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Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt : Political Cartoons : Spelling Reform Controversy

The Simplified Spelling Board was an American organization created in 1906 to reform the spelling of the English language, making it simpler and easier to learn, and eliminating many of its inconsistencies.

In August 1906, President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt had supported the plan, signing an executive order at his home in Oyster Bay, New York, mandating the use of reformed spelling in his official communications and messages to Congress. Prof. Matthews stated that he had received no advance notice of the President's order and had been taken by surprise when it was issued.

Roosevelt tried to force the federal government to adopt the system, sending an order to the Public Printer to use the system in all public federal documents. The order was obeyed, and among the President's special message regarding the Panama Canal was printed using the Board's word list.

The press had a field day with the "reform spelling crusade" and editorials and cartoons abounded.

Roosevelt ultimately decided to rescind the order. Brander Matthews, a friend of Roosevelt and one of the chief advocates of the reform as Chairman of the Spelling Reform Board, remonstrated with him for abandoning the effort. Roosevelt replied on December 16, 1906: "I could not by fighting have kept the new spelling in, and it was evidently worse than useless to go into an undignified contest when I was beaten. Do you know that the one word as to which I thought the new spelling was wrong — thru — was more responsible than anything else for our discomfiture?"

Next summer Roosevelt was watching a naval review when a newspaper launch marked "Pres Bot" chugged ostentatiously by. The President waved and laughed with delight.

(verbatim from Wikipedia entry for "Simplified Spelling Board")