|Term of Office:
September 14, 1901–
March 4, 1909
William Howard Taft
|Date of Birth
Wednesday, October 27, 1858
|Place of Birth:
New York City
|Date of Death:
Monday, January 6, 1919
|Place of Death:
Oyster Bay, New York
politician, soldier, rancher, author
Charles Warren Fairbanks
Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858–January 6, 1919) was the twenty-fifth (1901) Vice President and the twenty-sixth (1901-1909) President of the United States, succeeding to the office upon the assassination of William McKinley. At 42, Roosevelt was the youngest person ever to serve as President of the United States.
Roosevelt's energy, skill, and sheer joy in the Presidency were remarkable. During his life he was an author, legislator, soldier, big-game hunter, diplomat, conservationist, naval-power enthusiast, peace broker, and progressive reformer. For his many achievements and the larger-than-life role he played in the White House, Roosevelt is usually thought of as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
Childhood and education
Roosevelt was born in New York City on October 27, 1858 as the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr (1831-1878) and Martha Bulloch (1834-1884). His father was a New York City merchant and partner in the importing firm Roosevelt and Son . Martha Bulloch was a homemaker and former southern belle who was raised on a Georgia plantation and had Confederate sympathies.
Sickly and asthmatic as a youngster, he had to sleep propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early childhood and also had frequent incidences of diarrhea, colds, and other ailments. In spite of his physical condition, he was a hyperactive and oftentimes mischievous young man. His lifelong interest in zoology was fist formed at age seven upon seeing a dead seal at a local market. After obtaining the seal's head the young Roosevelt and two of his cousins formed what they called the 'Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.' Roosevelt filled his makeshift museum with many animals that he caught, studied, and prepared for display. At age nine he codified his observation work on insects with a paper titled "The Natural History of Insects."
To combat his poor physical condition his father compelled young Roosevelt to take up exercise at Wood's Gym and with equipment at his home. A couple of his peers beat him during this time and as a result Roosevelt started boxing lessons. Two trips abroad also had a great effect on this part of his life;
Soon he became a sporting and outdoor enthusiast, something that would stick with him until his final years.
Except of a few months at Professor McMullen's school, young Teddie was too sickly to attend school and thus was taught by a string of tutors. The first was Annie Bulloch, his maternal aunt. She was followed by others, including a teacher of taxidermy who helped nourish his propensity toward natural history. Fraulein Anna, a tutor of German and French while the family was in Dresden, remarked; "He will surely one day be a great professor, or who knows, he may become president of the United States."
After his family returned to their home in New York, Roosevelt started intensive tutoring under Arthur Hamilton Cutler in preparation for the Harvard University entrance exam. He passed the exam in 1875 and entered as a freshman the next year. Also in 1876 he participated in a torchlight demonstration for Rutherford B. Hayes' presidential bid. Roosevelt did well in science, philosophy, and rhetoric but did not do well in classical languages. Professor J. Laurence Laughlin and Roosevelt's girlfriend (and future wife) Alice Hathaway Lee convinced him to turn his career intentions away from natural history and toward politics.
While at Harvard his student memberships included;
- editor of the student newspaper, the Advocate,
- vice president of the Natural History Club,
- secretary of the Hasty Pudding Club,
- founder of the Finance Club,
- member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.
He also found time for boxing and was runner-up for the Harvard boxing championship, losing to C.S. Hanks. The sportsmanship Roosevelt showed in that fight was long remembered.
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magma cum laude (21st of 177) from Harvard University in 1880 and entered Columbia Law School that same year. However when preseted with an opportunity to run for state assembly the next year, he dropped out of school to pursue his new career goal of entering public life.
Assemblyman to cowboy
He served as a Republican legislator in the New York State Assembly from 1882 to 1884. Roosevelt worked as a reformer and was nicknamed the 'Cyclone Assemblymen' for his unusual energy and steadfast opposition to machine politics. When he sponsored public service reform he crossed party lines to align himself with Governor Grover Cleveland. He also helped secure passage of a bill reforming the way aldermen were elected and in 1883 served as minority leader but failed in a bid for speaker.
As the New York delegate at the 1884 Republican National Convention he supported Vermont Senator George F. Edmunds for an unsuccessful nomination bid. At first Roosevelt refused to endorse the winner of the nomination, James G. Blaine of Maine, but did so in the end. By supporting Blaine he chose not to join the Republican reformist group called the Mugwumps, who supported Democrat Grover Cleveland for president. For this he drew criticism from former supporters and some in the press.
