Study Guide

Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt Biography

  • Biography

    On 14 October 1912, Teddy Roosevelt was campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when a paranoid-schizophrenic shot him in the chest. More or less unfazed, Roosevelt got into his car, made sure he wasn't coughing up blood, and drove on to his next speaking engagement, as planned. He spoke for over an hour in front of nearly ten thousand people about the need to curb the power of industry and protect the common man. The blood from the bullet wound soaked through his shirt and jacket, but he didn't miss a beat. Yes, he admitted, he'd just been shot. "[But] it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!"blank" rel="nofollow">values confronted an America rocked by technological innovations and demographic upheavals. We can't describe that vision so much as trace it, from its origins in T.R.'s childhood through his attempted assassination in Milwaukee and on to his death in 1919. The ordeal in Milwaukee may have only lasted a few hours, but it embodies a narrative that spanned T.R.'s entire life.

  • Father, Thee Roosevelt

    The roots of Roosevelt's vision lay deep in his youth. Theodore Roosevelt was born on 27 October 1858, to a very wealthy New York family. "Wealthy" doesn't quite capture just how well-off the Roosevelts really were. They were part of what was called the "Knickerbocker Elite"—the old, powerful moneyed families that ran New York society, some of them with patrician roots stretching all the way back to the days of seventeenth-century Dutch colonists. T.R.'s grandfather, C.V.S. Roosevelt, turned the money he made importing plate-glass into a banking and real estate fortune. Thanks to their father's money, C.V.S. Roosevelt's sons circulated in New York's high society, working in high-status jobs as congressmen and judges… if they worked at all. Meanwhile, Teddy's mother's family was almost as prominent. T.R.'s mother, Mittie Bulloch, was the daughter of a wealthy southern gentleman and granddaughter of a Revolutionary War general.

    Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., T.R.'s father, had primary responsibility for raising his children. His wife, Mittie, was a beautiful if stereotypical southern belle who had grown up dependent on slave labor. She didn't care for raising children or household management. After moving to New York, she came down with "neurasthenia," which forced her into a life of luxurious spa treatments and never-ending vacation cures. With his wife out of New York for months at a time, Theodore, Sr., usually known as Thee, ran his own house.

    Thee was a man of profound convictions. He worked for the family firm, managing the Roosevelts' substantial commercial investments. But Thee only worked out of a sense of duty. He was much too rich to have to work. He worked because he believed that work was moral. And the ruling elite, he believed, had an obligation to provide a moral example for the rest of society.

    Thee believed hat his society, at that moment in time, was particularly in need of moral guidance. Like many prominent Victorians, he was convinced that the rapid spread of "civilization," the ongoing industrialization and commercialization of the United States and Western Europe, had destroyed society's moral fiber. For Thee, his hometown of New York was a case in point. In the second half of the nineteenth century, New York City saw massive increases in industrialization, urbanization, and immigration. The city into which T.R. was born was crowded, unclean, and full of poorly educated immigrants. Corruption was endemic. Drinking was rampant. Prostitution was commonplace. New York was a den of iniquity, a cesspool of sin, a conclave of corruption—you get the picture.

  • Muscular Christianity

    Thee understood what the problems he saw through gendered language. Men, he believed, were naturally strong and moral but under the corrosive influence of modern society, they had become "feminized," losing their natural vigor and morality. (Politically incorrect? Totally. But we're not interested in attacking Thee, just understanding him.) For New York City to go clean, he believed, men needed to rediscover their masculinity.

    Thee believed that "muscular Christianity" offered them that chance. Like regular Christians, muscular Christians believed that turning to Jesus Christ offered mankind a path to salvation. But muscular Christians—guys like Dwight Moody and Phillips Brooks—preached that Christ was not just morally pure, but physically fit. Christ didn't just help the poor and preach for a better world. He was a strong, confident man's man, loving work and physical exertion. If mankind wanted to become more like him, they should spend less time worrying about saving their souls and more time worrying about firming up their waistlines.

