Theodore Roosevelt

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Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Order: 26th President
Vice President: Charles Warren Fairbanks
Term of office: September 14, 1901March 3, 1909
Preceded by: William McKinley
Succeeded by: William Howard Taft
Date of birth: October 27, 1858
Place of birth: New York City
Date of death: January 6, 1919
Place of death: Oyster Bay, New York
First Lady: Edith Roosevelt
Political party: Republican party

Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858January 6, 1919) was the twenty-fifth (1901) Vice President and the twenty-sixth (1901-1909) President of the United States, succeeding to the office upon the assassination of William McKinley. At 42, Roosevelt was the youngest person ever to serve as President of the United States.

Roosevelt's energy, skill and sheer joy in the Presidency were remarkable. During his life he was an author, legislator, soldier, big-game hunter, diplomat, conservationist, naval-power enthusiast, peace broker and progressive reformer. For his many achievements and the larger-than-life role he played in the White House, Roosevelt is usually thought of as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.

Theodore Roosevelt was a fifth cousin of the later President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They are the only cousins to serve as President of the United States.


Childhood and education

Roosevelt was born at 28 28 East 20th Street in the modern-day Gramercy section of New York City on October 27, 1858 as the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr (1831-1878) and Martha Bulloch (1834-1884). His father was a New York City philanthropist, merchant, and partner in the glass-importing firm Roosevelt and Son . Martha Bulloch was a homemaker and former Southern belle who was raised in Georgia and had Confederate sympathies.

Sickly and asthmatic as a youngster, Theodore had to sleep propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early childhood and had frequent incidences of diarrhea, colds, and other ailments. It is believed he attended Friends Seminary, a private Quaker school on 16th Street, for a short period of time, in spite of his physical condition. He was a hyperactive and oftentimes mischievous young man. His lifelong interest in zoology was first formed at age seven upon seeing a dead seal at a local market. After obtaining the seal's head the young Roosevelt and two of his cousins formed what they called the 'Roosevelt Museum of Natural History.' Roosevelt filled his makeshift museum with many animals that he caught, studied, and prepared for display. At age nine he codified his observation work on insects with a paper titled "The Natural History of Insects."

To combat his poor physical condition, his father compelled young Roosevelt to take up exercise at Wood's Gym and with equipment at his home. A couple of his peers beat him during this time and as a result Roosevelt started boxing lessons. Two trips abroad also had a great effect on this part of his life;

Soon he became a sporting and outdoor enthusiast, something that would stick with him until his last years.

Except for a few months at Professor McMullen's school, young Teedie was too sickly to attend school and thus was taught by a string of tutors. The first was Annie Bulloch, his maternal aunt. She was followed by others, including a teacher of taxidermy who helped nourish his propensity toward natural history. Fraulein Anna, a tutor of German and French while the family was in Dresden, remarked; "He will surely one day be a great professor, or who knows, he may become president of the United States."

After his family returned to their home in New York, Roosevelt started intensive tutoring under Arthur Hamilton Cutler in preparation for the Harvard University entrance exam. He passed the exam in 1875 and entered as a freshman the next year. Also in 1876 he participated in a torchlight demonstration for Rutherford B. Hayes' presidential bid. Roosevelt did well in science, philosophy, and rhetoric but did not do well in classical languages. Professor J. Laurence Laughlin and Roosevelt's girlfriend (and future wife) Alice Hathaway Lee convinced him to turn his career intentions away from natural history and toward politics.

While at Harvard his student memberships included;

  • editor of the student newspaper, the Advocate,
  • vice president of the Natural History Club,
  • member of the Porcellian Club
  • secretary of the Hasty Pudding Club,
  • founder of the Finance Club,
  • member of the Nuttall Ornithological Club.

He also found time for boxing and was runner-up for the Harvard boxing championship, losing to C.S. Hanks. The sportsmanship Roosevelt showed in that fight was long remembered.

He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude (21st of 177) from Harvard University in 1880 and entered Columbia Law School that same year. Finding law school tedious, however, Theodore found other diversions, including the completion of his first published book, The Naval War of 1812 (1882). Unable to stomach a career as a corporate lawyer, and presented with an opportunity to run for a New York State Assemblyman position in 1881, he dropped out of school to pursue his new goal of entering public life.

