injustices against the poor and oppressed, much different from the fashion and society pieces women of the time were expected to write. Although her muckraking upset business leaders, it led her to adventures of all kinds. She moved to Mexico, where she later fled arrest for writing critically of the government; interviewed famous suffragette Susan B. Anthony; spent 10 days undercover in a mental institution, exposing the appalling treatment of the mentally ill; and made a record-breaking 72-day trip around the world—eight days faster than hero of the novel that inspired the the trip.
John Muir: Adventure with passion.
“We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.”
The Father of National Parks, John Muir understood how essential undisturbed nature is for individuals as well as for a society. After being temporarily blinded in an industrial accent, Muir realized his life had a higher purpose and dedicated himself to his dream of studying of plants. He traveled the world, studying it as he went. He did much of his travel on foot, walking 1,000 miles from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, and later from San Francisco to the Sierra Nevada. He wrote extensively of the world around him, both physical and spiritual, and asserted that humans were connected with nature, but not rulers over it. Muir’s passion was contagious and influenced many people, including Teddy Roosevelt and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Many nationally preserved lands such as Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, and the Grand Canyon owe their existence in some way to Muir.
All images from the Library of Congress