Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt books and biography

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

26th President of the United States
September 14, 1901–March 4, 1909
VicePresident(s) None (1901–1905)
Charles Warren Fairbanks (1905–1909)
Precededby William McKinley
Succeededby William H. Taft

25th Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1901–September 14, 1901
Precededby Garret Hobart
Succeededby Charles W. Fairbanks

Born October 27, 1858
New York City, New York, in Gramercy, Manhattan
Died January 6, 1919
Oyster Bay, New York
Politicalparty Republican Party; Bull Moose Party (Progressive Party)
Spouse 1st: Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt
2nd: Edith Carow Roosevelt
Religion Dutch Reformed

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), also known as T.R. and to the public as Teddy, (the teddy bear was named after him) was the 26th President of the United States, and a Nobel Peace laureate, New York governor, NYC Police Commissioner, historian, naturalist, Amazon explorer, author, and US Navy veteran. Roosevelt is most famous for his personality: his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his “cowboy” persona.

In 1901, he became President after the assassination of President William McKinley. Roosevelt was a Progressive reformer who sought to move the Republican Party into the Progressive camp. He distrusted wealthy businessmen and dissolved 40 monopolistic corporations as a "trust buster." His "Square Deal" promised a fair shake for the average citizen, including regulation of railroad rates and pure foods and drugs. As an outdoorsman, he promoted the conservation movement, emphasizing efficient use of natural resources. After 1906, he moved left, attacking big business and suggesting the courts were biased against labor unions. In 1910, he broke with his friend and anointed successor William Howard Taft, but lost the GOP nomination to Taft and ran in the 1912 election on his own one-time Bull Moose ticket. Roosevelt lost but pulled so many Progressives out of the GOP that Democrat Woodrow Wilson won in 1912, and the conservative faction took control of the GOP for the next two decades.

As Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy, he prepared for and advocated war with Spain in 1898. He organized and helped command the first U.S. volunteer cavalry regiment, the Rough Riders, during the Spanish-American War. Returning to New York as a war hero, he was elected Republican governor in 1898. He was a professional historian, naturalist and explorer of the Amazon Basin; his 35 books[1] include works on outdoor life, natural history, the American frontier, political history, naval history, and his autobiography. Roosevelt understood the strategic significance of the Panama Canal, and negotiated for the U.S. to take control of its construction in 1904; he felt that the Canal's completion was his most important and historically significant international achievement. He was the first American to be awarded the Nobel Prize, winning its Peace Prize in 1906, for negotiating the peace in the Russo-Japanese War.

Historian Thomas Bailey, who disagreed with Roosevelt's policies, nevertheless concluded, "Roosevelt was a great personality, a great activist, a great preacher of the moralities, a great controversialist, a great showman. He dominated his era as he dominated conversations....the masses loved him; he proved to be a great popular idol and a great vote getter."[2] His image stands alongside Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Surveys of scholars have consistently ranked him from #3 to #7 on the list of greatest American presidents.



Childhood, Education, and Personal Life

Theodore Roosevelt at age 11
Theodore Roosevelt at age 11

Roosevelt was born at 28 East 20th Street in the modern-day Gramercy section of New York City on October 27, 1858, the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (1831–1878) and Martha Bulloch (1834–1884). He had an elder sister Anna, nicknamed "Bamie", as a child and "Bye", as an adult for being always on the go; and two younger siblings — his brother Elliott (the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and his sister Corinne. The Roosevelts had been in New York since the mid 17th century and had grown with the emerging New York commerce class after the American Revolution. Until the birth of the Republican Party, just before the Civil War, the family was strongly Democratic in its political outlook. By the 18th Century, the family had grown in wealth, power and influence from the profits of several businesses including hardware and plate-glass importing. Theodore's father, known in the family as "Thee", was a New York City philanthropist, merchant, and partner in the family glass-importing firm Roosevelt and Son. Martha Bulloch was a Southern belle from a slave-owning family in Savannah, Georgia and had Confederate sympathies. On his mother's side, Theodore's uncle, James Dunwoody Bulloch, "Uncle Jimmy", was a fourteen-year U.S. Navy officer turned secret Confederate naval procurement agent in England. James' brother Irvine Bulloch was the youngest officer on the Confederate raider, CSS Alabama and both had been exiled to Liverpool, England after the war. During the Civil War, Martha supported her southern relatives' struggles and quietly mailed packages south.

Sickly and asthmatic as a youngster, Roosevelt had to sleep propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early childhood, and had frequent ailments. Despite his illnesses, he was a hyperactive and often mischievous young man. His lifelong interest in zoology was 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". Learning the rudiments of taxidermy, he filled his makeshift museum with many animals that he killed or caught, studied, and prepared for display. At age nine, he codified his observation of insects with a paper titled "The Natural History of Insects".[3]

To combat his poor physical condition, his father compelled the young Roosevelt to take up exercise. To deal with bullies, Roosevelt started boxing lessons.[4] Two trips abroad had a permanent impact: family tours of Europe in 1869 and 1870, and of the Middle East 1872 to 1873.

Theodore Sr. had a tremendous influence on young Theodore and was a life-long source of inspiration. Of him Roosevelt wrote, "My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness."[5] Roosevelt's sister later wrote, "He told me frequently that he never took any serious step or made any vital decision for his country without thinking first what position his father would have taken."[6]

Young "Teddy", as he was nicknamed as a child was mostly home schooled by tutors and his parents, which was a common practice at the time. A leading biographer says: "The most obvious drawback to the home schooling Roosevelt received was uneven coverage of the various areas of human knowledge." He was solid in geography (thanks to his careful observations on all his travels) and very well read in history, strong in biology, French and German, but deficient in mathematics, Latin and Greek.[7] He matriculated at Harvard College in 1876, graduating magna cum laude. His father's death in 1878 was a tremendous blow, but Roosevelt redoubled his activities. He did well in science, philosophy and rhetoric courses but fared poorly in Latin and Greek. He studied biology with great interest and indeed was already an accomplished naturalist and published ornithologist. He had a photographic memory and developed a life-long habit of devouring books, memorizing every detail.[8] He was an unusually eloquent conversationalist who, throughout his life, sought out the company of the smartest men and women. He could multitask in extraordinary fashion, dictating letters to one secretary and memoranda to another, while browsing through a new book. As an adult, a visitor would get a not-so-subtle hint that Roosevelt was losing interest in the conversation when he would pick up a book and begin looking at it now and then as the conversation continued.

While at Harvard, Roosevelt was active in numerous clubs, including the Alpha Delta Phi and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternities. He also edited a student magazine. He was runner-up in the Harvard boxing championship, losing to C.S. Hanks. The sportsmanship Roosevelt showed in that fight was long remembered. Upon graduating from Harvard, Roosevelt underwent a physical examination and his doctor advised him that due to serious heart problems, he should find a desk job and avoid strenuous activity. Roosevelt disregarded the advice and chose to embrace the strenuous life instead.[9]

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude (22nd of 177) from Harvard in 1880, and entered Columbia Law School. When offered a chance to run for New York Assemblyman in 1881, he dropped out of law school to pursue his new goal of entering public life.[10]

Early public life

Roosevelt as NY State Assemblyman 1883, photo
Roosevelt as NY State Assemblyman 1883, photo

Roosevelt was a Republican activist during his years in the Assembly, writing more bills than any other New York state legislator. Already a major player in state politics, he attended the Republican National Convention in 1884 and fought alongside the Mugwump reformers; they lost to the Stalwart faction that nominated James G. Blaine. Refusing to join other Mugwumps in supporting Democrat Grover Cleveland, the Democratic nominee, he stayed loyal to the party and supported Blaine.[11]

First marriage

At the age of 22, Roosevelt married his first wife, 19-year-old Alice Hathaway Lee, on October 27, 1880, at the Unitarian Church in Brookline, Massachusetts. Alice was the daughter of the prominent banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Haskell Lee. The couple first met in 1878. He proposed in June 1879. However, Alice waited another six months before accepting the proposal. They announced their engagement on Valentine's Day 1880. Alice Roosevelt died exactly four years later, only two days after the birth of their first child, also named Alice. In a tragic coincidence, Roosevelt's mother died of typhoid fever on the same day at the Roosevelt family home in Manhattan.

