How Bismarck, PA in Lebanon County was renamed for Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Quentin

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July 14th will mark the 100th anniversary of Quentin Roosevelt’s death. The youngest son of former president Theodore Roosevelt, Quentin died in a dogfight over France, where he was buried by German forces with a makeshift grave of saplings and wire from his plane (a Nieuport 28). He was 20.

Quentin left for France around July 1917, according to bulletin reports at the time:

Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, July 26, 1917

Less than a year later, his death would be reported across the same wire services.

The Press Herald, July 26, 1918

The chance to honor Teddy Roosevelt’s son was an opportunity for the little town of Bismarck, Pennsylvania, situated in West Cornwall, Lebanon County. Named after the German Otto von Bismarck, the namesake was described as presenting “the odium of the Teutonic name.”

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4, 1918

By the end of August 1918, Pennsylvania officials had already signaled their support of the plan (which practically amounted to changing the name of the post office), and the change was made permanent in September. Congressman A. S. Kreider himself wrote the Daily News advising of the news. Kreider was an alum of Lebanon Valley College and a native of Annville, and the original proprietor of Hill Farm Estates.

Lebanon Daily News, September 27, 1918

“Col. Roosevelt” wrote the people of Quentin in November of that same year, thanking them and also offering some friendly advice (“The name, by the way, is pronounced in English fashion, exactly as it is spelt”).

Mr. William Noll, a chief advocate for the name change, worked for the owners of the Cornwall Furnace and was also a County Commissioner.

The president also sent a silver cup to express his gratitude. Lost for many years, the artifact had been displayed at the volunteer fire hall and misplaced in the attic, but now resides on permanent loan within the Lebanon County Historical Society.

A monument to Quentin Roosevelt stands in Quentin, PA to this day. If you live in Lebanon, you’ve probably driven by it before, maybe without even noticing.

Through the end of December 2018, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of Quentin’s death with a series of tours and exhibits about the pilot.

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