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Politician & Activist

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was an American statesman, politician, conservationist, naturalist, and writer who served as the 26th president of the United States from 1901 to 1909.

He served as the 25th vice president from March to September 1901 and as the 33rd governor of New York from 1899 to 1900.

Roosevelt emerged as a leader of the Republican Party and became a driving force for the anti-trust policy while supporting Progressive Era policies in the United States in the early 20th century.

His face is depicted on Mount Rushmore alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.

He is generally ranked in polls of historians and political scientists as one of the five best presidents.

  • Full name: Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
  • Profession: American politician, 26th U.S. President
  • Born: 27 October 1858, Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, New York, United States
  • Died: 6 January 1919, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Cove Neck, New York, United States
  • Party: Republican Party
  • Presidential term: 14 September 1901 – 4 March 1909
  • Children: Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Alice Roosevelt Longworth

About Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was born on 27 October 1858 in Manhattan, New York City.

He was the second of four children born to socialite Martha Stewart “Mittie” Bulloch and businessman and philanthropist Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (brother of Robert Roosevelt and James A. Roosevelt, all sons of Cornelius Roosevelt).

He had an older sister, Anna (nicknamed “Bamie”), a younger brother, Elliott, and a younger sister, Corinne.

Elliott was later the father of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Theodore’s distant cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

His paternal grandfather was of Dutch descent; his other ancestry included primarily Scottish and Scots-Irish, English and smaller amounts of German, Welsh, and French.

Theodore Sr. was the fifth son of businessman Cornelius Van Schaack “C.V.S.” Roosevelt and Margaret Barnhill.

Theodore’s fourth cousin, James Roosevelt I, who was also a businessman, was the father of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mittie was the younger daughter of Major James Stephens Bulloch and Martha P. “Patsy” Stewart.

Through the Van Schaacks, Roosevelt was a descendant of the Schuyler family.

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Roosevelt’s youth was largely shaped by his poor health and debilitating asthma.

He repeatedly experienced sudden night-time asthma attacks that caused the experience of being smothered to death, which terrified both Theodore and his parents. Doctors had no cure.

Nevertheless, he was energetic and mischievously inquisitive. His lifelong interest in zoology began at age seven when he saw a dead seal at a local market; after obtaining the seal’s head, Roosevelt and two cousins formed what they called the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”.

Having learned the rudiments of taxidermy, he filled his makeshift museum with animals that he killed or caught; he then studied the animals and prepared them for exhibition.

At age nine, he recorded his observation of insects in a paper entitled “The Natural History of Insects”. Roosevelt’s father significantly influenced him.

His father was a prominent leader in New York’s cultural affairs; he helped to find the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and had been especially active in mobilizing support for the Union during the Civil War, even though his in-laws included Confederate leaders.

Roosevelt said, “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.”

Family trips abroad, including tours of Europe in 1869 and 1870, and Egypt in 1872, shaped his cosmopolitan perspective.

Hiking with his family in the Alps in 1869, Roosevelt found that he could keep pace with his father.

He had discovered the significant benefits of physical exertion to minimize his asthma and bolster his spirits.

Roosevelt began a heavy regime of exercise. After being manhandled by two older boys on a camping trip, he found a boxing coach to teach him to fight and strengthen his body.

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Theodore and Elliot Roosevelt watch Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession passing their grandfather’s mansion in Union Square, Manhattan, 1865. Theodore and Elliot are in the second-floor window facing the camera.

A 6-year-old Roosevelt witnessed the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln from his grandfather’s mansion in Union Square, New York City where he was photographed in the window along with his brother Elliot, as confirmed by wife Edith who was also present.

Career

Roosevelt was a sickly child with debilitating asthma, but he overcame his health problems by embracing a strenuous lifestyle, as well as growing out of his asthma naturally in his young adult years.

He integrated his exuberant personality, a vast range of interests, and world-famous achievements into a “cowboy” persona defined by robust masculinity.

He was home-schooled, and he began a lifelong naturalist avocation before attending Harvard College.

His book The Naval War of 1812 (1882) established his reputation as a learned historian and as a popular writer.

Upon entering politics, he became the leader of the reform faction of Republicans in New York’s state legislature.

His wife and his mother both died in rapid succession, and he escaped to a cattle ranch in the Dakotas.

He served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, but he resigned from that post to lead the Rough Riders during the Spanish–American War, returning a war hero.

He was elected governor of New York in 1898. After Vice President Garret Hobart died in 1899, the New York state party leadership convinced McKinley to accept Roosevelt as his running mate in the 1900 election.

Roosevelt campaigned vigorously, and the McKinley–Roosevelt ticket won a landslide victory based on a platform of peace, prosperity, and conservation.

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Roosevelt took office as vice president in March 1901 and assumed the presidency at age 42 after McKinley was assassinated the following September.

He remains the youngest person to become President of the United States. Roosevelt was a leader of the progressive movement, and he championed his “Square Deal” domestic policies, promising the average citizen fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and pure food and drugs.

He made conservation a top priority and established many new national parks, forests, and monuments intended to preserve the nation’s natural resources.

In foreign policy, he focused on Central America where he began construction of the Panama Canal.

He expanded the Navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to project the United States’ naval power around the globe.

His successful efforts to broker the end of the Russo-Japanese War won him the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize.

He avoided controversial tariff and money issues. Roosevelt was elected to a full term in 1904 and continued to promote progressive policies, many of which were passed in Congress.

He groomed his close friend William Howard Taft, and Taft won the 1908 presidential election to succeed him.

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Roosevelt grew frustrated with Taft’s brand of conservatism and belatedly tried to win the 1912 Republican nomination for president.

He failed, walked out, and founded the so-called “Bull Moose” Party which called for wide-ranging progressive reforms.

He ran in the 1912 election and the split allowed the Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson to win the election.

Following the defeat, Roosevelt led a two-year expedition to the Amazon basin where he nearly died of tropical disease.

During World War I, he criticized Wilson for keeping the country out of the war with Germany, and his offer to lead volunteers to France was rejected.

He considered running for president again in 1920, but his health continued to deteriorate, and he died in 1919.