Diary Entry Feb 14, 1884
Diary Entry Feb 14, 1884

Although he noted her loss in his diary and made several references to her in the subsequent months, from the next year on Roosevelt refused to speak his first wife's name again (even omitting her name from his autobiography) and did not allow others to speak of her in his presence.

Later that year, Roosevelt left the General Assembly and his infant daughter Alice, whom he had left in the long-term care of his older sister, Bamie. He moved to his Maltese Cross ranch seven miles from Medora in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory to live a more simple life as a rancher and lawman.

This practice put an early strain on his relationship with his daughter who was given his late wife's name. However, as she grew into adulthood and better understood her father's deep moral convictions, the bond between them became strong. Alice continued to support her father's ideas after his death in 1919.

Life in Badlands

Theodore Roosevelt as Badlands hunter in 1885. New York studio photo. Note the engraved knife and rifle courtesy of Tiffany and Co.
Theodore Roosevelt as Badlands hunter in 1885. New York studio photo. Note the engraved knife and rifle courtesy of Tiffany and Co.

Roosevelt built a second ranch he named Elk Horn thirty five miles north of the boomtown, Medora, North Dakota. On the banks of the "Little Missouri", Roosevelt learned to ride, rope, and hunt. There, in the waning days of the American Old West, he rebuilt his life and began writing about frontier life for Eastern magazines. As a deputy sheriff, Roosevelt hunted down three outlaws who stole his boat and were escaping north with it up the Little Missouri River. Capturing them, he decided against hanging them and sending his foreman back by boat, he took the thieves back overland for trial in Dickinson, guarding them forty hours without sleep and reading Tolstoy to keep himself awake. When he ran out of his own books he read a dime store western that one of the thieves was carrying.

While working on a tough project aimed at hunting down a group of relentless horse thieves, Roosevelt came across the famous Deadwood Sheriff Seth Bullock. The two would remain friends for life. (Morris, Rise of, 241-245, 247-250)

After the 1886-1887 winter wiped out his herd of cattle and his $60,000 investment (together with those of his competitors), he returned to the East, where in 1885, he had purchased Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, New York. It would be his home and estate until his death. Roosevelt ran as the Republican candidate for mayor of New York City in 1886, coming in a distant third.

Second Marriage

Following the election, he went to London in 1886 and married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow.[12] They honeymooned in Europe, and Roosevelt climbed Mont Blanc, leading only the third expedition of record to reach the summit, a feat which resulted in his induction into the British Royal Society. [13] They had five children: Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel Carow, Archibald Bulloch "Archie", and Quentin.[14] "Uncle Ted" was the godfather and favorite uncle of Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he gave away in marriage to their cousin Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 17, 1905.

Roosevelt is the only President to have become a widower and remarry before becoming President.


In the 1880s, he gained recognition as a serious historian. His The Naval War of 1812 (1882) was the standard history for two generations.[15] His hasty biographies of Thomas Hart Benton (1887) and Gouverneur Morris (1888) were superficial.[16] His major achievement was a four-volume history of the frontier, The Winning of the West (1889-1896), which had a notable impact on historiography as it presented a highly original version of the frontier thesis elaborated upon in 1893 by his friend Frederick Jackson Turner. Roosevelt argued that the harsh frontier conditions had created a new "race" or people--the American people. He was using a Lamarkean model in which new environmental conditions allow a new species to form. His many articles in upscale magazines provided a much-needed income, as well as cementing a reputation as a major national intellectual. He was later chosen president of the American Historical Association

Return to public life

New York City Police Commissioner 1896
New York City Police Commissioner 1896

In the 1888 presidential election, Roosevelt campaigned for Benjamin Harrison in the Midwest. President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission, where he served until 1895.[17] In his term, he vigorously fought the spoilsmen and demanded the enforcement of civil service laws. In spite of Roosevelt's support for Harrison's reelection bid in the presidential election of 1892, the eventual winner, Grover Cleveland (a Bourbon Democrat), reappointed him to the same post.

In 1895, he became president of the New York City Board of Police Commissioners. During the two years that he held this post, Roosevelt radically changed the way a police department was run. The police force was reputed as one of the most corrupt forces in America. NYPD's history division records that Roosevelt was, "an iron-willed leader of unimpeachable honesty, (who) brought a reforming zeal to the New York City Police Commission in 1895."[18] Roosevelt and his fellow commissioners established new disciplinary rules, created a bicycle squad to police New York's traffic problems and implemented standardized 32 calibre pistol practice.[19] Roosevelt implemented regular inspections of firearms, annual physical exams, appointed 1,600 new recruits appointed not on the basis of political affiliation but solely for their physical and mental qualifications, opened admission to the department to ethnic minorities and women, established the first police meritorious service medals, shut down the corrupt police hostelries, and a Municipal Lodging House was established by the Board of Charities." Roosevelt required his officers to be registered with the Board. He also had telephones installed in station houses. Always an energetic man, he made a habit of walking officers' beats late at night and early in the morning to make sure that they were on duty.[20] He became caught up in public disagreements with commissioner Parker, who sought to negate or delay the promotion of many officers put forward by Roosevelt.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt (front center) at the Naval War College, c. 1897
Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roosevelt (front center) at the Naval War College, c. 1897

Roosevelt had always been fascinated by navies and their history. Urged by Roosevelt's close friend, Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge, President William McKinley appointed a delighted Roosevelt to the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897. (Because of the poor health and inactivity of Secretary of the Navy John D. Long at the time, this basically gave Roosevelt control over the department.) Roosevelt was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the Spanish-American War[21] and was an enthusiastic proponant of testing the U.S. military in battle, at one point stating "I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one".[3] [4].

War in Cuba

Roosevelt left his civilian Navy post to form the famous
Roosevelt left his civilian Navy post to form the famous "Rough Riders" Regiment
Colonel Roosevelt and his
Colonel Roosevelt and his "Rough Riders" after capturing San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War

Upon the declaration of war in 1898 that would be known as the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department and, with the aid of U.S. Army Colonel Leonard Wood, organized the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment out of a diverse crew that ranged from cowboys from the Western territories to Ivy League friends from New York. The newspapers called them the "Rough Riders." Originally Roosevelt held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served under Colonel Wood, but after Wood was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteer Forces, Roosevelt was promoted to Colonel and given command of the Regiment. Under his leadership, the Rough Riders became famous for their dual charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in July 1898 (the battle was named after the latter hill). Out of all the Rough Riders, Roosevelt was the only one who had a horse, and was forced to dismount and walk up Kettle Hill on foot after his horse, Little Texas, became tired. Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001 for his actions.[22]

