Thursday, May 11, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt's Neurasthenia

A man named Charles Beard came up with a theory in the late nineteenth century to account for the sudden increase in people becoming depressed. To Beard this coincided with the closing of the American West. In 1890 the frontier was declared closed but this had not stopped men like Teddy Roosevelt from going West. Teddy went West to get away from the depression  and heartache of losing his wife and mother on the same day. Charles Beard saw what Roosevelt did in a bigger context.

Beard believe people were getting sick because they were using the mind over the body. He attributed nervousness, impotence, cancer, heart attacks, depression to the fact people were now working in offices in the East. Beard believed we had fundamentally changed from a people who were out working under Gods light in the fresh air to a people huddled away in offices who ran from work to home only to return the next day. We had become a people who rarely exercised and were bound up in knots The real life Beard said was out West. He called this disorder... neurasthenia.

Buffalo Bills Wild West show was built around people who pined for the frontier. William Cody's show basically said the real men were out there on horses saving people from the Indians not working in cramped offices. Teddy Roosevelt and others took this to heart and found themselves in the wide open plains of the West. Today we know Beards neurasthenia is real. And we know that  being outside in  nature is good and sitting in offices is not a a great thing.

Teddy Roosevelt returned after three years in the West a different man. The magic elixir of the West had cured his neurasthenia. Then he set aside millions of acres for future generations who would deal with the same malady under a much shorter name....stress.

Forging A President How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt

Books by William Hazelgrove