    Thee used his substantial wealth and free time to further the ideals of muscular Christianity. He promoted the YMCA and distributed exercise equipment, donated money to the city's educational and religious institutions, and built a hospital. He even delivered lectures on moral hygiene and manliness at local missions. He didn't stop there though. He tried to put the ideals of muscular Christianity to work in his own life too: he forced his children to exercise, kept them perpetually doing something, and taught them to fight evil and corruption wherever they found it. Thee may have been a part of the Gilded Age elite, but his moral convictions turned him into a very active reformer.blank">Harvard at 18, his classmates found him moralistic and prudish. They could not understand his obsession with religion. He, in turn, found them depraved. They drank, and gambled, and acted in what seemed to him completely selfish ways. T.R. quietly studied his plants and animals and associated only with a couple of other muscular Christian types. He wrote home a lot; he clearly still counted on his father for support. He had few friends, but he didn't mind. With Thee's backing, he felt supremely confident.

  • Harvard College

    Thee's death on 11 Feburary 1878 was thus the first of two traumas that would rock young Theodore's world. The death was unexpected. In the months before, Thee had risen to national prominence through his fight with Ross Conkling, a corrupt Republican political boss. President Rutherford B. Hayes had tried to nominate the Thee, a known reformer, to a major civil service post, which would have undermined Conkling's control over the New York State Republican Party. Conkling opposed Thee's appointment and pulled strings to block the Senate from confirming him. Almost as soon as it became clear that Thee would not win his post, he became horribly sick. Doctors discovered he had a case of advanced bowel cancer, but chose not to tell T.R. for fear of distracting him from his studies. Thee and his son visited together one last time, over T.R.'s Christmas break. Thee succumbed to the cancer just days after T.R. returned to school for the new semester.

    T.R. was destroyed. As he wrote in his diary, "the aim and purpose of my life had been taken away." He went through drastic and almost inexplicable mood swings. That summer, vacationing with his family at Oyster Bay, he broke up with his childhood friend and presumptive lover Edith Carow. He alternated between elation and despair. When he returned to college that fall, he no longer had the confidence to live his earlier life of moral superiority, and quickly slid into the traditional Harvard mold. Back then, Harvard was little more than a finishing school for Northeast elites; the typical student spent his days drinking and flirting. T.R. threw himself into that scene, joining a handful of social clubs and drinking heavily. He let his grades slip; he stopped worrying about his religion. Without Thee, none of that seemed to matter anymore.

  • Alice Roosevelt

    It took falling in love for him to regain some balance. In October of his junior year, T.R. met the beautiful Alice Hathaway Lee, and became completely infatuated. Alice was a notorious heartbreaker—a real beauty from a socially prominent Boston family—and, at seventeen, perfectly eligible. From the day he met her, Theodore committed himself fully to winning her over. His wild mood swings continued at first (he once became so insecure about his relationship with Alice, he had to be talked out of challenging a rival suitor to a duel), but as their relationship became closer, T.R. mellowed out.

    He wasn't over his father's death, though. Instead, he just seems to have changed the way he dealt with it. Before meeting Alice, he had temporarily rejected what his father had stood for; after meeting her, he reassumed his father's convictions with more force than ever. Indeed, it almost looks like T.R. actively tried to particularly his father. The similarities between Alice, T.R.'s fiancée, and Mittie, T.R.'s mother, were striking. They were both known for their beauty, both from prominent, aristocratic families, and both completely uninterested in the traditional responsibilities of Victorian women. After T.R. and Alice married and moved to New York, T.R. began to replicate his father's life more exactly. He began moving in the same elite social circles his father had moved in. He became active in the Republican Party, just as his father had been. He even began signing his letters "Thee," his father's name! He broke from his father's habits only in his personal interests. (He had studied science at Harvard, and kept up his studies, but after moving to New York, he started coursework in law and history, too.) With respect to his public life, T.R. seemed to be reprising Thee's role wholesale.blank" rel="nofollow">War of 1812, had just been published to stellar reviews. Although T.R. hadn't made much progress on his legal studies, it hardly seemed to matter. Five years after his father's death, T.R. finally appeared to have put his life back together.

  • The Strenuous Life

    In February 1883, T.R.'s carefully reconstructed world came falling down again. On 14 February, just two days after giving birth to a baby girl named Alice Lee, Theodore's beloved wife suddenly passed away. Only a few hours earlier, across the hall in the very same house, his long-suffering mother Mittie had already died of a fever. And then, compounding his troubles, an intraparty fight at the Republican National Convention forced T.R. to step down from his office as state assemblyman. Over the course of a single season, T.R. lost his wife, his mother, and his public status. Just like that, almost overnight, his entire life fell apart.