Governor and Vice President

On leaving the Army, Roosevelt re-entered New York state politics and was elected governor of New York in 1898 on the Republican ticket. He made such a concerted effort to root out corruption and "machine politics" that Republican boss Thomas Collier Platt forced him on McKinley as a running mate in the 1900 election, against the wishes of McKinley's manager Senator Mark Hanna. Roosevelt was a powerful campaign asset for the Republican ticket, which defeated William Jennings Bryan in a landslide based on restoration of prosperity at home and a successful war and new prestige abroad. Bryan stumped for Free Silver again, but McKinley's promise of prosperity through the Gold Standard, high tariffs, and the restoration of business confidence proved far more attractive to voters and he enlarged his margin of victory. Bryan had strongly supported the war against Spain, but denounced the annexation of the Philippines as imperialism that would spoil America's innocence. Roosevelt countered with many speeches that argued it was best for the Filipinos to have stability, and the Americans to have a proud place in the world. Roosevelt's few months as Vice President (March to September, 1901) were uneventful.[23]

Chicago newspaper sees cowboy-TR campaigning for governor
Chicago newspaper sees cowboy-TR campaigning for governor

Presidency 1901-1909

John Singer Sargent, Theodore Roosevelt, 1903, oil on canvas, 58½ × 40½ in., Washington, DC: White House. Click on photo for background story.
John Singer Sargent, Theodore Roosevelt, 1903, oil on canvas, 58 40 in., Washington, DC: White House. Click on photo for background story.
Main article: Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt

President McKinley was shot by an anarchist, Leon F. Czolgosz, on September 6, 1901. McKinley died on September 14, vaulting Roosevelt into the presidency. He took the oath of office in the Ansley Wilcox House at Buffalo, New York. He was the youngest person to assume the presidency, and he promised to continue McKinley's cabinet and his basic policies. Roosevelt did so, but after reelection in 1904, he moved to the political left, stretching his ties to the Republican Party's conservative leaders.[24]

Anthracite coal strike of 1902

Main article: Coal Strike of 1902

A national emergency was averted in 1902 when Roosevelt found a compromise to the anthracite coal strike by the United Mine Workers of America that threatened the heating supplies of most urban homes. Roosevelt called the mine owners and the labor leaders to the White House and negotiated a compromise. Miners were on strike for 163 days before it ended; they were granted a 10% pay increase and a 9-hour day (from the previous 10 hours), but the union was not officially recognized and the price of coal went up.[25]

Square Deal

Theodore Roosevelt promised to continue McKinley's program, and at first he worked closely with McKinley's men. His 20,000-word address to the Congress in December 1901, asked Congress to curb the power of trusts "within reasonable limits." They did not act but Roosevelt did, issuing 44 lawsuits against major corporations; he was called the "trust-buster."

Mark Hanna was the rival power in the Republican party. Hanna died, and Roosevelt had an easy renomination and reelection in 1904. He won 336 of 476 electoral votes, and 56.4% of the total popular vote. He therefore became the first President who came into office due to the death of his predecessor to be elected in his own right.

Democrats attack Roosevelt as militarist and ineffective in this 1904 election cartoon
Democrats attack Roosevelt as militarist and ineffective in this 1904 election cartoon

Building on McKinley's effective use of the press, Roosevelt made the White House the center of news every day, providing interviews and photo opportunities. His children were almost as popular as he was, and their pranks in the White House made headlines. His daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt, became quite popular in Washington.

Regulation of industry

Roosevelt firmly believed, "The Government must in increasing degree supervise and regulate the workings of the railways engaged in interstate commerce." Inaction was a danger, he argued, "Such increased supervision is the only alternative to an increase of the present evils on the one hand or a still more radical policy on the other." (Annual Message Dec 1904) His biggest success was passage of the Hepburn Act of 1906, giving the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) the power to set maximum railroad rates; it also stopped free passes given to friends of the railroad. Everyone at the time assumed railroads would always be a vast and powerful force; no one dreamed they would be challenged by trucks and automobiles and struggle to survive under the provisions of the Hepburn Act designed to help merchants and consumers.

In response to public clamor, Roosevelt pushed Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, as well as the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. These laws provided for labeling of foods and drugs, inspection of livestock and mandated sanitary conditions at meatpacking plants. Congress replaced Roosevelt's proposals with a version supported by the major meatpackers who worried about the overseas markets, and did not want small unsanitary plants undercutting their domestic market.[26]


Roosevelt worked closely with early conservationists such as Gifford Pinchot, pictured above, with whom he organized the first National Governors Conservation Conference at the White House in 1908
Roosevelt worked closely with early conservationists such as Gifford Pinchot, pictured above, with whom he organized the first National Governors Conservation Conference at the White House in 1908

Roosevelt was the first American president to consider the long-term needs for efficient conservation of national resources, winning the support of fellow hunters and fishermen to bolster his political base. Roosevelt was the last trained observer to ever see a passenger pigeon, and on March 14, 1903, Roosevelt created the first National Bird Preserve, (the beginning of the Wildlife Refuge system), on Pelican Island, Florida. Assuming the conservationist role was a natural step for him, and he decided that it was overdue to put the issue high on the national agenda. He worked with all the major figures of the movement, especially his chief advisor on the matter Gifford Pinchot. Roosevelt urged congress to establish the United States Forest Service (1905), to manage government forest lands, and he appointed Gifford Pinchot to head the service. Roosevelt set aside more land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined, 194 million acres. In all, by 1909, the Roosevelt administration had created an unprecedented 42 million acres of national forests, 53 national wildlife refuges and 18 areas of "special interest", including the Grand Canyon. This environmental record was unequaled until President Bill Clinton's term, 90 years later.[27]The Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands commemorates his conservationist philosophy. In 1903, Roosevelt toured the Yosemite Valley with John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, but he rejected Muir's philosophy that privileged nature, and emphasized instead the more efficient use of nature. In 1907, with Congress about to block him, Roosevelt hurried to designate 16 million acres (65,000 km) of new national forests. In May 1908, he sponsored the Conference of Governors held in the White House, with a focus on the most efficient planning, analysis and use of water, forests and other natural resources. Roosevelt explained, "There is an intimate relation between our streams and the development and conservation of all the other great permanent sources of wealth." During his presidency, Roosevelt promoted the nascent conservation movement in essays for Outdoor Life magazine. Roosevelt, like Pinchot (but unlike Muir), believed in the more efficient use of natural resources by corporations like lumber companies. To Roosevelt, conservation meant more and better usage and less waste, and a long-term perspective.[28]

Foreign policy

Roosevelt's administration was marked by an active approach to foreign policy. Roosevelt saw it as the duty of more developed ("civilized") nations to help the underdeveloped ("uncivilized") world move forward. In Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and the Panama Canal Zone, he used the Army's medical service, under Walter Reed and William C. Gorgas, to eliminate the yellow fever menace and install a new regime of public health. He used the army to build up the infrastructure of the new possessions, building railways, telegraph and telephone lines, and upgrading roads and port facilities.

Roosevelt builds the canal—and shovels dirt on Colombia
Roosevelt builds the canal—and shovels dirt on Colombia

Roosevelt dramatically increased the size of the navy, forming the Great White Fleet, which toured the world in 1907. Roosevelt also added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, which stated that the United States could intervene in Latin American affairs when corruption of governments made it necessary.

Roosevelt gained international praise for helping negotiate the end of the Russo-Japanese War, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Roosevelt later arbitrated a dispute between France and Germany over the division of Morocco. Some historians have argued these latter two actions helped in a small way to avert a world war.[29]

Panama Canal

Roosevelt's most famous foreign policy initiative, following the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, was the construction of the Panama Canal, which upon its completion shortened the route of freighters between San Francisco, California and New York City by 8,000 miles (13,000 km).

