20 Exceptional Facts About Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt. Source: Creative Commons
Theodore Roosevelt, also known as Teddy Roosevelt or TR, was the 26th president of the United States, a writer, soldier, and naturalist. Prior to serving as the president, he was also the 33rd governor of New York and the 25th vice president of the United States. This article focuses on little-known facts about Theodore Roosevelt, including his life before and after politics.
1. His wife and mother died on the same day
One of the saddest facts about Theodore Roosevelt was the death of his mother and wife, which occurred on Valentine’s Day in 1984. His mother died from typhoid and 12 hours later, in the same house, he lost his first wife due to Bright’s disease. His wife had just given birth to the couple’s first child just two days earlier. Mourning the double tragedy, Roosevelt wrote in his diary, “The light has gone out of my life.” (History)
2. He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner
Between 1904 and 1905, Russia and Japan were at war. The two nations asked Roosevelt to intervene as a mediator during a peace conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Following successful negotiations, with T.R. at the middle of it, the war ended, consequently granting Roosevelt a Nobel Peace Prize for his role. He was not only the first American, but also the first president to win the prize. (The Nobel Prize)
3. He witnessed the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln
As the funeral procession of President Abraham Lincoln made its way through New York City in April 1865, a young Roosevelt watched the historic moment, perched in one of the front windows at his grandfather’s mansion. President Lincoln had been assassinated by famous actor and Confederate spy John Wilkes Booth. (The New York Times)
4. He was a prolific author and poet
By the time of his death, Theodore Roosevelt had written at least 18 books, including his autobiography. He was also a multiniche author, having written about wars, the ecosystem, foreign policies, races and so much more. (An Autobiography – Theodore Roosevelt)
5. He was partially blind in one eye
T.R. was so much into boxing that he used to practice with his aide Dan Tyler Moore, who was also a cousin of the first lady, Edith Roosevelt. During one of their practice sessions at the White House, Moore punched the President in the eye, consequently damaging his retina. T.R. would eventually lose sight of that eye, albeit partially.
6. He was born a wimp
Teddy is always remembered for his bravery, a character he wasn’t born with. During his childhood, he was prone to sickness, which made him weak most of the time. He also had battles with asthma. When he was around 14, he started training judo and boxing, which helped him develop physical and mental strength. He would then become obsessed with fitness for the remainder of his life, with boxing being one of this favorite sports. (NAMI South Bay)
7. He went on some historic rides and tours
One of the most intriguing facts about Theodore Roosevelt is that he was the first president in the history of the United States to ride an airplane. He was also the first president to ride a submarine.
In the summer of 1902, he also became the first president to ride in an automobile while in office. He was greeted by hundreds of cheering supports on his tour of New England as he drove through Connecticut. (Hail To The Chief: Boy’s Life)
8. First president to travel outside the contiguous United States
Prior to his presidency, no other president had travelled outside the 48 adjoining U.S. states. On November 6, 1906, he made a 17-day tour of the Panama and Puerto Rico, making him the first president to make a diplomatic tour beyond the 48 states. During his trip to Puerto Rico, he encouraged Puerto Ricans to become citizens of the United States. A decade later, under the then President Woodrow Wilson, Puerto Ricans were granted the option to become U.S. citizens through the Jones Act, which also preserved the island’s sovereignty. (History)
9. He campaigned for a third term
The U.S. constitution allows presidents to run for not more than two terms in office. However, in 1908, as Teddy neared the end of his tenure as president, he officially expressed his intention to run for a third nonconsecutive term. He went on a campaign trail, making him the first president of the United States to fully campaign for a third term in office. He, however, lost to President Woodrow Wilson, who was running on a Democratic ticket.
10. He was shot in the chest but kept on talking
While campaigning for a third term in office in 1912, T.R. was shot in the chest shortly before giving a two-hour speech. However, one of the most jaw-dropping facts about Theodore Roosevelt was that he proceeded with his speech despite being shot. He reportedly coughed three times and upon realizing that there was no blood in his cough, he decided to go on with the speech. He assumed that he would be fine given that the bullet had not reached his lungs. Even more shocking was the fact that he opened his speech by addressing the would-be assassin. He said: “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose.” (History)
11. He was the first president from New York city
As stated earlier, T.R. was the 33rd governor of the state of New York prior to becoming the 26th President of the United States. He was also the first president born in the city of New York. Donald J. Trump is the only other president to have been born in New York city.
12. He issued over 1000 presidential orders
During his eight-year term in office, President Roosevelt issued over 1,000 executive orders. To put this fact into perspective, his predecessor, William McKinley, had issued not more than 100 executive orders. This is one of the most mind-blowing facts about Theodore Roosevelt unknown to many Americans. Even though he faced a lot of criticism for his orders, he defended himself in his autobiography. He wrote:
“There was a great clamor that I was usurping legislative power… I did not usurp power, but I did greatly broaden the use of executive power.” (Smithsonian Magazine)
13. He won the Medal of Honor
Roosevelt was part of the American forces that served in the 1898 Spanish-American War. The purpose of the war was to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. Prior to the war, Roosevelt had served as National Guard in New York, and the assistant secretary of the Navy. When the war started, he urged the secretary of war for an Army commission. He was included and named lieutenant colonel of the ‘Rough Riders’, the famous 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.