    It would be an understatement to say that T.R. was disoriented. He was completely flabbergasted. He had absolutely no idea what to do next. For the next three years, he did little more than mourn and purge. Expelled from his party and robbed of his family at the age of 25, T.R. did what unmoored young men had been doing for generations: he went West. It was the start of what was to be a recurring pattern in T.R.'s life. Until his health began to fail in the late 1910s, Roosevelt would respond to all his personal hardships in the same way: by finding some vigorous, manly adventure to go on, as he had first done with his father on the banks of the Nile. T.R. already owned a ranch in the Dakota Badlands, purchased while on earlier travels. When his East Coast life disintegrated, he commissioned the construction of a house at Oyster Bay in memory of his recently deceased wife, left his sister Bamie in charge of his infant daughter, and lit out for the territory to try his luck at cattle ranching. If muscular Christianity could cure society's ills, maybe it could cure his own ills too.

    Teddy immersed himself in the culture of the West. Theodore Roosevelt scholar Kathleen Dalton estimates that T.R. spent between one-third and one-half of all his time over the next three years working on his ranch in Dakota. Although raising cattle was not especially profitable (a drought killed off most of the herd), it was therapeutic. Roosevelt cultivated his rugged masculinity by learning to rope and ride. He became inspired by the independence and virility of Westerners—a product, he thought, of their direct contact with nature. He believed that he had found, in the West, what it took to resist the damaging, feminizing effects of over-civilization. T.R. tried to spread news of his discovery back East through his writings. He published Hunting Trips of a Ranchman in 1885, and worked on a biography of Thomas Hart Benton, one of the great cheerleaders for America's westward expansion. He even became a writer of some repute.

  • Edith Roosevelt

    Although T.R. tried to restyle himself a western rancher, he never did completely sever himself from his East Coast roots. He still spent the balance of his time in New York, and depended on his extended family for care and money. One day in 1885, he happened to run into his childhood sweetheart Edith at his sister's home, and the two renewed their friendship. Her last years had been almost as difficult as Teddy's, as her father's alcoholism had slowly destroyed her family. Maybe the shared experience of loss made the two more open each other; maybe their feelings for each other had never really faded. Either way, on 17 November 1885, the two became secretly engaged to each other, and made plans for a wedding at the end of the next year.

    With his engagement to Edith, Roosevelt seemed to come out of his funk. Edith was no Mittie or Alice; she was a smart, self-possessed, confident woman, with a fierce moral sensibility to rival Thee's. Edith readied herself to take control of her husband's domestic affairs and goaded T.R. to resume his reform work. In 1886, when the Republican Party asked T.R. to stand as a sacrifice candidate for the mayor of New York, T.R. saw his chance to resume his reform work and accepted. Although he lost the election, his well-run campaign increased his exposure and cemented his party credentials. When he and Edith finally married and moved in together, the 29 year-old T.R. seemed poised to accomplish great things.

    His marriage to Edith and return to New York marked the start of T.R.'s adult life. Roosevelt took his daughter Alice back from his sister Bamie, and assumed increasing responsibility for raising his niece Eleanor (later the famous wife of FDR). He and Edith soon expanded their family with the birth of their first son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. T.R. joined civic reform organizations, and founded the Boone and Crockett Club to advocate for environmental conservationism in the West. He learned how to sway crowds while campaigning for the 1888 Republican presidential nominee Benjamin Harrison. He even kept up his writing, beginning a multivolume project on the history of the West.

  • A Promising Career

    Although T.R.'s political tactics were more sophisticated than his father's, his political concerns were largely the same. T.R. sought to fight the corrupting influences of modern society by rooting them out or keeping them from developing in the first place. We can understand T.R.'s historical writing and environmental advocacy as part of a preventative strategy; T.R. believed that by exposing Americans to their own history or by forcing them into direct contact with the wild, he could get them to rediscover their authentic, virile, manly spirit, which would, like a vaccine, inoculate the national soul from modern society's diseases. By contrast, his quest for civil-service reform and his fight against political cronyism were part of an attempt to eliminate corruption where it was already festering. They were the antibiotics to work where his natural-historical vaccine hadn't had a chance to take effect.