Colombia first proposed the canal in their country as opposed to rival Nicaragua, and Colombia signed a treaty for an agreed-upon sum. At that time, Panama was a province of Colombia. According to the treaty, in 1902, the U.S. was to buy out the equipment and excavations from France, which had been attempting to build a canal since 1881. While the Colombian negotiating team had signed the treaty, ratification by the Colombian Senate became problematic.

The Colombian Senate balked at the price and asked for 10 million dollars over the original agreed upon price. When the U.S. refused to re-negotiate the price, the Colombian politicians proposed cutting the original French company that started the project out of the deal and giving that difference to Colombia. The original deal stipulated that the French company was to be reasonably compensated. Realizing that the Colombian Senate was no longer bargaining in good faith, Roosevelt tired of these last-minute attempts by the Colombians to cheat the French out of their entire investment.

Roosevelt ultimately decided, with the encouragement of Panamanian business interests, to help Panama declare independence from Colombia in 1903. A brief revolution, of only a few hours, followed the declaration, and Colombian soldiers were bribed $50 each to lay down their arms. On November 3, 1903, the Republic of Panama was created, with its constitution written in advance by the United States. Shortly thereafter, a treaty was signed with Panama. The U.S. paid $10 million to secure rights to build on and control the Canal Zone. Construction began in 1904 and was completed in 1914.

The Great White Fleet

"The Great White Fleet Sails" by special permission of artist Mort Kunstler
Main article: Great White Fleet
 Roosevelt, (on the 12
Roosevelt, (on the 12" gun turret at right), addresses the crew of USS Connecticut (BB18), in Hampton Roads, Virginia, upon her return from the Fleet's cruise

As Roosevelt's administration drew to a close, the president dispatched a fleet consisting of four US Navy battleship squadrons and their escorts, on a world-wide voyage of circumnavigation from December 16, 1907, to February 22, 1909. With their hulls painted white except for the beautiful gilded scrollwork with a red, white, and blue banner on their bows, these ships would come to be known as The Great White Fleet. Roosevelt wanted to demonstrate to his country and the world that the US Navy was capable of operating in a global theater, particularly in the Pacific. This was extraordinarily important at a time when tensions were slowly growing between the United States and Japan. The latter had recently shown its navy's competence in defeating the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War and the US Navy fleet to the west was relatively small. The Atlantic Fleet battleships only later came to be known as the "Great White Fleet." When the fleet sailed into Yokahama, Japan, the Japanese went to extraordinary lengths to show that their country desired peace with the US. Thousands of Japanese school children waving American flags greeted the Navy brass as they came ashore. In February 1909, Roosevelt was in Hampton Roads, Virginia to witness the triumphant return of the fleet and indicating that he saw the fleet's long voyage as a fitting finish for his administration. To the officers and men of the Fleet Roosevelt said, "Other nations may do what you have done, but they'll have to follow you." This parting act of grand strategy by Roosevelt greatly expanded the respect for as well as the role of the United States in the international arena.

Life in White House

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.[30] In 1908, he was permanently blinded in his left eye during one of his boxing bouts, but this injury was kept from the public at the time.[31] His many enthusiastic interests and limitless energy led one ambassador to wryly explain, "You must always remember that the President is about six."[32]

Roosevelt shoots holes in the dictionary as the ghosts of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dr Johnson moan
Roosevelt shoots holes in the dictionary as the ghosts of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dr Johnson moan

During his presidency, Roosevelt tried but failed to advance the cause of simplified spelling. He tried to force government to adopt the system, sending an order to the Public Printer to use the system in all public documents. The order was obeyed, and among the documents thus printed was the President's special message regarding the Panama Canal. The New York World translated the Thanksgiving Day proclamation:

When nerly three centuries ago, the first settlers kam to the kuntry which has bekom this great republik, tha confronted not only hardship and privashun, but terible risk of thar lives. . . . The kustum has now bekum nashnul and hallowed by immemorial usaj.

The reform annoyed the public, forcing him to rescind the order. Roosevelt's friend, literary critic Brander Matthews, one of the chief advocates of the reform, remonstrated with him for abandoning the effort. Roosevelt replied on December 16: "I could not by fighting have kept the new spelling in, and it was evidently worse than useless to go into an undignified contest when I was beaten. Do you know that the one word as to which I thought the new spelling was wrong — thru — was more responsible than anything else for our discomfiture?" Next summer Roosevelt was watching a naval review when a launch marked "Pres Bot" chugged ostentatiously by. The President waved and laughed with delight.[33]

Roosevelt's oldest daughter, Alice, was a controversial character during Roosevelt's stay in the White House. When friends asked if he could rein in his elder daughter, Roosevelt said, "I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both."[30] In turn, Alice said of him that he always wanted to be "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral."[34]

Roosevelt's contribution to the White House was the construction of the original West Wing, which he had built to free up the second floor rooms in the residence that formerly housed the president's staff. He and Edith also had the entire house renovated and restored to the federal style, tearing out the Victorian furnishings and details (including Tiffany windows) that had been installed over the previous three decades.

Presidential firsts

Roosevelt's presidency saw a number of firsts. In the sphere of race relations, Booker T. Washington became the first black man to dine at the White House in 1901. Oscar S. Straus became the first Jew appointed as a Cabinet Secretary, under Roosevelt. In 1902, in response to the assassination of President William McKinley on September 6, 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became the first president to be under constant Secret Service protection. Roosevelt was the first President to wear a necktie for his official portrait, a tradition which all of his successors followed. Although four Vice Presidents before Roosevelt had succeeded to the presidency upon the death of their predecessor, Roosevelt, in 1904, became the first to be elected in his own right or even win his party’s nomination for reelection. After Roosevelt, three more Vice Presidents who succeeded to the Presidency would be elected to full terms (Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon B. Johnson).

In 1906, Roosevelt became the first American to be awarded a Nobel Prize, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work towards ending the Russo-Japanese War. That same year, he made the first trip, by a President, outside the United States, visiting Panama to inspect the construction progress of the Panama Canal on November 9.

Roosevelt was also the first president to appreciate the power and influence of the press and formally invited the press into the White House on a permanent basis. He was also first to be submerged in a submarine, to own a car, to have a telephone in his home, and to be allowed to operate the light switches in the White House (electricity wasn't trusted at the turn of the century and the President used to have an assistant flip the switches for him).

Administration and Cabinet

Theodore Roosevelt's presidential cabinet.
Theodore Roosevelt's presidential cabinet.
President Theodore Roosevelt 1901–1909
Vice President Charles Fairbanks 1905–1909
Secretary of State John Hay 1901–1905
Elihu Root 1905–1909
Robert Bacon 1909
Secretary of the Treasury Lyman J. Gage 1901–1902
Leslie M. Shaw 1902–1907
George B. Cortelyou 1907–1909
Secretary of War Elihu Root 1901–1904
William Howard Taft 1904–1908
Luke E. Wright 1908–1909
Attorney General Philander C. Knox 1901–1904
William H. Moody 1904–1906
Charles J. Bonaparte 1906–1909
Postmaster General Charles E. Smith 1901–1902
Henry C. Payne 1902–1904
Robert J. Wynne 1904–1905
George B. Cortelyou 1905–1907
George von L. Meyer 1907–1909
Secretary of the Navy John D. Long 1901–1902
William H. Moody 1902–1904
Paul Morton 1902–1906
Charles J. Bonaparte 1905–1906
Victor H. Metcalf 1906–1908
Truman H. Newberry 1908–1909
Secretary of the Interior Ethan A. Hitchcock 1901–1907
James Rudolph Garfield 1907–1909
Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson 1901–1909
Secretary of Commerce and Labor George B. Cortelyou 1903–1904
Victor H. Metcalf 1904–1906
Oscar S. Straus 1906–1909

Supreme Court appointments

Roosevelt appointed three Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.: 1902
  • William Rufus Day: 1903
  • William Henry Moody: 1906

Although Moody was a close associate of Roosevelt, Holmes, who would serve on the Supreme Court until 1932, gained his appointment by virtue of sharing a mutual acquaintance with Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge. Moody was forced to resign due to ill health four years after his appointment, and after retiring, Roosevelt would clash with both Holmes and Day for not supporting reforms he backed.

