GMIH-009 Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt


It is hard to think of a more manly president than Theodore Roosevelt. He was famous in history, was very interesting, and had a great mustache; so you know what that means. He is perfect for Great Mustaches in History.

Theodore Roosevelt was known as “Teddy” Roosevelt. He was born in New York City on October 27, 1858, Theodore Roosevelt was the governor of New York before becoming U.S. vice president. Theodore Roosevelt was you youngest person (up to that time) to ever become President of the United States. He was 42 when President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. He was elected to a second term in 1904.

Early Life


Theodore Roosevelt at age 11

Theodore Roosevelt at age 11

When Theodore Roosevelt was a boy he was sickly. He was home schooled because he was too sick to go to public school. When Theodore Roosevelt was a teenager he started weightlifting and boxing. He was determined to overcome his sickly childhood and be a manly man.

Theodore Roosevelt went to Harvard College. His father died while Theodore Roosevelt was in his second year of college. In 1880 he graduated magna cum laude which means with great honors. After Harvard he went to Columbia Law School. He also married Alice Hathaway Lee.

Political Life

Roosevelt did not finish law school. He was elected to the New York State Assembly as a representative from New York City. He was the youngest person becoming the youngest to hold that spot. Theodore Roosevelt quickly moved up in public service. He became a captain of the National Guard and minority leader of the New York Assembly.

Then something terrible happened. His mother and his wife died but what made it even worse was that they died on the same day (February 14, 1884). Theodore Roosevelt tried to get away from it all by going to the Dakota Territory for two years. He tried to forget his sadness by living as a cowboy and cattle rancher.

After a couple of years he decided to go back to New York and get back into politics. It did not go as well as he hoped. In 1886, Theodore Roosevelt ran for the mayor of New York Citybut he lost.

About the same time he decided to get married again. His second wife was Edith Kermit Carow. Roosevelt knew Edith when they were children. It is a little ironic that Theodore and Edith had watched the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln together when they were kids.

Even though Theodore Roosevelt did not get elected mayor he soon got things back on track. He became a civil service commissioner, then as a New York City police commissioner, and then U.S. Navy assistant secretary under President William McKinley.

Spanish-American War

RoughRidersThe Spanish-American War broke out and Theodore Roosevelt could not wait to get involved. He left his government job right away and organized a group of volunteer cavalry. They became known as the Rough Riders. In 1898 the Rough Riders were involved in the Battle of San Juan Heights. Theodore Roosevelt personally led a bold charge up San Juan Hill. This brave action made him into a real war hero. He was even  nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. That same year Roosevelt was elected governor of New York.


Theodore Roosevelt had policies in New York that made his own party uncomfortable. Back then all the political parties were run by very powerful men called “party bosses” and these party bosses decided that Theodore Roosevelt was getting too popular and his politics were too different from their politics. So they came up with a plan to get him out of the spotlight.

The job of Vice President of the United States is often a job where people do not hear about you and you do not get a chance to be popular. So the party bosses decided to get Theodore Roosevelt out of the way by making him the running mate of William McKinley when McKinley ran for re-election. McKinley won and Roosevelt became vice president. The party bossed thought Roosevelt was out of the way.

Official White House portrait of Theodore Roosevel

Official White House portrait of Theodore Roosevel

Then something happened that no one could have expected. McKinley started his second term as president in 1901 with Roosevelt as vice-president. But, six-month into President McKinley’s second term he was assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt was just 42 years old. He became the youngest man to be president of the United States.

In Theodore Roosevelt’s time big companies controlled whole industries. Sometimes those companies used their power and money to do things that were not fair. One company owning everything and being unfair is called a monopoly. There was a law to prevent those things from happening. That law was called the Sherman Antitrust Act. 

Theodore Roosevelt took on some of the biggest companies and most powerful men in the country as he made sure that monopolies did not violate the Sherman Antitrust Act. His efforts went beyond just fighting monopolies. He created what he called the Square Deal.

The Square Deal was a program that tried to improve the workplace, regulate industry, and try to protect consumers. The main thing Theodore Roosevelt wanted to do was help the middle class.

Because Theodore Roosevelt was so likable people listened to him. He would get worked up in speeches and pound his fist on the podium and talk very passionately about the Square Deal. His enthusiasm and great personality helped him accomplish his goals.

United States’ Place in the World

Up until then the United States had not really been one of the major players in world affairs. But that was changing fast and Theodore Roosevelt wanted it to change even faster. He made the U.S. Navy stronger and had a lot of new ships built. He called this the “Great White Fleet,” and he sent the fleet all over the world to show that the United States was becoming a world power.

Also, up until this time if a ship wanted to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean it had to sail all the way around the tip South America. Theodore Roosevelt got things moving faster to finish the Panama Canal.

In 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize. He won it by helping end a war between Russia and Japan. Even though Theodore Roosevelt believed war was a manly thing to do and bravery was important, he knew the best thing that countries could do when they disagreed was talk and negotiate instead of going to war.

Monroe Doctrine

Political cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt's use of the Monroe Doctrine

Political cartoon of Theodore Roosevelt’s use of the Monroe Doctrine

Way back in 1823 President James Monroe said that if anyone tried to fight anyone country in North or South America, the United States would treat it like an act of aggression against the United States itself. In other words, if you fight ANY country in the Western Hemisphere, you fight the United States.