    Ironically, the very same corrupt "spoils system" that T.R. fought so hard against was also responsible for rewarding him for his own campaign work on behalf of the Republican Party. In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison won the presidency, and, to compensate T.R. for his support during the campaign, he offered him a job as a Civil Service Commissioner. T.R. jumped at the opportunity. He moved his family to Washington the very next year, throwing himself into his new duties. Working for the Civil Service Commission, he thought, would give him a chance to serve on the front lines in the fight against government corruption.

    He was wrong. It wasn't that he couldn't fight corruption as a Civil Service Commissioner—he could, and he did. (Quite well, too: his reputation for integrity was so great, it convinced Harrison's Democratic successor, Grover Cleveland, to keep T.R in office, even though he belonged to the opposition party.) It was just that T.R felt his post at Civil Service left him too far away from where the real political action was. National events reminded him at every turn of just how much change was needed. The dark recession of 1893 left working-class families destitute, and the violent strike of the Pullman factory workers in Chicago the same year showed T.R. how vulnerable labor was to what he saw as predatory capital. T.R. could see how workers' pain was a product of those industries' power. Here were the consequences, he came to believe, of society's corruption: the unchecked powerful mercilessly and amorally exploiting the undefended weak. Someone needed to get out there and do something! But from his desk job in D.C., there was nothing Roosevelt could do. T.R. began to itch for a job that would put him in touch with the gravest social problems of the day. He didn't just want to fight government corruption anymore. He wanted to change society for the common man.

  • NYC Police Commissioner

    A new job in New York offered T.R. the chance he was looking for. Republican operatives tried to convince the increasingly popular T.R. to run again for mayor, but Edith, who was nursing their fourth child, talked him out of it. Worried that T.R. was letting his political future slip away and obviously aware of his unhappiness, Henry Cabot Lodge, another young Republican reformer and a friend of T.R.'s, convinced him to accept a job on the New York City Police Commission. The job, Lodge argued, was higher-profile than it looked: New York was the premier city of the world's rising industrial power. Fighting corruption there would make a direct, tangible difference. And the City, as T.R. knew, was just as much in need of a thorough cleaning-up as it had been in his father's day. Edith, guilty about having kept T.R. from running from mayor, encouraged him to listen to Lodge. T.R. finally gave in and, on 6 May 1895, moved to New York to take up his new post.

    New York City offered T.R. a crucible in which to forge his American vision. When T.R. arrived, he brought with him the standard agenda you might expect out of a government bureaucrat: he wanted to eliminate corrupt officials to create a rational, merit-based system of hiring and promotion. He wanted to professionalize things. But it wasn't so much the goals that T.R. brought that made his time in New York so formative. Rather, it was that, in trying to accomplish those goals, T.R. was forced to confront the scope of New York's social problems more generally. He used to go on midnight tours of the city with the muckraking newspaperman Jacob Riis to check up on his officers and catch lazy cops. And he did catch lazy cops—lots of them. But in the process, he was forced to explore the entire Lower East Side of Manhattan, with its overcrowded tenements, its unsanitary conditions, and its oppressive labor practices. T.R. met exploited immigrants and toured unsafe factories. He witnessed firsthand the consequences of inadequate healthcare and pension coverage.

    With his exposure to the real New York, T.R.'s understanding of the corruption of modern society began to evolve. In order to fix society, he began to realize, it would no longer be enough to restore its masculine spirit. What good was a masculine spirit when you lived in a cramped tenement without sanitation and worked at the mercy of your exploitive employer? No, if society was going to be truly restored, its institutions would need to be fixed as well. It wasn't enough to root out corruption in government offices or election commissions. Government, T.R. began to believe, would need to make sure that conditions like those that existed on the Lower East Side of Manhattan weren't allowed to happen.

  • Unfortunately, T.R.'s vision was out of step with the ruling powers in New York. Roosevelt lost the support of the citizens (who otherwise loved reading about their commissioner's daring nighttime escapades) when he tried to enforce a law closing saloons on Sundays. Meanwhile, New York Republicans, who had their own corrupt political machine in New York, resented T.R.'s reform efforts. They wanted him out of the city, and fast. When the Republican William McKinley won the presidential election of 1896, they saw their chance to send T.R. back to Washington. Lodge, now a Republican Senator, pressured McKinley to give T.R. a cabinet post; McKinley, wary of giving the independent firebrand too much power or public exposure, instead offered him the job of assistant secretary of the Navy.

