Theodore Roosevelt (ROH zuh vehlt) (1858-1919) had served as Vice President of the United States for only six months when President William McKinley was killed by an assassin in September 1901. He was the youngest man to become President when he took office at age 42. He was wildly popular and millions of Americans affectionately referred to him as "Teddy" or "T.R." He was elected to a full term as President in 1904 and declared that he would "under no circumstances" run for President again. He gave in to pleas in 1912 that he run for a third term as the "Bull Moose" candidate but lost to Woodrow Wilson.
Roosevelt had great energy and led what he called a "strenuous life." He enjoyed horseback riding, swimming, hunting, hiking, and boxing and often expression enthusiasm for something by referring to it as "bully." Cartoons of him show his rimless glasses, bushy mustache, prominent teeth, and jutting jaw. One such cartoon showed him with a bear cub. It was not long before toymakers began making stuffed animals known as "teddy bears."
Roosevelt became a national hero when he led the fearless Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War in 1898 against Spaniards in Cuba. He came home to be elected governor of New York and then Vice President two years later. His domestic policies were reforms to benefit the American people, specifically to limit the power of great businesses.
In foreign relations, he worked to make the United States a leader in the world and felt that this position of leadership should be supported with a strong military. He expressed this foreign policy as: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." He strengthened the U.S. Navy, began construction of the Panama Canal, and insured that European nations did not interfere in Latin America. He was instrumental in ending the Russo-Japanese War and was the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
During the Roosevelt Administration, automobiles, electric lights, and telephones began to be widely used. The first radio message was sent across the Atlantic Ocean, a telegraph cable was laid across the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines, and the Wright brothers flew the first successful airplane with Roosevelt enjoying a ride in one of the first models.
Roosevelt enjoyed being at the center of the stage of public life. When he left office, he wrote: "I do not believe that anyone else has ever enjoyed the White House as much as I have" - and he was probably right.
Theodore Roosevelt - known as Teedie to the family - was born on October 27, 1858, in New York City. He had one older sister and a younger brother and sister.
The Van Roosevelts, Teddy's ancestors, came from Holland in the 1640's. One of his ancestors, Klaes Martensen Van Roosevelt, settled in what was then called New Amsterdam, New York. Klaes was also an ancestor of Franklin D. Roosevelt who was the 32d President of the United States. Most of the Van Roosevelts were wealthy land owners and business leaders. His mother came from a prominent family in Georgia. There were some differences in the Roosevelt marriage during the Civil War: Mrs. Roosevelt had a brother who was an admiral in the Confederate Navy, and she supported the South. Mr. Roosevelt was an importer of plate glass and supported the North. In spite of their differences, they provided a happy home for their family.
Roosevelt had great energy, curiosity, and determination, and he enjoyed an active childhood. He was puny and ill often, and he suffered greatly with asthma. He discovered that he was nearsighted while playing with friends one day: the other children could easily read an advertisement on a billboard but he could not even see the letters. Theodore wore glasses from that time on.
Roosevelt's interests in nature study came from his love of both books and the outdoors. He went on two trips with his family, each of which lasted one year when he was 10 and again at age 14. He visited both Europe and the Middle East.
Teddy's father told him that he would need a strong body in order for his mind to develop to its full potential. After he was bullied on a trip to Maine by himself, his father built a gymnasium in the family home. Teddy exercised there regularly, overcame his asthma and built up unusual physical strength.
Teddy was tutored until age 18 when he entered Harvard University in 1876. There he earned good grades and asked many questions. A professor remarked, "Now look here, Roosevelt, let me talk. I'm running this course!"
Roosevelt met Alice Hathaway Lee, the daughter of a wealthy official of a Boston investment firm, in October 1879. They courted during Roosevelt's senior year at Harvard and married on his 22d birthday after he graduated. Alice died on February 14, 1884, two days after the birth of a daughter named Alice. Roosevelt's mother died on the same day from typhoid fever.
Roosevelt's father died in 1878 and left him some money. He needed to earn more in order to live comfortably so he enrolled in the Columbia University Law School. The law classes did not interest him, and he wrote The Naval War of 1812 while studying law. He decided to enter politics to give public service. In the fall of 1881 he won election to the New York state assembly at age 23. He was re-elected twice. His intelligence, courage, and energy won respect from the other legislators even though they thought he looked like a "dude" with his sideburns and elegant dress. He left politics after the deaths of his wife and mother.
