Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt

26th President, 1901-1909

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Theodore Roosevelt Official Presidential portrait of Roosevelt, 1903 Artist: John Singer Sargent

Theodore Roosevelt Official Presidential portrait of Roosevelt, 1903
Artist: John Singer Sargent

  • Born on October 27, 1858 in New York, New York.
  • Parents: Theodore Roosevelt and Martha Bulloch. Siblings: Anna, Elliott Bullock, and Corinne.
  • Homeschooled by private tutors and his parents before enrolling at Harvard College in 1876. He graduated magna cum laude in 1880.
  • Entered Columbia Law School but left in 1881 to pursue a career in politics.
  • Married Alice Hathaway Lee (1861–1884) on October 27, 1880; Edith Kermit Carow (1861–1948) on December 2, 1886. Children: Alice Lee (1884–1980); Theodore (1887–1944), Kermit (1889–1943), Ethel Carow (1891–1977), Archibald Bulloch (1894–1979), Quentin (1897–1918).
  • Elected to the New York State Assembly and served from 1882 to 1884.
  • On February 14, 1884, his wife and mother died on the same day, hours apart, in the same house. His wife died after giving birth to their daughter. After a few months, he left his daughter in the care of his sister and moved to the Badlands of the Dakota Territory. He had bought two ranches there and lived the life of a frontiersman. He also served as deputy sheriff.
  • Returned to New York in 1885 and lived at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, New York, which would become his home for the rest of his life.
  • Ran for mayor of New York City as a Republican in 1886 but lost.
  • In 1887, he was appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Civil Service Commission by then President Benjamin Harrison. He served until 1895.
  • Appointed Board President of the New York City Police Commissioners in 1895. He served until 1897.
  • Appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897 by then President William McKinley. During his time, the Spanish–American War broke out.
  • Resigned his post as assistant secretary in April 1898 to join the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment that would invade Cuba. He was given command of the regiment and led the charges in Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in July 1898.
  • Returned to the U.S. as a war hero and was elected Governor of New York in 1898. He served until 1901.
  • Agreed to be the running mate of William McKinley in his re-election bid for president in the 1900 election. McKinley won the election and Roosevelt became Vice President. He would serve only until September 14, 1901 when he was sworn in as President upon the death of McKinley from an assassin’s bullet.

Presidency

Roosevelt as a young man in 1883

Roosevelt as a young man in 1883

  • Took his oath of office at his friend Ansley Wilcox’s residence in Buffalo, New York on September 14, 1901.
  • The Hay–Pauncefote Treaty is signed by the U.S. and Great Britain on November 18, 1901. The law allowed the U.S. to build an isthmian canal in Central America. In June 1902, Congress passed the Isthmian Canal Act to fund and build a canal across the Isthmus of Panama.
  • In June 1902, Roosevelt signed the Newlands Reclamation Act, which authorized the federal irrigation projects.
  • In September 1902, Roosevelt uttered his most famous line, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
  • In May 1902, Roosevelt established Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Then, in March 1903, he proclaimed Pelican Island, Florida, as the country’s first federal bird reservation.
  • Signed a bill creating the Department of Commerce and Labor in February 1903. In 1906, he established the National Forest Service.
  • Congress passed the Elkins Act, supported by Roosevelt, in February 1903. The Act prohibited railroads from offering rebates to shippers and shippers from paying these rebates to get an advantage. In June 1906, Roosevelt signed the Hepburn Act, which increased the power of the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate railroad rates.
  • A revolt broke out in Colombian-ruled Panama in November 1903 supported by Panamanian agents, the Panama Canal Company, and Roosevelt’s administration. Two weeks after the U.S. recognized the Republic of Panama, it successfully negotiates the Hay–Buneau–Varilla Treaty with Panama to build the Panama Canal.
  • Roosevelt ran for re-election in 1904 and won.
  • Roosevelt mediated between Russia and Japan to end the Russo–Japanese War. On September 5, 1905, the two countries met in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to sign the Portsmouth Treaty. In December 1906, Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the conflict.
  • Signed the Antiquities Act in June 1906. The law gave the President the authority, by executive order, to protect and preserve prehistoric ruins and artifacts on federal lands.
  • Signed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act in June 1906. The law required honesty in listing the food contents on labels and required federal inspection of plants engaging in interstate commerce.
  • In November 1906. Roosevelt and his wife travelled to Panama to inspect the construction of the Panama Canal. This marked the first time that an incumbent President traveled abroad.
  • During Roosevelt’s term, the Supreme Court tried many cases involving violations of the Sherman Anti-trust Act.
  • The Great White Fleet is the most important contribution of Roosevelt’s administration. On December 16, 1907, Roosevelt dispatched 16 naval battleships, with hulls painted white, from Virginia to circumnavigate the world. The purpose of the journey was to show goodwill, as the ships made several courtesy calls in various countries, and to demonstrate the growing power of the U.S. at sea. The fleet successfully returned on February 22, 1909.

