The Marmon Roosevelt

Quick! How many cars can you think of that are named for a United States President? There is more than one (and no, Ford doesn’t count), but only one proudly features a picture of the man himself on the radiator badge. I am referring, of course, to the Roosevelt, named for President Theodore Roosevelt. The Roosevelt was built by the Marmon Motor Car Company of Indianapolis, Indiana in 1929 and 1930, and the radiator badge was a 1 3/4 x 1 3/8” oval that looked like this:

Regarding that famous radiator, Marmon bragged that “It not only has new lines – but new feeling, reflecting the staunchness, the energy, the character of the great name which it bears.”1 Everyone knows President Roosevelt was a vigorous man of action, but I like that they also invoked character. He often emphasized the importance of character, calling it “the chief factor in any man’s success,” and believing that, “all the laws that the wit of man can devise will never make a man a worthy citizen unless he has within himself the right stuff, unless he has self-reliance, energy, courage, the power of insisting on his own rights and the sympathy that makes him regardful of the rights of others.”2 Good advice then and now.

The Roosevelt automobile was available as a Five-Passenger Sedan, a Victoria Coupe, a Coupe with rumble seat and a Collapsible Coupe with rumble seat. It featured a straight-eight 70 hp engine and was the first 8 cylinder to be priced under $1,000. It was also the first automobile to come with a radio. By the end of the 1920s, three manufacturers (Transitone, Delco-Remy and American Bosch) were offering automobile radios. The Roosevelts were factory-equipped for radio installation, but dealers selected the brand at the buyer’s request.3  Like the automobile, the President was associated with many “firsts” as well. He was the first President to ride in an automobile (while in office). He was also the first President to own a car, to fly in an airplane and to be submerged in a submarine. How appropriate that Marmon described the president’s namesake as seeming “to invite motion – to be away quickly.”4

As you can see here, the Roosevelt was a beautiful automobile featuring clean, straight lines:

This is a picture of one housed at a local museum, Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, but you do see the occasional Roosevelt for sale. Until I have the opportunity to own one, I will have to be content with remembering that President Roosevelt also said that self-respect is the most invaluable of all possessions, and I still have that (I just can’t drive it)!


  1. “The Roosevelt.” The Pittsburgh Press 21 4 1929: 79.
  2. Theodore Roosevelt, An Autobiography (Np: CreateSpace, 2016), 16.
  3.  Tad Burness, Cars of the Early Thirties (New York City: Galahad Books, 1970), 256-257.
  4. “The Roosevelt”, 79.


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