On February 14, 1884 his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, died, just after giving birth to their only child, Alice Lee Roosevelt. The same day and in the same house his mother died. Grief stricken, Roosevelt decided to leave the East and public life to nurture his interests in the cattle business. Leaving his daughter in the care of a childhood friend, Edith Carrow, Roosevelt arrived in northern Dakota Territory in June 1884 and established the Elkhorn Ranch .
Roosevelt gives a speech in 1880/1
During his years in northern Dakota Territory (now North Dakota), Roosevelt thrived on the vigorous outdoor lifestyle and actively participated in the life of a working cowboy and, for a time, deputy sheriff of Billings County. Of this time he said, "I do not believe there ever was any life more attractive to a vigorous young fellow than life on a cattle ranch in those days. It was a fine, healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance, hardihood, and the value of instant decision... I enjoyed the life to the full." This was an important time in his development, and in fact, he once remarked that, "I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota."
It was in Dakota Territory that Roosevelt became interested in conservation. Increasingly alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife, he wrote, "We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune." Roosevelt actively ranched in the Badlands until October 1886 but maintained ranching interest in the area until 1898.
He returned to New York City in 1886 to run against Abram S. Hewitt for mayor. Having lost, he concentrated on his writing.
Return to public life
In the 1888 presidential election he campaigned for Benjamin Harrison in the Midwest. After winning the election President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission, a post he served in until 1895. In his term he vigorously sought enforcement of civil service laws and the number of jobs that fell under that classification more than doubled during his tenure. This made few friends for Roosevelt among party professionals. In spite of his support for Harrison's reelection bid (see U.S. presidential election, 1892), Grover Cleveland (a Democrat ), reappointed him to the same post.
In 1895 Roosevelt became president of the New York Board of Police Commissioners , making a splash as a crime-fighter. Two years later, in 1897 President William McKinley appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He loved the job, and was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the coming conflict with Spain. In 1898 he resigned this post to fight in the Spanish-American War, in which he rose to national prominence as commander of the "Rough Riders," a volunteer cavalry regiment that he personally recruited and trained with the aid of General Leonard Wood.
Upon his return from Cuba he resumed his political career in New York City and State politics, and was elected Governor of New York. He made such a concerted effort to root out corruption and "machine politics" that, it is said, Republican leaders in New York advanced him as a running mate for William McKinley in the 1900 election simply to get rid of him (at the time, vice presidencies tended to end political careers).
McKinley and Roosevelt won the presidential election of 1900, against William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson Sr.. Roosevelt was one of the youngest U.S. vice presidents in history (John C. Breckinridge being younger than him.) Roosevelt found the vice presidency unfulfilling and thought he had little future in politics, and considered going to law school after leaving office.
Then, McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, vaulting Roosevelt into the presidency. One of his first notable acts as President was to deliver a 20,000-word address to the House of Representatives on December 3, 1901, asking Congress to curb the power of trusts "within reasonable limits." For this and subsequent actions he has been called a "trust-buster."
Roosevelt relished the Presidency and seemed to be everywhere at once. He took Cabinet members and friends on long, fast-paced hikes, boxed in the state rooms of the White House, romped with his children, and read voraciously. He was permanently blinded in one eye during one of his boxing bouts. His many enthusiasms and seemingly-limitless energy led the British ambassador to wryly explain to an acquaintance, "You must always remember that the President is about six."
Roosevelt's children were almost as popular as he was, and their pranks and hijinks in the White House made headlines. His daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt became the toast of Washington, D.C.. When friends asked if he could rein in his only daughter, Roosevelt said, "I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." In turn, Alice said of him that he always wanted to be "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral."
In 1904 Roosevelt ran for President in his own right, and won in a land slide victory. In his second term Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his work to mediate the end of the Russo-Japanese War. He was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any of the categories. His prize is now on display in the White House.
Determined to give Americans what he called "a Square Deal"; i.e., a more just and equitable society, Roosevelt pushed several radical pieces of legislation through Congress. He is responsible for reforms in business, the environment, and to a certain extent he advocated improved race relations.
TR's official White House portrait
Although the trust-busting era was actually launched by his predecessor, McKinley, when he appointed the U.S. Industrial Commerce Commission in 1898, it is Roosevelt who bears the nickname, "Trust Buster". Once President, Roosevelt worked to increase the regulatory power of the federal government. He persuaded Congress to pass laws that strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission which later, investigated Rockefeller, Carnegie, Schwab, and other trust and corporate titans of industry. Under his leadership, the federal government brought forty-four suits against corporate monopolies. Roosevelt also established a new federal Department of Labor and Commerce.