Post-presidency

Photograph of Roosevelt after presidency, ca. 1915

Photograph of Roosevelt after presidency, ca. 1915

  • Returned to his home, Sagamore Hill, after his presidency ended.
  • In March 1909, Roosevelt and several companions embarked on an African safari in east and central Africa. They hunted and trapped more than 10,000 animals, from small insects to elephants and white rhinos. The specimens were sent to the Smithsonian Institution and the American Musem of Natural History.
  • Decided to run for re-election in the 1912 presidential election. Knowing he could not win the Republican Party’s nomination, he and his supporters created the Progressive Party, or the “Bull Moose” Party, during the Republican Party convention in Chicago in 1912.
  • On October 14, 1912, Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and about to give a speech when saloonkeeper John Schrank shot him in the chest. The bullet however penetrated his steel eyeglass case and his 50-page speech before entering his chest. It did not penetrate his lungs. Roosevelt decided to give his speech even thoug he was bleeding. The bullet, lodged in the chest muscle, was left inside because removing it was more risky.
  • Roosevelt was unable to campaign in the final weeks before the election due to his injury. He placed second in the popular vote (27%) and second in the electoral vote (88).
  • In December 1913, the Roosevelt–Rondon Scientific Expedition left for Brazil to explore the South American forests and bring back specimens for the American Museum of Natural History, which funded the trip.
  • During the Brazilian expedition, Roosevelt suffered a leg injury that became infected and resulted in malaria. Although he completed the journey, upon his return to New York in February 1914, he had lost 44 lbs. and was severely fatigued. His malaria and the pain from his leg injury would continue for the rest of his life.
  • When World War I broke out in 1914, Roosevelt urged President Wilson to send troops to Europe to aid the country’s allies. The U.S. would not join until 1917.
  • Roosevelt’s son Quentin, who was 20 years old then, was a fighter pilot in France during the war when his plane was shot down by Germans. His death greatly depressed the President.
  • Died on January 6, 1919 of a heart attack in his sleep. He is interred in Young’s Memorial Cemetery in Oyster Bay, New York.
  • Roosevelt was also a prolific writer. His first publication was a book on the War of 1812 that he wrote while attending Harvard College. He wrote a total of 18 books including his autobiography.
  • Roosevelt was a great supporter of conservation. His efforts resulted in the creation of 5 national parks, 18 National Monuments, and 150 National Forests.
  • The Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site in Manhattan, New York City and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site in Buffalo, New York are both administered by the National Park Service.
  • Roosevelt’s face is one of four faces that adorn Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
  • His success in the battle at San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish–American War led to a recommendation to award him the Medal of Honor upon his return. The recommendation was denied. On January 16, 2001, President William J. Clinton finally awarded Roosevelt a posthumous Medal of Honor. His son Theodore Roosevelt III also received a posthumous Medal of Honor for his role in the Battle of Normandy during World War II.