The Lion in Summer  
  © Bettmann / Corbis

With rising oil prices threatening the U.S. economy, it seems a good time to recall the exploits of trustbuster Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), born 150 years ago this October. Roosevelt attended Columbia Law School from 1880 to 1882, gaining early leonine credentials, and as president he was often depicted in political cartoons as a tamer of wild animals. (On an African safari at the end of his presidency, he killed scores of animals, including nine lions.)

In this 1904 cartoon by W. A. Rogers in Harper’s Weekly, Roosevelt is seen in the Wall Street arena, bringing the large trusts to heel, including John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, whose virtual monopoly of the U.S. oil market became a national symbol for unfair and predatory business practices. The Roosevelt justice department brought a lawsuit against Standard Oil, claiming it was in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890; in 1911, two years after Roosevelt left office, the Supreme Court ordered the breakup of Standard Oil into 34 separate companies.

When Roosevelt died in 1919, his son Archie sent a one-sentence telegram to his brothers: The old lion is dead.