Teddy ran two cattle ranches on the Little Missouri River in the Dakota Territory. The hard work and endless activity of being a rancher aided in his recovery from his heartaches. He wore cowboy clothes and spent 14-16 hours each day in the saddle. He hunted buffalo and other wild animals, tended cattle, and even aided officers of the law to capture a band of outlaws. He wrote steadily and in less than three months completed a biography of Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. He also wrote a four-volume series called The Winning of the West.
Most of Roosevelt's cattle were destroyed during the severe snowstorms in the winter of 1885-1886. and Teddy returned to New York City in 1886. At the request of Republican leaders he ran for mayor but was badly defeated.
During trips home from his ranches, Roosevelt visited a childhood friend, Edith Kermit Carow. They were married on December 2, 1886 and lived in Sagamore Hill, Roosevelt's home in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. The Roosevelts had five children, and Mrs. Roosevelt raised Alice Roosevelt, Teddy's daughter from his first marriage, as her own child. Roosevelt love to play with his children.
Roosevelt served in many political positions: Civil Service commissioner, police commissioner, assistant secretary of the Navy, governor of New York, and Vice President of the United States
President William McKinley was shot by an assassin on September 6, 1901, while attending the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, just six months after his second inauguration. Roosevelt was vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains but hurried to Buffalo when he learned that McKinley was near death. McKinley died before Roosevelt arrived, and Roosevelt took the oath of office as President on the same day, September 14, 1901.
Life in the White House was never dull during the Roosevelt Administration. The Roosevelt children and their friends became known as the "White House Gang," and the President occasionally joined in the children's games. One day, upon hearing that the children were planning to attack the White House, the President sent a message through the War Department ordering them to call off their "attack." The children were allowed to bring their pets into the White House - including a pony and snakes.
The President played tennis on the White House lawn with friends often, and these friends became known as the "tennis cabinet." The group also enjoyed horseback riding and hiking. The President and his friends even swam across the Potomac River through chunks of floating ice a few times.
Edith Roosevelt carefully kept out of politics but was an efficient and gracious White House hostess. Roosevelt's daughter by his first wife became known as "Princess Alice" by newspaper reporters. She was married in the White House.
After Roosevelt left the presidency in March 1909, he sailed to Africa to hunt big game. Roosevelt and his party killed 296 big-game animals, including 9 lions. Roosevelt was the center of national attention when he arrived home in June 1910. Progressive Republicans wanted him to run for President because they felt that William Howard Taft had betrayed them. Roosevelt became the "Bull Moose" candidate and tried to unite the progressive and conservative wings of the Republican Party. He was unsuccessful because he was identified too closely with the progressives. Roosevelt's candidacy split the Republican vote, Democratic candidate, Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, easily won the election.
While exploring the River of Doubt in the Brazilian jungle in 1914, Roosevelt contracted a form of jungle fever. He returned home weak and prematurely aged. He underwent surgery in 1918 to remove abscesses on his thigh and in his ears, which were the result of the jungle fever. He lost hearing in his left ear. About this same time he disclosed that he had lost sight in his left eye in 1908 from an injury received while boxing with a military aide.
Roosevelt was opposed to American membership in the League of Nations, feeling that the United States would be limited in foreign relations. Roosevelt might have been named as the Republican presidential candidate in 1920, but he died unexpectedly of a blood clot in his heart on January 6, 1919. He was buried in Youngs Memorial Cemetery, near Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, New York. Edith Roosevelt died in 1948 and was buried beside her husband.
Both Roosevelt's birthplace in New York City and Sagamore Hill are national historic sites. Wilcox Mansion in Buffalo, New York, where Roosevelt took the oath of office in 1901, is also a national historic site. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, in western North Dakota, includes one of Roosevelt's ranches; the other ranch is nearby. There is a large statue of Roosevelt located on Theodore Roosevelt Island in the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Roosevelt is also one of the four Presidents whose faces are carved on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Facts and quotes for this post came from an article by John A. Gable in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 16, pp 464-472.
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