States admitted to the Union

During Roosevelt's Presidency, one state, Oklahoma, was admitted to the Union. This new state included the former Indian Territory, which had attempted to gain admission on its own into the Union as the State of Sequoyah. (Formerly, the state of Oklahoma had been divided into the Oklahoma Territory and tornado alley.) In 1906, a bill was introduced in Congress providing for the admission of the Oklahoma and Indian Territories as one state, and Arizona and New Mexico as another state. Although the bill passed on June 14 and was signed into law by Roosevelt, the people of Arizona and New Mexico rejected the offer of statehood.


African safari

Roosevelt standing next to a dead elephant during a safari
Roosevelt standing next to a dead elephant during a safari

In March 1909, shortly after the end of his second term, Roosevelt left New York for a safari in Africa. The trip was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Geographic Society and received worldwide media attention. His party, which included scientists from the Smithsonian, killed or trapped over 11,397 animals, from insects and moles to hippopotamuses and elephants. 512 of the animals were big game animals, of which 262 were consumed by the expedition. This included six white rhinos. Tons of salted animals and their skins were shipped to Washington; the number of animals was so large, it took years to mount them. The Smithsonian was able to share many duplicate animals with other museums. Of the large number of animals taken, Roosevelt said, "I can be condemned only if the existence of the National Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and all similar zoological institutions are to be condemned."[35] Although based in the name of science, there was a large social element to the safari. Interactment with many native peoples, local leaders, renowned professional hunters, and land owning families made the safari much more than a hunting excursion. Roosevelt wrote a detailed account of this adventure; "African Game Trails" describes the excitement of the chase, the people he met, and flora and fauna he collected in the name of science.

Republican Party rift

Roosevelt certified William Howard Taft to be a genuine "progressive" in 1908, when Roosevelt pushed through the nomination of his Secretary of War for the Presidency. Taft easily defeated three-time candidate William Jennings Bryan. Taft had a different progressivism, one that stressed the rule of law and preferred that judges rather than administrators or politicians make the basic decisions about fairness. Taft usually proved a less adroit politician than Roosevelt and lacked the energy and personal magnetism, not to mention the publicity devices, the dedicated supporters, and the broad base of public support that made Roosevelt so formidable. When Roosevelt realized that lowering the tariff would risk severe tensions inside the Republican Party—pitting producers (manufacturers and farmers) against merchants and consumers—he stopped talking about the issue. Taft ignored the risks and tackled the tariff boldly, on the one hand encouraging reformers to fight for lower rates, and then cutting deals with conservative leaders that kept overall rates high. The resulting Payne-Aldrich tariff of 1909 was too high for most reformers, but instead of blaming this on Senator Nelson Aldrich and big business, Taft took credit, calling it the best tariff ever. Again he had managed to alienate all sides. While the crisis was building inside the Party, Roosevelt was touring Africa and Europe, so as to allow Taft to be his own man.[36]

Handing off responsibility to Taft in 1909
Handing off responsibility to Taft in 1909

Unlike Roosevelt, Taft never attacked business or businessmen in his rhetoric. However, he was attentive to the law, so he launched 90 antitrust suits, including one against the largest corporation, U.S. Steel, for an acquisition that Roosevelt had personally approved. Consequently, Taft lost the support of antitrust reformers (who disliked his conservative rhetoric), of big business (which disliked his actions), and of Roosevelt, who felt humiliated by his protg. The left wing of the Republican Party began agitating against Taft. Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin created the National Progressive Republican League to defeat the power of political bossism at the state level and to replace Taft at the national level. More trouble came when Taft fired Gifford Pinchot, a leading conservationist and close ally of Roosevelt. Pinchot alleged that Taft's Secretary of Interior Richard Ballinger was in league with big timber interests. Conservationists sided with Pinchot, and Taft alienated yet another vocal constituency.

Roosevelt, back from Europe, unexpectedly launched an attack on the federal courts, which deeply upset Taft. Not only had Roosevelt alienated big business, he was also attacking both the judiciary and the deep faith Republicans had in their judges (most of whom had been appointed by McKinley, Roosevelt or Taft.) In the 1910 Congressional elections, Democrats swept to power, and Taft's reelection in 1912 was increasingly in doubt. In 1911, Taft responded with a vigorous stumping tour that allowed him to sign up most of the party leaders long before Roosevelt announced.

Election of 1912

Main articles: U.S. presidential election, 1912 and Progressive Party 1912 (United States)
The battle between Taft and Roosevelt bitterly split the Republican Party; Taft's people dominated the party until 1936.
The battle between Taft and Roosevelt bitterly split the Republican Party; Taft's people dominated the party until 1936.

Late in 1911, Roosevelt finally broke with Taft and LaFollette and announced himself as a candidate for the Republican nomination. But Roosevelt had delayed too long, and Taft had already won the support of most party leaders in the country. Most of LaFollette's supporters went over to Roosevelt, leaving the Wisconsin Senator embittered.

Roosevelt, stepping up his attack on judges, carried 9 of the states with preferential primaries, LaFollette took two, and Taft only one. However, these primary elections, while demonstrating Roosevelt's popularity with the electorate, were in no ways as important as primaries are today. First of all, there were fewer states where the common voter was given a forum to express himself, such as a primary. Many more states selected convention delegates either at party conventions, or in caucuses, which were not as open as today's caucuses. So while the man in the street still adored Roosevelt, most professional Republican politicians were supporting Taft, and they proved difficult to upset in non-primary states.

At the Republican Convention in Chicago, despite being the incumbent, Taft's victory was not immediately assured. But after two weeks, Roosevelt, realizing that he would not be able to win the nomination outright, asked his followers to leave the convention hall. They moved to the Auditorium Theatre, and then Roosevelt, along with key allies such as Pinchot and Albert Beveridge created the Progressive Party, structuring it as a permanent organization that would field complete tickets at the presidential and state level. It was popularly known as the "Bull Moose Party", which got its name after Roosevelt told reporters, "I'm as tough as a bull moose." At the convention Roosevelt cried out, "We stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord." The crusading rhetoric resonated well with the delegates, many of them long-time reformers, crusaders, activists and opponents of politics as usual. Included in the ranks were Jane Addams and many other feminists and peace activists. The platform echoed Roosevelt's 1907-08 proposals, calling for vigorous government intervention to protect the people from the selfish interests.[37]

While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 14, 1912, a saloonkeeper named John Schrank failed in an assassination attempt on Roosevelt. Schrank did shoot the former President, but the bullet lodged in Roosevelt's chest only after hitting both his steel eyeglass case and a copy of his speech he was carrying in his jacket. Roosevelt declined suggestions that he go to the hospital, and delivered his scheduled speech. He spoke vigorously for ninety minutes. His opening comments to the gathered crowd were, "I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." Afterwards, doctors determined that he was not seriously wounded and that it would be more dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet than to leave it in his chest. Roosevelt carried it with him until he died.[5]

Roosevelt failed to move the political system in his direction. He did win 4.1 million votes (27%), compared to Taft's 3.5 million (23%). However, Wilson's 6.3 million votes (42%) were enough to garner 435 electoral votes. Roosevelt had 88 electoral votes to Taft's 8 electoral votes. (This meant that Taft became the only incumbent President in history to actually come in third place in an attempt to be re-elected.) But Pennsylvania was Roosevelt's only Eastern state; in the Midwest he carried Michigan, Minnesota and South Dakota; in the West, California and Washington; he did not win any Southern states. Although he lost, he won more votes than former presidents Martin Van Buren and Millard Fillmore who also ran again and also lost. More important, he pulled so many progressives out of the Republican party that it took on a much more conservative cast for the next generation.