The Monroe Doctrine had been around for a long time. But Theodore Roosevelt took it even farther. It is called the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. What Theodore Roosevelt said was that the United States could get involved where there was any “wrongdoing by a Latin American Nation.” So, if European nations had a problem in the Western Hemisphere or the Latin American countries had their own problems the United States had the right to step in and make sure that it was taken care of in a fair way.

Some people thought this was great, but some people who did not like Theodore Roosevelt though that this made the United States a “policeman” for the world.

Firsts in Theodore Roosevelt’s Presidency

Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to have to deal with some of the hard things that presidents today still have to deal with. Theodore Roosevelt did not think black people and white people should be kept separated. You are not going to believe this, but back then women could not even vote. Theodore Roosevelt supported the right to vote for women. He was also the first president to have an African-American guest at the White House when he entertained Booker T. Washington.


Theodore Roosevelt loved the outdoors and wanted to protect it for hunting, camping, and just because it is beautiful. In 1906, he signed the National Monuments Act. That was a law that protected the Grand Canyon, wildlife sanctuaries, national forests and federal game reserves.

White House

The presidential mansion was often called the white house simply because it is white. But that became the official name when Theodore Roosevelt put that name on his official stationery.

Theodore Roosevelt hired one of the best architects firms at the time to fix up the mansion. It had gotten pretty run down. Theodore Roosevelt also made it a fun place for his six children. He even made it a place where reporters could do their work. He noticed a bunch of reporters outside in the rain and he invited them to come in and even made an official place for them to work. The press still works inside the White House today.

Politics After Roosevelt was President

Theodore Roosevelt finished his term as president in 1909. Things looked pretty good because the next president was his friend and former secretary of war William Howard Taft.

Theodore Roosevelt loved to travel. Remember his two years in the Dakotas? Because of that Theodore Roosevelt went on an African safari. For two years he hunted, collected specimens, gave speeches and traveled.

But Theodore Roosevelt got mad at President Taft because Taft did not follow all of Roosevelt’s progressive policies. So, Theodore Roosevelt decided to try to get elected as president again.

Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail

Theodore Roosevelt on the campaign trail

Now, Taft was running for Republican Party. They would not let Roosevelt run. So Theodore Roosevelt formed a third party. It wass officially called the Progressive Party, but everyone knew it as the Bull Moose Party. So Theodore Roosevelt began campaigning for the 1912 election.

While he was out campaigning he was giving a speech when a man named John Nepomuk Schrank tried to assassinate him. Schrank shot Roosevelt in the chest. This is the part you will not believe. Theodore Roosevelt finished his speech. It took an hour and a half until he saw a doctor.

Imagine this. He started his speech by saying, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible.I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” He then went on to speak for 90 minutes.

He later said it would take “more than that to kill a bull moose.”

Roosevelt Lost

In the 1912 election Theodore Roosevelt lost to Woodrow Wilson in a close popular vote. Theodore Roosevelt thought about running again in 1916, winning the when he again won the Bull Moose Party’s nomination but he decided not to run.

World War I looked like it would happen but Theodore Roosevelt was very frustrated that Woodrow Wilson’s wanted to stay neutral. In 1914, Theodore Roosevelt asked Woodrow Wilson’s permission to lead a volunteer division in France for World War I (like the Rough Riders). But Woodrow Wilson said no.

All four of Theodore Roosevelt’s sons enlisted for service during World War I. This made him very proud. But when his youngest son, Quentin, was killed in Germany it broke Theodore Roosevelt’s heart.

Death and Legacy

Roosevelt's Grave in Youngs Memorial Cemetery Oyster Bay, New York

Roosevelt’s Grave in Youngs Memorial Cemetery Oyster Bay, New York

When Theodore Roosevelt was a kid, doctors said he had a weak heart and told him to plan on a desk job. They said he should not lead an active life. But, Theodore Roosevelt lived a more active life than most people ever do.

Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep on January 6, 1919. He was 60 years old when he died.

Interesting Facts About Theodore Roosevelt

The 1902 political cartoon in The Washington Post that spawned the Teddy bear name

The 1902 political cartoon in The Washington Post that spawned the Teddy bear name

  • The Teddy Bear is named for him when the Ideal Novelty and Toy Company saw a political cartoon where Theodore Roosevelt refused to shoot a trapped bear while he was on a hunt in Mississippi.
  • Theodore Roosevelt used the term “bully” to mean something was great. It was not a word for someone who picks on weaker people. So he said things like “Bully for you” which meant, “Good for you.”
  • The term Bully Pulpit was coined by Theodore Roosevelt. It means a position that is perfect for getting your point across. “Bully” means great and “pulpit” is a speaker’s stand. Theodore Roosevelt said the White House was a Bully Pulpit for getting his agenda across.
  • Theodore Roosevelt hated the nickname “Teddy.” He preferred to be called TR.
  • Theodore Roosevelt is one of the four presidents carved on Mt. Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


So when you think about a manly-man as president and you think of one of the greatest presidential mustaches of all time just remember Theodore Roosevelt.


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