Theodore Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858, in a four-story brownstone at 28 East 20th Street, in the modern-day Gramercy section of New York City, the second of four children of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. and Martha "Mittie" Bulloch. He had an older sister, Anna, and two younger siblings: his brother Elliott (the father of future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) and his sister Corinne.
Sickly and asthmatic as a child, Roosevelt had to sleep propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early years, and had frequent ailments. Despite his illnesses, he was hyperactive and often mischievous. 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 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 compensate for his physical weakness, he embraced a strenuous life. Home-schooled, he later attended Harvard University, where he boxed and developed an interest in naval affairs. His uncle James Bulloch served as a Confederate Naval agent in England, and stayed there after the war. At times Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. was a bit embarrassed that his father did not serve in the Civil War. Despite this, Theodore, Sr. had a tremendous influence on his son, of whom 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."
In 1880, Roosevelt married Alice Hathaway Lee of Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She died young of an undiagnosed case of kidney failure (in those days called Bright's disease) two days after their infant Alice was born. Her pregnancy had masked the illness. Theodore Roosevelt's mother Mittie died of typhoid fever on the same day, at 3 am, some eleven hours earlier, in the same house. After the nearly simultaneous deaths of his mother and wife, Roosevelt left his daughter in the care of his sister, Anna "Bamie/Bye" in New York City. In his diary, he wrote a large 'X' on the page and then, "The light has gone out of my life." For the rest of his life, Roosevelt never spoke of his wife Alice publicly or privately and did not write about her in his autobiography.Upon the 1898 Declaration of War launching the Spanish-American War, Roosevelt resigned from the Navy Department. With the aid of U.S. Army Colonel Leonard Wood, Roosevelt found volunteers from cowboys from the Western territories to Ivy League friends from New York, forming the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment. The newspapers called them the "Rough Riders." Originally, Roosevelt held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and served under Colonel Wood.
Later, Roosevelt was promoted to Colonel and given command of the Regiment. Under his leadership, the Rough Riders became famous for dual charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898. Out of all the Rough Riders, Roosevelt was the only one with a horse, as the troopers' horses had been left behind because transport ships were scarce. He rode back and forth between rifle pits at the forefront of the advance up Kettle Hill, an advance that he urged in absence of any orders from superiors. He was forced to walk up the last part of Kettle Hill on foot, because of barbed wire entanglement and after his horse, Little Texas, tired.
On leaving the Army, Theodore Roosevelt was elected
governor of the state of New York in 1898. He invested his two-year administration
with the vigorous and businesslike characteristics which
were his hallmark. He would have sought reelection in
1900, since much of his work was only half done, had the
Republicans not chosen him as their candidate for the
second office of the Union. He held the vice-presidency
for less than a year. With the assassination of
President McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, not quite 43,
became the youngest President in the Nation's history.
He brought new excitement and power to the Presidency,
as he vigorously led Congress and the American public
toward progressive reforms and a strong foreign policy.
In 1904 Roosevelt was elected to a full term as
In 1902 President Roosevelt took the initiative in opening the international Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which, though founded in 1899, had not been called upon by any power in its first three years of existence. The United States and Mexico agreed to lay an old difference of theirs, concerning the Pious Foundations of California, before the Hague Tribunal. When this example was followed by other powers, the arbitration machinery created in 1899 was finally called into operation. Roosevelt also played a prominent part in extending the use of arbitration to international problems in the Western Hemisphere, concluding several arbitration treaties with European powers too, although the Senate refused to ratify them.
In 1904 the Inter-parliamentary Union, meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, requested Roosevelt to call another international conference to continue the work begun at The Hague in 1899. Roosevelt responded immediately, and in the autumn of 1904 Secretary of State John Hay invited the powers to meet at The Hague. Russia, however, refused to participate in a conference while engaged in hostilities with Japan. After the peace of 1905, the matter was placed in the hands of the Russian government, which had taken the initiative in convening the first Hague Conference.
In June, 1905, President Roosevelt offered his good offices as mediator between Russia and Japan, asking the belligerents to nominate plenipotentiaries to negotiate on the conditions of peace. In August they met at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and after some weeks of difficult negotiations concluded a peace treaty in September, 1905.
Upton Sinclair wrote about the disgusting and unsanitary practices of the meat packing industry in his novel The Jungle. This resulted in the Meat Inspection and the Pure Food and Drug Acts in 1906. These laws required the government to inspect meat and protect consumers from food and drugs that might be dangerous.
Roosevelt declined to run for re-election in 1908. After leaving office, he embarked on a safari to Africa and a tour of Europe. On his return to the U.S., a bitter rift developed between Roosevelt and his anointed successor as president, William Howard Taft. In 1912, Roosevelt attempted to wrest the Republican nomination from Taft, and when he failed, he launched the Bull Moose Party. In the ensuing election, Roosevelt became the only third-party candidate to come in second place, beating Taft but losing to Woodrow Wilson. After the election, Roosevelt embarked on a major expedition to South America; the river on which he traveled now bears his name. He contracted malaria on the trip, which damaged his health, and he died a few years later at the age of 60. Roosevelt has consistently been ranked by scholars as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents.
Roosevelt intensely disliked being called "Teddy," and was quick to point out this fact to those who used the nickname, though it would become widely used by newspapers during his political career. He attended church regularly. Of including the motto "In God We Trust" on money, in 1907 he wrote, "It seems to me eminently unwise to cheapen such a motto by use on coins, just as it would be to cheapen it by use on postage stamps, or in advertisements.
Roosevelt was included with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln at the Mount Rushmore Memorial, designed in 1927 with the approval of Republican President Calvin Coolidge.