1913-1914 South American Expedition

The initial party. From left to right (seated): Father Zahm, Rondon, Kermit, Cherrie, Miller, four Brazilians, Roosevelt, Fiala. Only Roosevelt, Kermit, Cherrie, Rondon and the Brazilians traveled up the River of Doubt.
The initial party. From left to right (seated): Father Zahm, Rondon, Kermit, Cherrie, Miller, four Brazilians, Roosevelt, Fiala. Only Roosevelt, Kermit, Cherrie, Rondon and the Brazilians traveled up the River of Doubt.

His popular book Through the Brazilian Wilderness describes his expedition into the Brazilian jungle in 1913 as a member of the Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition co-named after its leader, Brazilian explorer Cndido Rondon. The book describes all of the scientific discovery, scenic tropical vistas and exotic flora, fauna and wild life experienced on the expedition. A friend, Father John Augustine Zahm, had searched for new adventures and found them in the forests of South America. After a briefing of several of his own expeditions, he convinced Roosevelt to commit to such an expedition in 1912. To finance the expedition, Roosevelt received support from the American Museum of Natural History, promising to bring back many new animal specimens. Once in South America, a new far more ambitious goal was added: to find the headwaters of the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt, and trace it north to the Madiera and thence to the Amazon River. It was later renamed Rio Roosevelt in honor of the former President. Roosevelt's crew consisted of his 24-year-old son Kermit, Colonel Cndido Rondon, a naturalist sent by the American Museum of Natural History named George K. Cherrie, Brazilian Lieutenant Joao Lyra, team physician Dr. Jos Antonio Cajazeira, and sixteen highly skilled paddlers (called camaradas in Portuguese). The initial expedition started, probably unwisely, on December 9, 1913, at the height of the rainy season. The trip up the River of Doubt started on February 27, 1914.

Roosevelt, wearing sun helmet, barely survived an expedition in 1913 into the Amazonian rain forest to trace the River of Doubt later named the Rio Roosevelt.
Roosevelt, wearing sun helmet, barely survived an expedition in 1913 into the Amazonian rain forest to trace the River of Doubt later named the Rio Roosevelt.

During the trip up the river, Roosevelt contracted malaria and a serious infection resulting from a minor leg wound. These illnesses so weakened Roosevelt that, by six weeks into the expedition, he had to be attended day and night by the expedition's physician, Dr. Cajazeira and his son, Kermit. By this time, Roosevelt considered his own condition a threat to the survival of the others. At one point, Kermit had to talk him out of his wish to be left behind so as not to slow down the expedition, now with only a few weeks rations left. Roosevelt was having chest pains when he tried to walk, his temperature soared to 103F (39C), and at times he was delirious. He had lost over fifty pounds (20 kg). Without the constant support of Dr. Cajazeira, and Rondon's leadership, Roosevelt would likely have perished.

Upon his return to New York, friends and family were startled by Roosevelt's physical appearance and fatigue. Roosevelt wrote to a friend that the trip had cut his life short by ten years. He might not have really known just how accurate that analysis would prove to be, because the effects of the South America expedition had so greatly weakened him that they significantly contributed to his declining health. For the rest of his life, he would be plagued by flareups of malaria and leg inflammations so severe that they would require hospitalization.[30][38]

When Roosevelt had recovered enough of his strength, he found that he had a new battle on his hands. In professional circles, there was doubt about his claims of having discovered and navigated a completely uncharted river over 625 miles (1,000 km) long. Roosevelt would have to defend himself and win international recognition of the expedition's newly-named Rio Roosevelt. Toward this end, Roosevelt went to Washington, D.C., and spoke at a standing-room-only convention to defend his claims. His official report and its defense silenced the critics, and he was able to triumphantly return to his home in Oyster Bay.


Despite his weakened condition and slow recovery from his South America expedition, Roosevelt continued to write with passion on subjects ranging from foreign policy to the importance of the national park system. As an editor of Outlook magazine, he had weekly access to a large, educated national audience. In all, Roosevelt wrote about 18 books (each in several editions), including his Autobiography, Rough Riders and History of the Naval War of 1812, ranching, explorations, and wildlife. His most important book was the 4 volume narrative The Winning of the West, which traced the origin of a new "race" of Americans to frontier conditions in the 18th century.

World War I

Roosevelt angrily complained about the foreign policy of President Wilson, calling it "weak". This caused him to develop an intense dislike of Woodrow Wilson. When World War I began in 1914, Roosevelt strongly supported Britain, France and the Allies of World War I because he admired their fight for civilization; he demanded a harsher policy against Germany, especially regarding submarine warfare. In 1916, he campaigned energetically for Charles Evans Hughes and repeatedly denounced those Irish-Americans and German-Americans whose pleas for neutrality Roosevelt said were unpatriotic because they put the interest of Ireland and Germany ahead of America's. He insisted that one had to be 100% American, not a "hyphenated American" who juggled multiple loyalties. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Roosevelt sought to raise a volunteer infantry division, but Wilson refused[39].

Roosevelt's attacks on Wilson helped the Republicans win control of Congress in the off-year elections of 1918. Roosevelt was popular enough to seriously contest the 1920 Republican nomination, but his health was broken by 1918 because of the lingering malaria. His son Quentin, a daring pilot with the American forces in France, was shot down behind German lines in 1918. Quentin was his youngest son and probably the most like him. It is said that the death of his son distressed him so much that Roosevelt never recovered from his loss.[40]

Last years

Theodore Roosevelt in 1918
Theodore Roosevelt in 1918

Despite his debilitating diseases Roosevelt remained upbeat to the end of his life. He was an enthusiastic proponent of the Scouting movement. The Boy Scouts of America gave him the title of Chief Scout Citizen, the only person to hold such title. One early Scout leader said, "The two things that gave Scouting great impetus and made it very popular were the uniform and Teddie Roosevelt's jingoism."[41]

On January 6, 1919, at the age of 60, Roosevelt died in his sleep of a coronary embolism at Oyster Bay, and was buried in nearby Young's Memorial Cemetery. Upon receiving word of his death, his son, Archie, telegraphed his siblings simply, "The old lion is dead."[42] Woodrow Wilson's vice president at the time Thomas R. Marshall said of his death "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight."[43]

Personal life

Roosevelt Family in 1903 with Quentin on the left, TR, Ted, Jr.,
Roosevelt Family in 1903 with Quentin on the left, TR, Ted, Jr., "Archie", Alice, Kermit, Edith, and Ethel

Roosevelt was baptized in the family's church, part of the Reformed Church in America; he attended the Madison Square Presbyterian Church until the age of 16. Later in life, when Roosevelt lived at Oyster Bay he attended an Episcopal church with his wife. While in Washington he attended services at Grace Reformed Church.[44] As President he firmly believed in the separation of church and state and thought it unwise to have In God We Trust on currency, because he thought it sacrilegious to put the name of the Deity on something so common as money.[45] He was also a Freemason, and regularly attended the Matinecock Lodge's meetings. He once said that "One of the things that so greatly attracted me to Masonry that I hailed the chance of becoming a Mason was that it really did act up to what we, as a government, are pledged to — namely to treat each man on his merit as a man."[46]

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, 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 jujutsu and continued his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during winter.[47][48]

Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt's estate
Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt's estate

He was an enthusiastic singlestick player and, according to Harper's Weekly, in 1905 showed up at a White House reception with his arm bandaged after a bout with General Leonard Wood.[49] Roosevelt was also an avid reader, reading tens of thousands of books, at a rate of several a day in multiple languages. Along with Thomas Jefferson Roosevelt is often considered the most well read of any American politician.[50]

His children made up what called the "White House Gang".


