Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 - January 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
Sickly as a young man, he took to physical exercise and became a sporting
and outdoor enthusiast, frequenting such areas of natural beauty as the
Grand Canyon . His energetic example influenced many to take up physical
exercise during the urban sports boom in the early part of the century.
Roosevelt was born in New York City , October 27 , 1858 . He graduated
from Harvard University in 1880 . He was a member of New York State Assembly
from 1882 - 1884 . He moved to North Dakota after the death of his wife,
where lived on his ranch, then returned to New York City in 1886 , where
he was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison as a member of the United
States Civil Service Commission 1889 - 1895 , when he resigned to become
president of the New York Board of Police Commissioners. He resigned this
position upon his appointment by President William McKinley as Assistant
Secretary of the Navy. He held that post from 1897 to 1898 , when he resigned
to fight in the Spanish-American War .
Roosevelt rose to national prominence during the Spanish-American War
as commander of the " Rough Riders ". Before and after the war, he distinguished
himself in New York City and State politics, as police commissioner and
state governor. 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.
William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt won the presidential election
of 1900 , against William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson . Roosevelt
is one of the youngest vice presidents in the nation's history ( John C.
Breckinridge is youger than him.)
Roosevelt assumed the presidency after the assassination of McKinley,
and then in 1904 ran for office in his own right. Vice presidents had assumed
the presidency due to the death of a president in the past, but Roosevelt
became the first to win election to a second term on his own. One of his
first notable acts as President was to deliver a 20,000-word speech to
the House of Representatives on December 3 , 1901 asking Congress to curb
the power of trusts "within reasonable limits". For this and subsequent
actions he has been called a "trust buster". Later in his presidency he
gave tacit support to rebels in Panama to form a nation independent from
Colombia in order to ensure that the United States could build the Panama
Canal . Roosevelt felt that a passage through the Isthmus of Panama was
vital to create a strong and cohesive United States Navy . He also worked
on conserving environmental wonders and resources, even visiting famed
preservationist John Muir in Yosemite Valley in 1903 . Showing his interest
in foreign policy , he helped mediate an end to the Russo-Japanese War
which, in 1906 , earned him the Nobel Peace Prize , the first American
to win the prize in any of the categories. Then on November 9 , 1906 he
made history by becoming the first sitting US President to make an official
trip outside of the United States when he left for a trip to Panama to
inspect the construction progress of the canal there. He was noted for
other presidential "firsts", such as: first president to fly in an airplane
(together with Arch Hoxsey on October 11 , 1910 ), first to submerge in
a submarine (aboard the USS Plunger in 1905 ), etc.
In spite of his popularity, he decided not to run for reelection in
1908 (a move that he would later regret for the rest of his life). Instead
he backed longtime friend William Howard Taft who he thought would carry
on his policies. After Taft won, however, Roosevelt became increasingly
annoyed as Taft proved to be his own man with his own policy agenda (which
often ran counter to what Roosevelt would have liked).
As a result in 1912 , Roosevelt ran for president on the United States
Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") ticket, thus 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
a fresh flesh wound and the bullet still in him, Roosevelt still delivered
his scheduled speech. (He was not seriously wounded although his doctors
thought it too dangerous to attempt to remove the bullet lodged in his
chest and he carried it with him until he died. The gun used was a Colt
Police Positive revolver in .38 S&W caliber, serial number 58714.)
In spite of this he not only lost the race but split the Republican vote,
thus ensuring a win by Democrat Woodrow Wilson . Roosevelt disliked Wilson
even more than his former friend Taft and ran again in 1916 in an effort
to prevent Wilson from being reelected. He lost that election as well.
He died at Oyster Bay, Nassau County, New York on January 6 , 1919 ,
and was buried in Young's Memorial Cemetery.
Theodore 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.
Theodore Roosevelt assumed the Presidency upon the death of Ohio President
William McKinley, a beloved President who prosecuted the Spanish-American
War and who launched the trust-busting era when he appointed the U.S. Industrial
Commission (of 1898). This Commission, which included distinguished Senators
and statesmen, including Andrew L. Harris of Ohio, investigated Rockefeller,
Carnegie, Schwab, and other trust and corporate titans of industry. Roosevelt,
once he became President, took the advice of the Industrial Commission
and became McKinley's trust-buster heir, and ultimately, the most famous
'Trust-buster' in history.
The conservationist president
Theodore Roosevelt is considered by many to be the nation's first Conservation
President. "There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite
, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado,
the Canyon of the Yellowstone , the Three Tetons ; and our people should
see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children's
children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred," he said.
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 Theodore Roosevelt totals approximately 230,000,000 acres.
Roosevelt's concern for conservation grew out of his experiences in
North Dakota . Roosevelt first came to the badlands in September 1883 on
a hunting trip. The 24-year-old Roosevelt was bursting with anticipation
about shooting a bison . This feat took him 10 days to accomplish since
by the time he arrived the last large herds of bison were gone, having
been decimated by hide hunters and disease.
Before returning to New York, just two weeks after he arrived, Roosevelt
became interested in the cattle business and entered into a partnership
to raise cattle on the Maltese Cross Ranch . Five months later his wife,
a Boston heiress named Alice Hathaway Lee , and his mother, Minnie Bulloch
Roosevelt, died on the same day. Grief-stricken, Roosevelt decided to leave
the East and increase his interests in the cattle business. He returned
to North Dakota in 1884 and established the Elkhorn Ranch . (Years later,
Roosevelt's childhood friend and second wife, Edith Carow , reportedly
told her stepdaughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt , that it was probably a blessing
that Roosevelt's first wife had died young, because she would have "bored
him to death.")
During his years in North Dakota, Roosevelt thrived on the vigorous
outdoor lifestyle and actively participated in the life of a working cowboy
. Of this time he said, "I do not believe there ever was any life more
attractive to a vigorous young fellow than life on a cattle ranch in those
days. It was a fine, healthy life, too; it taught a man self-reliance,
hardihood, and the value of instant decision...I enjoyed the life to the
full." This was an important time in his development, and in fact, he once
remarked that, "I never would have been President if it had not been for
my experiences in North Dakota." Roosevelt actively ranched in the badlands
until 1887 but maintained ranching interest in the area until 1898 .
Whenever he managed to spend time in North Dakota, Roosevelt became
more and more alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and
its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species,
such as bison and bighorn sheep . Overgrazing destroyed the grasslands
and with them the habitats for small mammals and songbirds. Conservation
increasingly became one of his major concerns. "We have fallen heirs to
the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do
his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune."
Today, Roosevelt's dedication to conservation is remembered with a national
park that bears his name in the colorful North Dakota badlands. Theodore
Roosevelt National Park is home to a variety of plants and animals, including
bison, prairie dogs , and elk .
Teddy bears are named after him. His nickname was Teddy, and toy bear
manufactures took to naming them after him because once on a hunting trip
he refused to kill a bear cub.
On March 23 , 1909, shortly after the end of his second 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.