On July 1, 1898, Teddy rallied his troops against the Spanish army at Kettle Hill. He reportedly rode up and down the hill on horseback, making him one of the most important targets of the enemy. One of the most surprising facts about Theodore Roosevelt is that he was not hit by any bullet even as he continued to pace up and down the mountain, directing his troops.
Even more surprising was the fact that he was the first to reach enemy trenches, where he killed an enemy soldier with his pistol. This specific act of valor would then turn the course of the war to America’s favor. He was elected President of the United States three years later, thanks to the fame that came after his heroic actions.
However, despite his bravery and sacrifice, his candidacy for the Medal of Honor was heavily debated. But on January 16, 2001, more than a century later, he was finally awarded the prestigious medal, making him the first American president to bag such an achievement. (U.S. Department of Defense)
14. He was the first president to use the West Wing
The West Wing of the White house is where the offices of the President of the U.S. are located. It features the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Cabinet Room, and the Roosevelt Room.
The Roosevelt Room was named after Theodore Roosevelt (26th president of the U.S.) and Franklin Delano Roosevelt (32nd president of the U.S.), who were both related. On November 6, 1902, Theodore became the first U.S. president to use the West Wing. A day later, he held his first cabinet meeting at the office. (White House History)
15. His rise to the presidency was historic
One of the little-known facts about Theodore Roosevelt is his rise to the presidency. After his heroic actions during the Spanish-American war, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1898. Following the death of vice president Garret Hobart a year later, the then president William McKinley appointed Roosevelt as his new running mate ahead of the 1900 election. The duo won the election in 1901, and Teddy later became president in September of the same year following the assassination of President McKinley.
In 1904, he won the presidential election and became the first U.S. president to assume presidency after the death of a predecessor, and later become president in his own right. (Theodore Roosevelt: A Life)
16. He was the youngest president in U.S. history
One of the most notable facts about Theodore Roosevelt is that he was the youngest person to assume the presidency of the United States. When he succeeded President William McKinley, Teddy was 42 years and 322 days old. However, it is important to note that John F. Kennedy was the youngest person to become president of the U.S. by an election. He was 43 years 236 days at his inauguration. (Theodore Roosevelt: A Life)
17. He was obsessed with conservation
The obsession with conservation, one of the facts about Theodore Roosevelt that made him a darling of many Americans, was evident when he signed over 1000 executive orders. It is understood that almost half of those orders were directed towards environmental conservation. By the time of his death, Teddy had created at least five national parks, 18 national monuments and 51 wildlife refuges. The five parks included the Crater Lake in Oregon, Wind Cave in South Dakota, Sullys Hill in North Dakota, Platt in Oklahoma and Mesa Verde in Colorado. (National Park Service)
18. He is celebrated at five units of the NPS
Thanks to his role in conservation, the National Park Service celebrates President Roosevelt in at least five of their units. They include the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site (New York), the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historical Site (New York), Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site (New York), Theodore Roosevelt Island (Washington DC) and Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Dakota). (National Park Service)
19. He had more animals than the White House had ever seen
Along with six children, President Teddy had at least 40 pets in the White House. No other president in the history of the United States has had more pets since then. The family had a small bear, a lizard, guinea pigs, a one-legged rooster, a hyena, barn owl, a rabbit, raccoon, dogs, rats, cats, and snakes. In fact, Roosevelt’s daughter Alice reportedly liked to wear a snake around her neck to scare people. The snake’s name was Emily Spinach. (National Park Service)
20. The ‘Teddy Bear’ was named after him
The story of the ‘Teddy Bear’ concludes our 20 facts about Theodore Roosevelt. In 1902, President Roosevelt embarked on a hunting trip to Mississippi. He spent a few days hunting but did find any luck. Upon realizing that the President was not successful in his hunting trip, the then governor of Mississippi had a black bear captured and tied to a tree for the President to shoot. Roosevelt was, of course, angered by the governor’s actions and ordered the bear to be set free.
The news of his reaction and decision to set the bear free made national headlines. At the same time, a candy shop owner from New York made a few stuffed bears and labeled them ‘Teddy Bears.’ They became an instant hit as hundreds of buyers flocked the shop to purchase the stuffed bears in support of the president’s compassion for animals. That is how the name ‘Teddy Bear’ was formed. (National Park Service)
Judging from these facts about Theodore Roosevelt, there is no doubt that he was a statesman, patriot, hero, and conservationist. He was so popular with the masses that he even attempted to run for a third term. To put his popularity into perspective, he is one of the four American Presidents whose faces appear at Mount Rushmore. The others include President George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
The Nobel Prize: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1906/roosevelt/facts/
The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/upshot/when-tr-saw-lincoln.html
An Autobiography: https://books.google.com/books?id=VZi1sGSjFfEC
Hail To The Chief – Boys Life: https://namisouthbay.com/2013/12/09/theodore-roosevelt-as-strong-as-a-bull-moose/
White House History: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/the-west-wing-1900-1924
Theodore Roosevelt: A Life: https://archive.org/details/theodoreroosevel00mill
National Park Service: https://www.nps.gov/thrb/learn/historyculture/storyofteddybear.htm