Roosevelt's face on Mt. Rushmore
Roosevelt's face on Mt. Rushmore

For his gallantry at San Juan Hill, Roosevelt's commanders recommended him for the Medal of Honor, but his subsequent telegrams to the War Department complaining about the delays in returning American troops from Cuba doomed his chances. In the late 1990s, Roosevelt's supporters again took up the flag on his behalf and overcame opposition from elements within the U.S. Army and the National Archives. On January 16, 2001, President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded Theodore Roosevelt the Medal of Honor for his charge up San Juan Hill, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt's eldest son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., received the Medal of Honor for heroism at the Battle of Normandy in 1944. The Roosevelts thus became one of only two father-son pairs to receive this honor.

Roosevelt's legacy includes several other important commemorations. Roosevelt was included with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln at the Mount Rushmore Memorial, designed in 1927. The United States Navy named two ships for Roosevelt: the USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600), a submarine was in commission from 1961 to 1982; and the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), an aircraft carrier has been on active duty in the Atlantic Fleet since 1986.

The Roosevelt Memorial Association (later the Theodore Roosevelt Association) or "TRA", was founded in 1919 to preserve Roosevelt's legacy. The Association preserved TR's birthplace, "Sagamore Hill" home, papers, and video film.

1910 cartoon shows Roosevelt's multiple roles to 1898
1910 cartoon shows Roosevelt's multiple roles to 1898
Roosevelt's multiple roles from 1899 to 1910
Roosevelt's multiple roles from 1899 to 1910

Overall, historians credit Roosevelt for changing the nation's political system by permanently placing the presidency at center stage and making character as important as the issues. His notable accomplishments include trust-busting and conservationism. However, he has been criticized for his interventionist and imperialist approach to nations he considered "uncivilized". Even so, history and legend have been kind to him. His friend, historian Henry Adams, proclaimed, "Roosevelt, more than any other living man ....showed the singular primitive quality that belongs to ultimate matter — the quality that mediaeval theology assigned to God — he was pure act." Historians typically rank Roosevelt among the top five presidents.[51][52]

Popular culture

As a charismatic President often considered larger than life, Roosevelt (or characters using his name loosely based on him) has appeared in numerous fiction books, television shows, films, and other media of popular culture.

Theodore Roosevelt as depicted in the Scrooge McDuck Universe.
Theodore Roosevelt as depicted in the Scrooge McDuck Universe.

In the Scrooge McDuck comics by Keno Don Rosa, Roosevelt appears several times, often as the mentor of an adolescent Scrooge, teaching him the values of self-confidence and self-reliance.

Roosevelt was used in an episode of the Disney cartoon version of Tarzan on his African excursion after the Presidency.

He is also a major character in Harry Turtledove's fictional Timeline-191 alternate history, along with Caleb Carr's novels The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness, and is the protagonist of Benito Cereno's Tales From the Bully Pulpit comic book. In the comic play and movie Arsenic and Old Lace part of the zany atmosphere is created by a character who holds the delusion that he is Theodore Roosevelt.

Filmmaker John Milius directed two films in which Roosevelt was a central character: The Wind and the Lion (1975) in which he was played by Brian Keith; and Rough Riders (1997) in which he was played by Tom Berenger.

Roosevelt's lasting popular legacy is the stuffed toy bears (teddy bears), named after him following an incident on a hunting trip in 1902. Roosevelt famously refused to kill a captured black bear simply for the sake of making a kill. Bears and later bear cubs became closely associated with Roosevelt in political cartoons thereafter.[53]

He inspired every man in his country to live a "strenuous life", which he himself had followed for the bulk of his life. His is a famous adventure, a thrilling story, and a true story. His enthusiam, energy, earnestness, determination, and his philosophy will endure in every young man's heart and spirit.

On June 26, 2006, Roosevelt, once again, made the cover of TIME magazine with the lead story, "The Making of America—Theodore Roosevelt—The 20th Century Express": "At home and abroad, Theodore Roosevelt was the locomotive President, the man who drew his flourishing nation into the future."[54]

Roosevelt is in the upcoming movie, Night at the Museum, played by Robin Williams, where he helps out Ben Stiller's character throughout the night.


  • Roosevelt was almost seven years old when a famous picture was taken showing him looking out his second story window (the one opened) at Abraham Lincoln's funeral train. [6]
  • On September 3, 1902 a landau carrying Roosevelt and Secret Service Operative William Craig was struck by a trolley in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Craig was killed and Roosevelt was injured.
  • In 1906-1907, when there were disagreements between Roosevelt and Senator Benjamin Tiller over the railroad rate bill, and also controversy between Roosevelt and "nature fakers", the press coined the term Ananias Club, which meant "liar".
  • Theodore Roosevelt The Lion in White House (2006), a novel by Vichey about Roosevelt's adventures, thrilling stories, and about his activities in his domains. It was published in Cambodia in the Khmer language.


Theodore Roosevelt's voice can be heard in several speeches from the Vincent Voice Library at Michigan State University:

  • Roosevelt in San Francisco, 1903 (file info)
    • Parade for the school children of San Francisco, down Van Ness Avenue. (13.8 MB, ogg/Theora format).
  • Teddy Roosevelt video montage (file info)
    • Collection of video clips of the president. (6.5 MB, ogg/Theora format).
  • Problems seeing the videos? See media help.

He is scheduled to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

See also

  • Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. father
  • Martha Bulloch mother
  • Eleanor Roosevelt niece
  • Alice Roosevelt first wife
  • Edith Carow Roosevelt second wife
  • Alice Roosevelt first daughter
  • Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. first son
  • Kermit Roosevelt second son
  • Ethel Roosevelt second daughter
  • Archibald Roosevelt third son
  • Quentin Roosevelt fourth son
  • Elliott Roosevelt brother
  • Anna Cowles sister
  • Corinne Robinson sister
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, cousin, 32nd President of the United States
  • Theodore Roosevelt Association 1920 organization founded to preserve Roosevelt's historical legacy
  • Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia 1940 compendium of Roosevelt's key writings, sayings and conversations
  • Panama Canal
  • Great White Fleet
  • Russo-Japanese War
  • List of U.S. political appointments that crossed party lines
  • progressivism