Return to public life

In the 1888 presidential election he campaigned for Benjamin Harrison in the Midwest. After winning the election President Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the United States Civil Service Commission, a post he served in until 1895. In his term he vigorously sought enforcement of civil service laws and the number of jobs that fell under that classification more than doubled during his tenure. This made few friends for Roosevelt among party professionals. In spite of his support for Harrison's reelection bid (see U.S. presidential election, 1892), Grover Cleveland (a Democrat), reappointed him to the same post.

In 1895 Roosevelt became president of the New York Board of Police Commissioners. In the two years that he held this post, Roosevelt radically changed the way a police department was run. Roosevelt required his officers to be registered with the Board, and to pass a physical fitness test. He also saw that phones were installed in station houses. Always an energetic man, Roosevelt made a habit of walking officers' beats late at night and early in the morning just to make sure that they were on duty.

In 1897 President William McKinley appointed him Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He loved the job, and was instrumental in preparing the Navy for the coming conflict with Spain. In 1898 Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department and, with the aid of a U.S. Army colonel, Leonard Wood, organized the First U.S. National Cavalry out of a motley crew ranging from cowboys, Indians and outlaws from the Western territories and Ivy League chums from New York. The newspapers, being the primary medium at the time, billed the 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry as the "Rough Riders". Originally Roosevelt held the rank of lieutenant colonel and served under Col. Wood, but after Wood was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteer Forces, Roosevelt was promoted to full colonel and put in control of the Rough Riders. Under his direct command, the Rough Riders became famous for their dual charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in July 1898, the battle being named after the latter hill.

Upon his return from Cuba, Roosevelt re-entered New York State politics and, using his military record to great advantage, was elected governor of New York. He made such a concerted effort to root out corruption and "machine politics" that, it is said, Republican leaders in New York advanced him as a running mate for William McKinley in the 1900 election simply to get rid of him (at the time becoming Vice President generally marked the end of a political career).


McKinley and Roosevelt won the presidential election of 1900, against William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson Sr.. Roosevelt was one of the youngest U.S. vice presidents in history (only John C. Breckinridge was younger). Roosevelt found the vice presidency unfulfilling and thought he had little future in politics, and considered going to law school after leaving office.

Then, McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, vaulting Roosevelt into the presidency. One of his first notable acts as President was to deliver a 20,000-word address to the House of Representatives on December 3, 1901 [1] (, asking Congress to curb the power of trusts "within reasonable limits." For this and subsequent actions he has been called a "trust-buster."

Roosevelt relished the Presidency and seemed to be everywhere at once. He took Cabinet members and friends on long, fast-paced hikes, boxed in the state rooms of the White House, romped with his children, and read voraciously. He was permanently blinded in one eye during one of his boxing bouts. His many enthusiasms and seemingly-limitless energy led the British ambassador to wryly explain to an acquaintance, "You must always remember that the President is about six."

Roosevelt's children were almost as popular as he was, and their pranks and hijinks in the White House made headlines. His daughter Alice Lee Roosevelt became the toast of Washington, D.C.. When friends asked if he could rein in his only daughter, Roosevelt said, "I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." In turn, Alice said of him that he always wanted to be "the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral."

In 1904 Roosevelt ran for President in his own right, and won in a landslide victory. In his second term Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his work to mediate the end of the Russo-Japanese War. He was the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any of the categories. His prize is now on display in the White House.

Square Deal

Determined to create what he called a "Square Deal" between business and labor, Roosevelt pushed several radical pieces of legislation through Congress. He is responsible for reforms in business, the environment, and to a certain extent he advocated improved race relations, going so far as to receive the black scientist Booker T. Washington in 1901 at the White House for a formal dinner to discuss politics and racism. News of this dinner reached the press two days later. The public outcry following the dinner was so strong (especially from the Southern states) that Roosevelt never repeated the experiment.

Missing image
TR's official White House portrait


Although the trust-busting era was actually launched by his predecessor, McKinley, when he appointed the U.S. Industrial Commerce Commission in 1898, it is Roosevelt who bears the nickname, "Trust Buster". Once President, Roosevelt worked to increase the regulatory power of the federal government. He persuaded Congress to pass laws that strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission which later, investigated Rockefeller, Carnegie, Schwab, and other trust and corporate titans of industry. Under his leadership, the federal government brought forty-four suits against corporate monopolies, most notably J.P. Morgan's Northern Securities Company, a huge railroad combination. Roosevelt also established a new federal Department of Labor and Commerce.