He encouraged the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 to promote federal construction of dams to irrigate small farms and placed 230 million acres (930,000 km²) under federal protection. Additionally, T.R. was instrumental in the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 as well as the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.
He also worked hard on conserving environmental wonders and resources, and is considered by many to be the nation's first conservation President. Roosevelt set aside more Federal land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined. As one story has it, he once asked his advisers, "Is there any law which prohibits me from declaring this island a bird refuge?" When they indicated there was not, Roosevelt signed the paper with a flourish and said, "Very well, then, I so declare it!"
During his presidency, Roosevelt established the United States Forest Service, signed into law the creation of five National Parks, and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He also established the first 51 Bird Reserves , 4 Game Preserves , and 150 National Forests. The area of the United States placed under public protection by President Roosevelt totals approximately 230,000,000 acres (930,000 km²).
Today, Roosevelt's dedication to conservation is remembered by a national park that bears his name in the North Dakota Badlands. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to a variety of plants and animals, including bison, prairie dogs, and elk.
His record in race relations was less constructive and a bit contradictory. On the one hand, he invited Booker T. Washington, the most important black leader of the day, to dinner at the White House, defying many critics in the South. He spoke against racism and discrimination, and appointed many blacks to lower-level Federal offices. However, in 1906, he approved the dishonorable discharges of three companies of black soldiers allegedly involved in a riot in Brownsville, Texas. Historians now believe that the soldiers were framed by a local racist conspiracy.
Theodore Roosevelt was a naval enthusiast who urged the United States to build a strong navy. He believed that U.S could eventually be pulled into war in the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese and urged readiness. Roosevelt ordered what came to be called the Great White Fleet (due to its gleaming white paint) on an around-the-world goodwill cruise, including a prominent stop in Japan. Roosevelt hoped to ease Japanese-American tensions and to show the Japanese leadership, as well as the rest of the world, the global reach of the United States' military might. The Great White Fleet returned to the U.S. in 1909, and Roosevelt had the pleasure of reviewing the Fleet just before leaving office.
Several United States Navy warships have been named after Roosevelt over the years, most recently a Nimitz class supercarrier.
In 1903, he gave tacit support to rebels in Panama to form a nation independent from Colombia after that nation refused to sell a canal zone across their territory. The new nation of Panama sold a canal zone to the United States for 10 million U.S. dollars and a steadily increasing yearly sum. Roosevelt felt that a passage through the Isthmus of Panama was vital to protect American interests and to create a strong and cohesive United States Navy. The resulting Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and revolutionized world travel and commerce.
Supreme Court appointments
Roosevelt appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
On March 23, 1909, shortly after the end of his second term (but only full term) as President, Roosevelt left New York for a post-presidency safari in Africa. The trip was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society and received world-wide media attention.
Despite his immense popularity, he had decided not to run for reelection in 1908, a move that he would later regret for the rest of his life. Instead he backed his longtime friend, former judge and Secretary of War William Howard Taft, who he thought would carry on his policies. After Taft won, however, Roosevelt became increasingly annoyed as Taft proved to be his own man with his own policy agenda, more conservative and often counter to Roosevelt's.
As a result, in 1912, Roosevelt ran for president again. He sought the Republican nomination but was blocked by Taft's partisans at the Republican national convention despite having greater public support, including a smashing primary win in Taft's own home state of Ohio. Roosevelt then bolted the party and ran on the United States Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") ticket, badly undermining popular support for Taft. While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was shot by saloonkeeper John Schrank in a failed assassination attempt on October 14, 1912. With the bullet still lodged in his chest, Roosevelt still delivered his scheduled speech. He was not seriously wounded, although his doctors thought it too dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet, and he carried it with him until he died. In spite of this, he not only lost the race but split the Republican vote, outpolling Taft but ensuring a win by Democrat Woodrow Wilson. In the few years he had remaining, Roosevelt came to dislike Wilson even more than his former friend Taft. He considered but soon rejected another run for the White House in 1916.
He wrote several books, including a well-regarded volume on the naval aspects of the War of 1812.
Roosevelt died at Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York on January 6, 1919 of a coronary embolism at the age of only 60, and was buried in Young's Memorial Cemetery. His son Archie sent a telegram to his siblings, stating simply, "The old lion is dead."
Roosevelt's estate from 1885 until his death was Sagamore Hill, at Oyster Bay. It is now maintained as the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.
