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and to the public as Teddy. He was the 26th President of the United States and a leader of the progressive wing of the Republican Party and of the Progressive Movement nationally. Roosevelt is most famous for his personality, his energy, his vast range of interests and achievements, his model of masculinity, and his “cowboy” persona. Navy, he prepared for and advocated war with Spain in 1898. He organized and helped command the “Rough Riders” regiment 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, a lawyer, a naturalist and explorer of the Amazon; his 35 books include works on outdoor life, natural history, the American frontier, political history, naval history, and his autobiography.
In 1901, as Vice President, Roosevelt succeeded President William McKinley after an assassination. Roosevelt was a Progressive reformer who sought to move the dominant Republican Party into the Progressive camp. He distrusted wealthy businessmen and dissolved 40 monopolistic corporations as a “trust buster.” He was clear, however, to show that he did not disagree with trusts and capitalism in principle but was only against their corrupt, illegal practices. His “Square Deal” promised a fair shake for both the average citizen, including regulation of railroad rates and pure foods and drugs, and the businessmen. 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 Republican 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 Republican Party that Democrat Woodrow Wilson won in 1912, and the conservative faction took control of the Republican Party for the next two decades.
Roosevelt understood the strategic significance of the Panama Canal and negotiated for the US 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 the Peace Prize in 1906, for negotiating the peace in the Russo Japanese War.
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.” His image stands alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.
Childhood, education, and personal life
Roosevelt was born at 28 East 20th Street New York City on October 27, 1858, the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (1831 1877) and Martha Bulloch Roosevelt (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 Roosevelt (the father of Eleanor Roosevelt) and his sister Corinne Roosevelt Robinson.
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. 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. The family was strongly Democratic in its political affiliation until the mid 1850s, then joined the new Republican Party. 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. He was a prominent supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union effort during the American Civil War. Theodore’s mother Mittie Bulloch was a Southern belle from a slave owning family in Savannah, Georgia, and had quiet Confederate sympathies. Navy officer who became a Confederate admiral and naval procurement agent in Britain. Another uncle Irvine Bulloch was a midshipman on the Confederate raider, CSS Alabama; both remained in exile in England after the war.
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”.
To combat his poor physical condition, his father compelled the young Roosevelt to take up exercise. To deal with bullies, Roosevelt started boxing lessons. Two trips abroad had a permanent impact: family tours of Europe in 1869 and 1870, and of the Middle East 1872 to 1873. 
Theodore Roosevelt, 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.” 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.”
Young “Teedie” as he was nicknamed as a child, (the nickname “Teddy” was from his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, and he later harbored an intense dislike for it) was mostly home schooled by tutors and his parents. 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. 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. 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. During his adulthood, 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, such as rowing and boxing. Other clubs included the Alpha Delta Phi and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternities. He also edited a student magazine. 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.
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.
Early public life
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.On his 22nd birthday, 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. 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, also at the Roosevelt family home in Manhattan.
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. 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.
Later in 1884, Roosevelt left the General Assembly and put his infant daughter Alice in the long term care of his older sister, Bamie. In letters to Bamie, he would refer to Alice as Baby Lee.
Cowboy life in the Badlands
Roosevelt riding horseback along railroad tracks in Idaho (date unknown, but after 1896). Photo UCR/California Museum of Photography, University of California, Riverside.
Roosevelt 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. 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 river 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, South Dakota Sheriff Seth Bullock. The two would remain friends for life. After a winter wiped out his herd of cattle and his $60,000 investment (together with those of his competitors), he returned to the East.
In 1885, Roosevelt 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 as “The Cowboy of the Dakotas” to assert his manliness. They honeymooned in Europe, and Roosevelt climbed Mont Blanc, leading only the third recorded expedition to reach the summit, a feat which resulted in his induction into the British Royal Society. They had five children: Theodore Jr., Kermit, Ethel Carow, Archibald Bulloch “Archie”, and Quentin. “Uncle Ted” was the godfather and favorite uncle of Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he gave away in marriage to their fifth cousin Franklin D. His The Naval War of 1812 (1882) was the standard history for two generations. For that book, Roosevelt undertook extensive and original research going as far as computing British and American man of war broadside throw weights. By comparison, however, his hastily written biographies of Thomas Hart Benton (1887) and Gouverneur Morris (1888) are considered superficial. 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”: 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.