He encouraged the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 to promote federal construction of dams to irrigate small farms and placed 230 million acres (930,000 km²) under federal protection. Additionally, T.R. was instrumental in the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 as well as the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.


He also worked hard on conserving environmental wonders and resources, and is considered by many to be the nation's first conservation President. Roosevelt set aside more Federal land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined. As one story has it, he once asked his advisers, "Is there any law which prohibits me from declaring this island a bird refuge?" When they indicated there was not, Roosevelt signed the paper with a flourish and said, "Very well, then, I so declare it!"

During his presidency, Roosevelt established the United States Forest Service, signed into law the creation of five National Parks, and signed the 1906 Antiquities Act under which he proclaimed 18 national monuments. He also established the first 51 Bird Reserves, 4 Game Preserves, and 150 National Forests. The area of the United States placed under public protection by President Roosevelt totals approximately 230,000,000 acres (930,000 km²).

Today, Roosevelt's dedication to conservation is remembered by a national park that bears his name in the North Dakota Badlands. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to a variety of plants and animals, including bison, prairie dogs, and elk.


Although Roosevelt did some work improving race relations, he, like most leaders of the Progressive Era, lacked initiative on most racial issues. Booker T. Washington, the most important black leader of the day, was the first free man of color to be invited to dinner at the White House, an act that spoke defiance of many critics in the South. He spoke against racism and discrimination, and appointed many blacks to lower-level Federal offices. He wrote fondly of the "Buffalo Soldiers", led by "Black Jack" Pershing, who had fought beside his Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba in July 1898.

However, Roosevelt was a believer in "racial inheritance"; that a race of people are biologically inclined to behave and interact socially in certain ways and functions. After criticism involving his invitation of Mr. Washington to dine at the White House, Roosevelt seemed to wilt publicly on the cause of racial equality. In 1906, he approved the dishonorable discharges of three companies of black soldiers involved in a riot in Brownsville, Texas.

Naval build-up

Theodore Roosevelt was a naval enthusiast who urged the United States to build a strong navy. He believed that the U.S could eventually be pulled into war in the Pacific Ocean with the Japanese and urged readiness. Roosevelt ordered what came to be called the Great White Fleet (due to its gleaming white paint) on an around-the-world goodwill cruise, including a prominent stop in Japan. Roosevelt hoped to ease Japanese-American tensions and to show the Japanese leadership, as well as the rest of the world, the global reach of the United States' military might. The Great White Fleet returned to the U.S. in 1909, and Roosevelt had the pleasure of reviewing the Fleet just before leaving office.

Several United States Navy warships have been named after Roosevelt over the years, most recently a Nimitz class supercarrier.

Panama Canal

In 1903, Roosevelt encouraged the local political class in Panama to form a nation independent from Colombia, after that nation refused the American terms for the building of a canal across the isthmus. The new nation of Panama sold a canal zone to the United States for 10 million U.S. dollars and a steadily increasing yearly sum. Roosevelt felt that a passage through the Isthmus of Panama was vital to protect American interests and to create a strong and cohesive United States Navy. The resulting Panama Canal was completed in 1914 and revolutionized world travel and commerce.


PresidentTheodore Roosevelt1901–1909
Vice PresidentCharles Fairbanks1905–1909
Secretary of StateJohn Hay1901–1905
 Elihu Root1905–1909
 Robert Bacon1909
Secretary of the TreasuryLyman J. Gage1901–1902
 Leslie M. Shaw1902–1907
 George B. Cortelyou1907–1909
Secretary of WarElihu Root1901–1904
 William Howard Taft1904–1909
 Luke E. Wright1908–1909
Attorney GeneralPhilander C. Knox1901–1904
 William H. Moody1904–1906
 Charles J. Bonaparte1906–1909
Postmaster GeneralCharles E. Smith1901–1902
 Henry C. Payne1902–1904
 Robert J. Wynne1904–1905
 George B. Cortelyou1905–1907
 George von L. Meyer1907–1909
Secretary of the NavyJohn D. Long1901–1902
 William H. Moody1902–1904
 Paul Morton1902–1906
 Charles J. Bonaparte1906–1908
 Victor H. Metcalf1906–1908
 Truman H. Newberry1908–1909
Secretary of the InteriorEthan A. Hitchcock1901–1907
 James Rudolph Garfield1907–1909
Secretary of AgricultureJames Wilson1901–1909
Secretary of Commerce and LaborGeorge B. Cortelyou1903–1904
 Victor H. Metcalf1904–1906
 Oscar S. Straus1906–1909

Supreme Court Appointments

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

States Admitted to the Union


On March 23, 1909, shortly after the end of his second term (but only full term) as President, Roosevelt left New York for a post-presidency safari in Africa. The trip was sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society and received world-wide media attention.

