3. Rough Rider in the White House , 1901 – 1909 page 7
4. The Restless Hunter , 1909 – 1919 page 10
5. Chronology of the Public Career of Theodore Roosevelt page 14
6. Source page 15
The life of Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was one of constant activity, immense energy, and enduring accomplishments. As the twenty-sixth
President of the United States, Roosevelt was the wielder of the Big Stick, the builder of the Panama Canal, an avid conservationist, and the nemesis of the corporate trusts that threatened to monopolize American business at the start of the century. His exploits as a Rough Rider in the Spanish-
American War and as a cowboy in the Dakota Territory were indicative of his spirit of adventure and love of the outdoors. Reading and hunting were lifelong passions of his; writing was a lifelong compulsion. Roosevelt wrote more than three dozen books on topics as different as naval history and African big game. Whatever his interest, he pursued it with extraordinary zeal. "I always believe in going hard at everything," he preached time and again. This was the basis for living what he called the
"strenuous life," and he exhorted it for both the individual and the nation.
Roosevelt's engaging personality enhanced his popularity. Aided by scores of photographers, cartoonists, and portrait artists, his features became symbols of national recognition; mail addressed only with drawings of teeth and spectacles arrived at the White House without delay. TR continued to be newsworthy in retirement, especially during the historic Bull Moose campaign of 1912, while pursuing an elusive third presidential term. He remains relevant today. This exhibition is a retrospective look at the man and his portraiture, whose progressive ideas about social justice, representative democracy, and America's role as a world leader have significantly shaped our national character.
Maverick in the Making , 1882 - 1901
Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, in a brownstone house on Twentieth Street in New York City. A re-creation of the original dwelling, now operated by the National Park Service, replicates the tranquility of Roosevelt's earliest years. His father, Theodore Roosevelt
Sr., was a prosperous glassware merchant, and was one of the wealthy old
Knickerbocker class, whose Dutch ancestors had been living on Manhattan
Island since the 1640s. His mother, Martha Bulloch, was reputedly one of the loveliest girls to have been born in antebellum Georgia. Together the parents instilled in their eldest son a strong sense of family loyalty and civic duty, values that Roosevelt would himself practice, and would preach from the bully pulpit all of his adult life.
Unfortunately the affluence to which the young Theodore grew accustomed could do little to improve the state of his fragile health. He was a sickly, underweight child, hindered by poor eyesight. Far worse, however, were the life threatening attacks of asthma he had to endure until early adulthood. To strengthen his constitution, he lifted dumbbells and exercised in a room of the house converted into a gymnasium. He took boxing lessons to defend himself and to test his competitive spirit. From an early age he never lacked energy or the will to improve himself physically and mentally. He was a voracious reader and writer; his childhood diaries reveal much about his interests and the quality of his expanding mind.
Natural science, ornithology, and hunting were early hobbies of his, which became lifelong.
In the fall of 1876, Roosevelt entered Harvard University. By the time he graduated magna cum laude, he was engaged to be married to a beautiful young lady named Alice Lee. The wedding took place on Roosevelt's twenty- second birthday. Amid the intense happiness he experienced during his first year of marriage, he laid the foundations of his historic public career. "I rose like a rocket," he said years later. Ironically, when he chartered his own path for public office--the White House in 1912--he failed bitterly.
When others had selected him--as they did for the New York Assembly in
1881, for the governorship in 1898, and for the vice presidency in 1900-- his election was almost a foregone conclusion. Politics aside, Roosevelt shaped and molded his life as much as any person could possibly do. He could not control fate, however. On Valentine's Day, 1884, his mother died of typhoid fever and his wife died of Bright's disease, two days after giving birth to a daughter, Alice Lee. Amidst this personal trauma,