Even though Roosevelt was Dutch Reformed by birth, he didn't join that church until he was 16 due to a lack of such a church nearby. So as a child he attended Madison Square Presbyterian Church. While attending Harvard University he taught Sunday school at an Episcopal church called Christ's Church until the rector discovered Roosevelt was not baptized into that denomination. Much later at his residence at Oyster Bay in Long Island he went to an Episcopal church with his wife. While in Washington, DC he attended services at Grace Reformed Church. As President he firmly believed in the separation of church and state and thought it both sacrilegious and unconstitutional to have 'In God We Trust' on U.S, currency (he tried unsuccessfully to have that legend removed).
Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in pursuing what he called "the strenuous life." To this end he exercised regularly and took up boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, hunting, polo, and horseback riding. As Governor of New York he boxed with sparring partners several times a week, a practice he regularly continued as President until one blow detached his left retina, leaving him blind in that eye. Thereafter he practiced jiujitsu as well as continued his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during winter.
At age 22 Roosevelt married his first wife, 19 year old Alice Hathaway Lee. Their marriage ceremony was held on October 27, 1880 at the Unitarian Chuch in Brookline, Massachusetts. Alice was the daughter of the prominent banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Haskell Lee. The couple first met on October 18, 1878 at her next door neighbors, the Saltonstalls, residence. By Thanksgiving Roosevelt made up his mind that he would marry Alice and finally proposed June 1879. Alice waited another six months before accepting the proposal and their engagement was announced on Valentine's Day of 1880.
In 1886 he married Edith Carow. They had five children: Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel , Archibald , and Quentin.
In popular culture
Roosevelt appears as a factual character in the fictional novel The Alienist by Caleb Carr. The novel is set in New York City in 1896 when Roosevelt was the city's police commissioner.
In Scrooge McDuck comics by Keno Don Rosa, Roosevelt appears several times. Scrooge and Roosevelt met each other in 1882, and on several other occasions they meet each other coincidentally.
Teddy bears are named after him. His childhood nickname was "Teedie," but his adult nickname was "Teddy" (which he despised and considered improper, preferring "T.R."). Toy bear manufacturers took to naming them after him because once, on a hunting trip in Mississippi, he refused to kill a bear cub.
Roosevelt is depicted fictionally in Gore Vidal's novel Empire, Harry Turtledove's How Few Remain, and the movie The Wind and the Lion, written and directed by John Milius.
First American to obtain any Nobel Prize. On November 9, 1906 he made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. President to make an official trip outside of the United States, visiting Panama to inspect the construction progress of the Panama Canal. Roosevelt was also the first to sail in a submarine (aboard the USS Plunger (1905), and first former president to fly in an airplane (October 11, 1910).
When President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to President Roosevelt in 2001 the Roosevelts became one of only two father-son pairs to receive this honor. His eldest son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt II, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Normandy during the D-Day invasion of 6 June, 1944. The other pair was Douglas MacArthur and his father, Civil War hero Arthur MacArthur).
Roosevelt's father was also named Theodore Roosevelt. Thus, the president should have been known as "Theodore Roosevelt II." However, through various accidents of history, the president is known simply as "Theodore Roosevelt" and his father is now referred to as "Theodore Roosevelt Sr." The president's eldest son, Brig. Gen. Ted Roosevelt, is now known as "Theodore Roosevelt Jr." or "Theodore Roosevelt II."
- DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, (Barnes and Noble Books; New York; 2004) ISBN 0-7607-5971-5
- Almanac of Theodore Roosevelt http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com
- Theodore Roosevelt Organization http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/
- Index of T. Roosevelt Etexts http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/search?author=roosevelt%2C+theo
- Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Address http://www.usa-presidents.info/inaugural/roosevelt.html
- State of the Union 1901 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-1.html
- State of the Union 1902 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-2.html
- State of the Union 1903 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-3.html
- State of the Union 1904 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-4.html
- State of the Union 1905 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-5.html
- State of the Union 1906 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-6.html
- State of the Union 1907 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-7.html
- State of the Union 1908 http://www.usa-presidents.info/union/roosevelt-8.html
- Nobel Peace Prize 1906: Theodore Roosevelt http://www.nobel.se/peace/laureates/1906/
- Theodore Roosevelt Papers at the Library of Congress http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/trhtml/trhome.html
- Theodore Roosevelt: His Life & Times on Film (LOC) http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/trfhtml/trfhome.html
- Sagamore Hill National Historic Site http://www.nps.gov/sahi/index.htm
Last updated: 02-07-2005 00:58:05
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01