Spelling, a presidential decision — Theodore Roosevelt Presidential One Dollar Coin

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential One Dollar Coin remembers when he rescinded his decision on Carnegie’s Simplified Spelling on December 14, 1906.

From the World Almanac and Book of Facts:

“‘Simplified Spelling: President Roosevelt, on December 14, withdrew his order to the Public Printer to use the new spelling of the three hundred indicated words in Government publications of the executive departments, the committees on printing of Congress not approving of the same.”

So, what was the Simplified Spelling?

Earlier in 1906, the news included the president’s interest in the simplified spelling efforts and showed the proposed words.

From The Summary, a weekly periodical out of Elmira, NY, for September 1, 1906:


The President Adopts Simplified Spelling

The 300 Simplified Words

Orders that it be used In all White House Documents— All Departments are expected to follow

Oyster Bay, L. I. — President Roosevelt has indorsed the Carnegie spelling reform movement.

He issued orders to Public Printer Stillings that hereafter all messages from the President and all other documents from the White House shall be printed in accordance with the recommendation of the Spelling Reform Committee headed by Brander Matthews, Professor of English in Columbia University.

This committee has published a list of 300 words in which the spelling is reformed.

This list contains such words as “thru” and “tho” as the spelling for “through” and “though.”

The President’s official sanction of this reform movement is regarded as the most effective and speediest method of inaugurating the new system of spelling throughout the country.

Not only will the printed documents emanating from the President utilize the reform spelling, but his correspondence also will be spelled in the new style.

Secretary Loeb has sent for the list of words which have been reformed, and upon its arrival will order all correspondence of the President and of the executive force of the White House spelled in accordance therewith.

As the Spelling Reform Committee shall adopt new reforms they will be added to the President’s list and also to that of the Public Printer.

While the order to the Public Printer today does not contemplate an immediate reform in the spelling of official documents from the executive departments in Washington, it is regarded as more than likely that the respective heads of the departments will fall in line with the President’s ideas and have their official documents printed in the new spelling.

The 300 Simplified Words

Abridgment, acceuter, accurst, acknowledgment, addrest, adz, afhxt, altho, anapest, anemia, anesthesia, anesthetic, antipyrin, antitoxin, apothem, apprize, arbor, archeology, ardor, armor, artizan, asize, ax.

Bans (not banns), bark (not barque), behavior, blest, blusht, brazen, brazier, bun, bur.

Caliber, caliper, candor, chapt, claspt, clipt, clapt, clue, coeval, color, colter, commixt, comprest, comprize, confest, controller, coquet, criticize, cropt, crost, crusht, cue, curst, cutlas, cyclopedia, carest (not caressed), catalog, catechize, center.

Dactyl, dasht,, decalog, defense, demagog, demeanor, deposit, deprest, develop. dieresis, dike, dipt, discust, dispatch, distil, distrest, dolor, domicil, draft, dram, drest, dript, droopt, dropt, dulness.

Ecumenical, edile, egis, enamor, encyclopedia, endeavor, envelop, eolian, eon, epaulet, eponym, era, esophagus, esthetic, esthetics, estivate, ether, etiology, exorcize, exprest.

Fagot, fantasm, fantasy, fantom, favor, favorite, fervor, fiber, fixt, flavor, fulfil, fulness.

Gage, gazel, gelatin, gild (not guild), gipsy, gloze, glycerin, good-by, gram, gript.

Harbor, harken, heapt, hematin, hiccup, hock (not hough), homeopathy, homonym, honor, humor, husht, hypotenuse

Idolize, imprest, instil.

Jail, judgment.


Labor, lacrimal, lapt, lasht, leapt, legalize, license, licorice, liter, lodgment, lookt, lopt, luster.

Mama, maneuver, materialize, meager, medieval, meter, mist, (not missed,) miter, mixt, mold, molder, molding, moldy, molt, mullen.

Naturalize, neighbor, niter, nipt.