Notes and references


  1. ^ See list at [1]
  2. ^ [Thomas A. Bailey, Presidential Greatness (1966) p. 308
  3. ^ "TR's Legacy—The Environment". Retrieved March 6, 2006.
  4. ^ Thayer, William Roscoe (1919). Theodore Roosevelt: An Intimate Biography, Chapter I, p. 20.
  5. ^ Roosevelt, Theodore (1913). Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography, Chapter I, p. 13.
  6. ^ "The Film & More: Program Transcript Part One". Retrieved March 9, 2006.
  7. ^ T. R.: The Last Romantic by H. W. Brands P. 49–50
  8. ^ Brands p. 62
  9. ^ The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris.
  10. ^ Brands, pp 123–29
  11. ^ Brands pp 175-79
  12. ^ Thayer, Chapter V, pp. 4, 6.
  13. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica, 1910 Edition, Topic: Theodore Roosevelt
  14. ^ Although Roosevelt's father was also named Theodore Roosevelt, he died while the future president was still childless and unmarried, so the future President Roosevelt took the suffix of Sr. and subsequently named his son Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Because Roosevelt was still alive when his grandson and namesake was born, his grandson was named Theodore Roosevelt III, and the president's son retained the Jr. after his father's death.
  15. ^ See The Naval War of 1812, via Project Gutenberg.
  16. ^ Pringle (1931) p 116
  17. ^ Thayer, ch. VI, pp. 1–2.
  18. ^ Andrews, William, "The Early Years: The Challenge of Public Order - 1845 to 1870", - New York City Police Department History Site. Retrieved August 28, 2006.
  19. ^ Editors, "Leadership of the City of New York Police Department 1845-1901", - The New York City Police Department Museum. Retrieved August 28, 2006.
  20. ^ Brands ch 11
  21. ^ Brands ch 12
  22. ^ Brands ch 13
  23. ^ Brands ch 14-15
  24. ^ Brands ch 16
  25. ^ Brands ch 17
  26. ^ Blum 1980 pp 43-44
  27. ^ See on Runet [2]
  28. ^ In 2006, a group of American high school students developed a 10 minute video on Roosevelt's conservation legacy with the help of Roosevelt scholar, Ed Renehan and Roosevelt descendant, Tweed Roosevelt. SeeAmerican High School Students, "Theodore Roosevelt: Conserving America's Future YouTUBE Presentation on Theodore Roosevelt and Conservation, YouTube (April 23, 2006) Online Edition. Retrieved on 2006-10-11.
  29. ^ The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (2005). "Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)". Retrieved March 6, 2006.
  30. ^ a b c Hanson, David C. (2005). "Theodore Roosevelt: Lion in the White House". Retrieved March 6, 2006.
  31. ^ Smith, Ira R. T.; Morris, Joe Alex (1949). "Dear Mr. President": The Story of Fifty Years in the White House Mail Room, p. 52. Julian Messner.
  32. ^ Kennedy, Robert C. (2005). "'I hear there are some kids in the White House this year'". Retrieved March 6, 2006.
  33. ^ Pringle 465-7
  34. ^ (Some sources attribute this quote to one of Roosevelt's sons instead.) Thayer, Chapter XIII, p. 7.
  35. ^ O'Toole, Patricia (2005) When Trumpets Call, p. 67, Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-684-86477-0
  36. ^ Thayer, Chapter XXI, p. 10.
  37. ^ Thayer, Chapter XXII, pp. 25–31.
  38. ^ Thayer, Chapter XXIII, pp. 4–7.
  39. ^ Brands 781-4; Cramer, C.H. Newton D. Baker (1961) 110-113
  40. ^ Dalton, (2002)p 507
  41. ^ Larson, Keith (2006). "Theodore Roosevelt". Retrieved March 6, 2006.
  42. ^ Dalton, (2002) p. 507
  43. ^ Manners, William. TR and Will: A Friendship that Split the Republican Party. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1969.
  44. ^ "The Religious Affiliation of Theodore Roosevelt U.S. President". Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  45. ^ Reynolds, Ralph C. (1999). "In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash". Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  46. ^ Matinecock Masonic Historical Society. "History". Retrieved March 12, 2006.
  47. ^ Thayer, Chapter XVII, pp. 22–24.
  48. ^ Shaw, K.B. & Maiden, David (2006). "Theodore Roosevelt". Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  49. ^ Amberger, J Christoph, Secret History of the Sword Adventures in Ancient Martial Arts 1998, ISBN 1-892515-04-0.
  50. ^ David H. Burton, The Learned Presidency 1988, p 12.
  51. ^ The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (2005). "Biography: Impact and Legacy". Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  52. ^ "Legacy". Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  53. ^ "History of the Teddy Bear". Retrieved March 7, 2006.
  54. ^ Editors (2006). Month=June&Date=26 "The Making of America—Theodore Roosevelt—The 20th Century Express". Retrieved March 26, 2006.

Primary sources

  • Brands, H.W. ed. The Selected Letters of Theodore Roosevelt. (2001)
  • Harbaugh, William ed. The Writings Of Theodore Roosevelt (1967). A one-volume selection of Roosevelt's speeches and essays.
  • Hart, Albert Bushnell and Herbert Ronald Ferleger, eds. Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia (1941), Roosevelt's opinions on many issues; online version at [7]
  • Morison, Elting E., John Morton Blum, and Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., eds., The Letters of Theodore Roosevelt, 8 vols. (1951-1954). Very large, annotated edition of letters from TR.
  • Roosevelt, Theodore (1999). Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography. online at
  • Roosevelt, Theodore. The Works of Theodore Roosevelt (National edition, 20 vol. 1926); 18,000 pages containing most of TR's speeches, books and essays, but not his letters; a CD-ROM edition is available; some of TR's books are available online through Project Bartleby
  • Secondary sources

    • Beale Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. (1956). standard history of his foreign policy
    • Blum, John Morton The Republican Roosevelt. (1954). Series of essays that examine how TR did politics
    • Brands, H.W. Theodore Roosevelt (2001), full biography
    • Cooper, John Milton The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. (1983) a dual scholarly biography
    • Dalton, Kathleen. Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life. (2002), full scholarly biography
    • Fehn, Bruce. "Theodore Roosevelt and American Masculinity." Magazine of History (2005) 19(2): 52-59. Issn: 0882-228x Fulltext online at Ebsco. Provides a lesson plan on TR as the historical figure who most exemplifies the quality of masculinity.
    • Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. (1991), standard history of his domestic and foreign policy as president
    • Harbaugh, William Henry. The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt. (1963), full scholarly biography
    • Keller, Morton, ed., Theodore Roosevelt: A Profile (1967) excerpts from TR and from historians.
    • Millard, Candice. River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey. (2005)
    • McCullough, David. Mornings on Horseback, The Story of an Extraordinary Family. a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt. (2001) popular biography to 1884
    • Morris, Edmund The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, to 1901 (1979); vol 2: Theodore Rex 1901-1909. (2001); Pulitzer prize for Volume 1. Biography.
    • Mowry, George. The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America, 1900-1912. (1954) general survey of era
    • Mowry, George E. Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement. (2001) focus on 1912
    • Powell, Jim. Bully Boy: The Truth About Theodore Roosevelt's Legacy (Crown Forum, 2006). Denounces TR policies from conservative/libertarian perspective
    • Pringle, Henry F. Theodore Roosevelt (1932; 2nd ed. 1956), full scholarly biography
    • Putnam, Carleton Theodore Roosevelt: A Biography, Volume I: The Formative Years (1958), only volume published, to age 28.
    • Renehan, Edward J. The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War. (1992), examines TR and his family during the World War I period
    • Strock, James M. Theodore Roosevelt on Leadership (2003), examines TR's leadership and management style
    • Watts, Sarah. Rough Rider in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Desire. 2003. 289 pp.

    This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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