    Aware that he was no longer being very productive in New York, T.R. moved back to D.C. to take up the president's offer. It may look like he put his domestic reform projects on hold… but the story is a bit more complicated. T.R. had wanted to see America change its naval policy ever since he wrote his first book, on The Naval War in 1812. He was a firm believer in expansionism: T.R. thought the United States should build up its navy and start asserting its global power. But that expansionism was rooted in the same desire for renewal T.R. showed in his domestic policies. T.R. thought that war was purifying. It was regenerating. Being wounded was proof of manly valor, and thus something to be desired. Besides, Roosevelt (like other Victorian-era imperialists) thought the American military could be used to spread "civilization" to more backward peoples. Over-civilization was bad, sure, but a complete lack of (Western) civilization was even worse. T.R. took up his responsibilities in April 1897 and immediately began pushing for war.

  • Rough Riders

    Tensions within the Spanish empire gave T.R. his opening. Cuba had been waging a war for independence from Spain since 1895, and the Philippines, another Spanish possession, had been in open insurrection since 1896. When, in early 1898, a riot by Spanish loyalists in Havana endangered American lives, the battleship USS Maine steamed toward Cuba to maintain order. On 15 February 1898, the Maine exploded in Havana Harbor under suspicious circumstances. Back home in the United States, the sinking of the Maine brought cries for war to a fever pitch. Ten days later, convinced that war with Spain was inevitable, T.R. ordered Commodore George Dewey to intercept the Spanish fleet at Manila, at the same time redoubling his efforts to convince President McKinley to declare war. On 11 April 1898, the president finally gave in, asking Congress to authorize a military intervention in Cuba.

    T.R. could not have been happier. He must have inherited his father's shame at having shirked Civil War duty. Even before war broke out, T.R (who was now 40 years old) made his goals very clear: if war broke out, he was going to fight. This was an opportunity he was not going to miss. He used his connections to assemble a volunteer cavalry regiment, stocked it with the cream of New York society, and led his men off to battle.

    It was a strange war. T.R. and his Rough Riders landed in Cuba on 22 June 1898, and were out of combat ten days later. By August they were home and the war was over. Dewey had disabled the Spanish fleet on 1 May, effectively ruining Spain's chances from the start. As T.R. would later reflect, "the only trouble was that there was not enough war to go around." Still, it was more than enough to make him a national hero. At the battle of San Juan Heights, T.R. led his men in a daring charge up Kettle Hill, exposing himself to enemy fire in the process. His brave exploits were reported back in the United States by the newspapermen who served in his regiment. When T.R. returned to New York, he was greeted by masses of cheering citizens, asking him to run for governor.

  • Governor and Vice President

    At that point, events seem to have taken on a momentum all their own. Within three years, Roosevelt would find himself the next president of the United States. It took a little maneuvering to get the beloved war hero into the governor's office, but not much. Lodge put T.R.'s name into circulation among leading New York Republicans, and convinced Conkling's successor, the new Republican political boss Thomas Platt, that Roosevelt would toe the party line. Meanwhile, T.R. added to his own fame, touring the country with other Rough Riders and participating in Wild West shows. When Platt gave T.R. the okay to run, Roosevelt cruised to victory.

    Of course, Roosevelt had no intention of following a standard Republican line. He had not forgotten the lessons he learned in New York and D.C. From his time in Washington, he remembered how dangerous unregulated monopolies could be for average Americans. And from his time as New York City Police Commissioner, he recalled how much the poor and the vulnerable needed government protection and support. As soon as he was elected, he began pushing for more relief for the hungry, more crime control, more economic regulation, and more sanitation. His fight against government franchises—the lucrative contracts controlled by Platt and his associates, which kept corrupt political machines running—proved to be the last straw. Roosevelt was threatening the power of the political bosses who had allowed him to win office in the first place. A furious Platt pulled all his strings to get T.R. onto the national Republican ticket in 1896 as a vice-presidential candidate, thus getting him out of New York State. Republican insiders agreed to nominate T.R. for V.P., mostly because the vice-president didn't have any real power at all. Only when an assassin's bullet felled the recently re-elected William McKinley in September 1901, making Teddy Roosevelt president, did they realize what had done.