Despite his immense popularity, he had decided not to run for reelection in 1908, a move that he would later regret for the rest of his life. Instead he backed his longtime friend, former judge and Secretary of War William Howard Taft, who he thought would carry on his policies. After Taft won, however, Roosevelt became increasingly thwarted as Taft proved to be his own man with his own policy agenda, more conservative and often counter to Roosevelt's.

As a result, in 1912, Roosevelt ran for president again. He sought the Republican nomination but was blocked by Taft's partisans at the Republican national convention despite having greater public support, including a smashing primary win in Taft's own home state of Ohio. Roosevelt then bolted the party and ran on the United States Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") ticket, badly undermining popular support for Taft. While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he was shot by saloonkeeper John Schrank in a failed assassination attempt on October 14, 1912. With the bullet still lodged in his chest, Roosevelt still delivered his scheduled speech. He was not seriously wounded, although his doctors thought it too dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet, and he carried it with him until he died. In spite of this, he not only lost the race but split the Republican vote, outpolling Taft but ensuring a win by Democrat Woodrow Wilson. In the few years he had remaining, Roosevelt came to dislike Wilson even more than his former friend Taft, particularly over Wilson's foreign policy. Theodore considered but rejected another attempted presidential campaign in 1916.

As an author, he continued to write with great passion on subjects ranging from American foreign policy to the importance of the national park system. One of Roosevelt's more popular books was about his expedition into the Brazilian jungle. After the election of 1912, Roosevelt went on an expedition with Candido Rondon, exploring the Brazilian jungle. During this expedition, he discovered the Rio of Doubt, later renamed Rio Roosevelt in honor of the President.

Roosevelt died at Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York on January 6, 1919 of a coronary embolism in his sleep at the age of 60, and was buried in Young's Memorial Cemetery. His son Archie sent a telegram to his siblings, stating simply, "The old lion is dead."

Roosevelt's estate from 1885 until his death was Sagamore Hill, at Oyster Bay. It is now maintained as the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.

Personal life

Even though Roosevelt was Dutch Reformed by birth, he didn't join that church until he was 16 due to a lack of such a church nearby. So as a child he attended Madison Square Presbyterian Church. While attending Harvard University he taught Sunday school at an Episcopal church called Christ's Church until the rector discovered Roosevelt was not baptized into that denomination. Much later at his residence at Oyster Bay in Long Island he went to an Episcopal church with his wife. While in Washington, DC he attended services at Grace Reformed Church. As President he firmly believed in the separation of church and state and thought it both sacrilegious and unconstitutional to have 'In God We Trust' on U.S. currency (he tried unsuccessfully to have that legend removed).

Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in pursuing what he called "the strenuous life." To this end he exercised regularly and took up boxing, tennis, hiking, rowing, hunting, polo, and horseback riding. As Governor of New York he boxed with sparring partners several times a week, a practice he regularly continued as President until one blow detached his left retina, leaving him blind in that eye. Thereafter he practiced jiujitsu as well as continued his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during winter.

At age 22 Roosevelt married his first wife, 19 year old Alice Hathaway Lee. Their marriage ceremony was held on October 27, 1880 at the Unitarian Chuch in Brookline, Massachusetts. Alice was the daughter of the prominent banker George Cabot Lee and Caroline Haskell Lee. The couple first met on October 18, 1878 at her next door neighbors, the Saltonstalls, residence. By Thanksgiving Roosevelt made up his mind that he would marry Alice and finally proposed June 1879. Alice waited another six months before accepting the proposal and their engagement was announced on Valentine's Day of 1880. Roosevelt's first wife died shortly after the birth of their first child, Alice. It was especially tragic for him because both his wife and mother died on the same day, at the Roosevelt family home in Manhattan.

In 1886 he married Edith Carow. They had five children: Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel, Archibald, and Quentin.

The Roosevelt Family
The Roosevelt Family


In popular culture

Roosevelt appears as a factual character in the fictional novel The Alienist by Caleb Carr. The novel is set in New York City in 1896 when Roosevelt was the city's police commissioner.