Ocher, odor, offense, omelet, opprest, orthopedic.

Paleography, paleolithic, paleontology, paleozoic.

Paraffin, parlor, partizan, past, (not passed,) patronize, pedagog, pedobapist, phenix, phenomenon, pigmy, plow, polyp, possest, practise, prefixt, prenomen, prest, pretense, preterit, pretermit, primeval, profest, program, prolog, propt, pur.

Quartet, questor, quintet.

Rancor, rapt, (not rapped,) raze, recognize, reconnoiter, rigor, rime, ript, rumor.

Saber, saltpeter, savior, savor, scepter, septet, sepulcher, sexten, silvan, simitar, sipt, sithe, skilful, skipt, slipt, smolder, snapt, somber, specter, splendor, stedfast, stept, stopt, strest, stript, subpena, succor, suffixt, sulfate, sulful, sumac, supprest, surprize, synonym.

Tabor, tapt, teazel, tenor, theater, tho, thoro, thorofare, thoroly, thru, thruout, tipt, topt, tost, transgrest, trapt, tript, tumor.

Valor, vapor, vext, vigor, vizor.

Wagon, washt, whipt, whisky, wilful, winkt, wisht, woful, woolen, wrapt.

In the next pamphlet issued by the board the names of distinguished men interested in the movement will be announced.


But, between the time he ordered the adoption and his reversal, the British press had some fun.

An excerpt from a periodical, The Christian Work and the Evangelist, of September 8, 1906:


London Newspapers Turn Their Humorists Loose.

The English press have not generally approved of the President’s action and are having great fun at his expense; the palm goes to the little ha’penny sheet called “The Sun,” which under the heading “Yanky-Panky” says:

“Mr. Andru Karnegi (or should it be Karnege?) and President Rusvelt (or is it Ruzvelt?) are doing their (or ther) best to ad to the gaiety of nations (or nashuns) by atemting to reform the speling of the English langwidge. No dowt their (or ther) intentions (or intenshuns) are awl rite, but their (or ther) objekt is awl rong, not to say silly (or sily).”

But the laugh is not all on one side. For instance, when one of these strenuous British conservatives was asked to spell “saloon,” he said, “Spell it with a hes a hay and a hell two hoes and a hen.”

His recurrent “h” is far more consistently historical than anything else in the English tongue.

Our British friends are slow to take on or accept any innovation and find objections as a matter, of course, at President Roosevelt’s O.K. on the spelling reform, and they will have sympathy over here, from those who talk fluently (through their hats) about the “history «f the language.”

A contemporary suggests that they should applaud the spelling of Mr. Phtholgnyrrh’s name. It is a real name, and moreover it is eminently and sanely historical.

To be sure his baptismal record spelled it “Turner,” but that is a base instance of “reformed spelling.”

The clew to the real spelling is found in those elegant historical words “phthisic,” “colonel,” gnat and myrrh, where the component parts of so-called Turner may be seen in their beautiful historic simplicity.

Seriously speaking, such instances as that of Phtholgnyrrh are not a very great exaggeration of the anomaly and stupidity of our orthography.

One has only to take in hand the volumes thus far issued of the great Oxford Dictionary to learn that the present mixed status of English spelling is a wholly accidental development.

It is historical in the same sense that measles and smallpox are historical, but that does not render them the more acceptable.

Such reasoning is less logical than an insane asylum.

The people of Chaucer’s day could not write nor read. Of the scholars who could there were no two of them who spelled in the same way.

Such reasoning would carry us back to the old stage coach, and the telegraph and telephone would be simply innovations.

Those who say “the language and spelling that was good enough for Shakespeare and Milton is good enough for us,” ought to be consistent to still ride in the old stage coach and carry their own letters and messages.


The Theodore Roosevelt Presidential One Dollar Coin shows with an image of the title page of Noah Webster’s 1806 dictionary.

Theodore Roosevelt Presidential One Dollar Coin