In Scrooge McDuck comics by Keno Don Rosa, Roosevelt appears several times. Scrooge and Roosevelt met each other in 1882, and on several other occasions they meet each other coincidentally. He is credited with mentoring an adolescent Scrooge in the values of self-confidence and self-reliance.

Teddy bears are named after him. His childhood nickname was "Teedie," but his adult nickname was "Teddy" (which he despised and considered improper, preferring "T.R."). Toy bear manufacturers took to naming them after him following an incident on a hunting trip in Mississippi in 1902 in which he refused to kill a black bear cub. Bear cubs became closely associated with Roosevelt in political cartoons thereafter.

Roosevelt is depicted fictionally in Gore Vidal's novel Empire, Harry Turtledove's How Few Remain, and the movie The Wind and the Lion, written and directed by John Milius.

His 1909 Africian safari was included in an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.

In Harry Turtledove's Timeline-191 alternate history, Roosevelt raised an 'Unauthorised Regiment' during the Second Mexican War (1881) and became a war hero. He later served as Democratic President in 1913-1921, defeating the Confederate States and crushing Canada during the Great War (1914-17). He was defeated by Socialist Al Smith in his historic run for a third term; he died in 1924 as the most beloved president in recent US history.

Presidential firsts

  • First American to be awarded a Nobel Prize (in any category) in 1906.
  • On November 9, 1906 he made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. President to make an official trip outside of the United States, visiting Panama to inspect the construction progress of the Panama Canal.
  • Roosevelt was also the first to sail in a submarine (aboard the USS Plunger (1905), and first former president to fly in an airplane (October 11, 1910).
  • Roosevelt was the first president to ride an automobile. The car was a purple-lined Columbia Electric Victoria. On August 22, 1902, Roosevelt rode through the streets of Hartford, Connecticut along with a 20 carriage procession following behind.
  • Roosvelt was also the first president to own a car
  • First President to invite a black man (Booker T. Washington) to dine at the White House

Family matters

When President Bill Clinton posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to President Roosevelt in 2001 the Roosevelts became one of only two father-son pairs to receive this honor. His eldest son, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt II, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Normandy during the D-Day invasion of 6 June, 1944. The other pair was Douglas MacArthur and his father, Civil War hero Arthur MacArthur).

Roosevelt's father was also named Theodore Roosevelt. Thus, the president should have been known as "Theodore Roosevelt II." However, through various accidents of history, the president is known simply as "Theodore Roosevelt" and his father is now referred to as "Theodore Roosevelt Sr." The president's eldest son, Brig. Gen. Ted Roosevelt, is now known as "Theodore Roosevelt Jr." or "Theodore Roosevelt II."

Posthumous award of the Medal of Honor

In January 16, 2001 Theodore Roosevelt was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Clinton. The award was accepted on T.R.'s behalf by his great-grandson, Tweed Roosevelt.

History Clipart and Pictures


  • Congressional Medal of Honor Society [2] (
  • DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, (Barnes and Noble Books; New York; 2004) ISBN 0-760-75971-5
  • LaFeber, Walter. "The American Age" 2nd Edition. (W.W. Norton Company; New York; 1994) ISBN 0-393-96474-4
  • Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Delux 2004
  • Miller, Nathan. "Theodore Roosevelt: a life", (William Morrow and Co.;New York; 1992) ISBN 0-688-06784-0
  • Morris, Edmund. "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt", (Putnam; New York; 1979) ISBN 0-698-10783-7
  • Morris, Edmund. "Theodore Rex", (Random House; New York; 2001) ISBN 0-394-55509-0
  • Roosevelt, Theodore. "Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography",

See also

External links

Preceded by:
Frank S. Black
Governor of New York
Succeeded by:
Benjamin B. Odell, Jr.
Preceded by:
Garret Hobart
Republican Party Vice Presidential candidate
1900 (won)
Succeeded by:
Charles W. Fairbanks
Preceded by:
Garret Hobart
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1901September 14, 1901
Succeeded by:
Charles W. Fairbanks
Preceded by:
William McKinley
President of the United States
September 14, 1901March 3, 1909
Succeeded by:
William Howard Taft
Preceded by:
William McKinley
Republican Party Presidential candidate
1904 (won)
Succeeded by:
William Howard Taft
Preceded by:
Progressive Party Presidential Candidate
1912 (lost)
Succeeded by:

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