  • President Theodore Roosevelt

    A couple hours past midnight on 14 September 1901, William McKinley died of his gunshot wounds. Theodore Roosevelt suddenly became the youngest man ever to hold the office of president of the United States.

    Entrenched political elites were not happy. From Congress's perspective, Roosevelt's political priorities could not have been more wrong. Roosevelt wanted to promote the rights of workers. Meanwhile, Congress would have been happier to continue confirming judges who struck down labor regulations as violating the freedom of contract. Roosevelt wanted the federal government to take the lead in dealing with public health and poverty. But congressional Democrats from the South, since returning to the government after the Civil War, had tried to restrict the federal government's power in the interest of states' rights. Roosevelt idolized Abraham Lincoln, and even wore a ring with Lincoln's hair in it. He would quote from Lincoln often, reminding Americans of what Lincoln had told Congress in 1861: "Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." The Gilded Age Congress, for its part, was in the pay of the railroad industry. Even Republicans had mostly abandoned Lincoln's dreams when they traded Reconstruction for Rutherford B. Hayes. From the start of his presidency, T.R. understood that he and the Congress were not going to see eye-to-eye.blank">African safari. When Taft won the election of 1908 (largely on the strength of Roosevelt's popularity), T.R. was able to relax. It would be difficult to leave the United States, but his vision, he thought, was safe in the hands of a man he could trust.

  • Bull Moose & 1912 Election

    It wasn't until T.R. returned from Africa in 1910 that he discovered how wrong he had been. Taft had none of T.R.'s energy, or his charisma. He didn't share much of T.R.'s vision, either. Taft dismissed Gifford Pinchot, T.R.'s conservation guru, from his post at the head of the Forest Service. He dissolved Roosevelt's cabinet, which he had earlier promised not to do. The final straw came when Taft tried to usurp Roosevelt's trust-busting legacy by criticizing Roosevelt for his relations with J.P Morgan. A furious Roosevelt wrote an angry article in The Outlook disputing Taft's claims and attacking the Taft administration's trust policies. Within days, the United States was abuzz with news of T.R.'s return to politics.

    Roosevelt quickly positioned himself to challenge Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912. But the Roosevelt who sought a return to the presidency that year was not the young, New York politician chosen as McKinley's running mate more than a decade before. T.R. had become a bona-fide radical, with a reputation towering enough to risk challenging Republican Party orthodoxy directly. On the stump, Roosevelt preached outright wealth redistribution and true equality. He even started calling for women's suffrage! Roosevelt was unlike any Republican the Republican Party had ever seen.

    His message found an audience. Roosevelt swept the Republican primaries. If the people had been in charge of choosing the Republican candidate, T.R. would almost certainly have been the nominee. But the 1912 nomination campaign was the first in American history to feature primaries at all, and only a few states used them to allow actual voters to have a say in determining each party's nominee. The bulk of the delegates who would actually select the presidential candidate were still chosen the old fashioned way: through machine-controlled caucuses and shady backroom deals. Taft exploited his entrenched position within the party (and many party bosses' horror at Roosevelt's maverick views) to secure his own renomination. William Howard Taft, not Teddy Roosevelt, was the Republican nominee for president in 1912.

    T.R. refused to be stopped. He just left the party and kept campaigning. It's worth remembering that, in 1912, the idea of creating a third party wasn't that far-fetched. The Republicans, the dominant party throughout the Gilded Age, were less than sixty years old. Their founding as a radical third-party back in 1856 was still in living memory for many political veterans. Besides, T.R. realized that his reform agenda had widespread popular support, but neither the Democrats nor the Republicans really seemed interested in pursuing it. The night that Taft engineered his renomination, Roosevelt and his supporters met in a nearby hall, pledging themselves to found a new party to continue the fight for reform.

    The Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party, was the most radical major party the United States had ever seen. It advocated for women's rights and called for universal suffrage. It demanded a fair minimum wage, and asked for old age insurance. In its policy proposals, it laid out what would eventually become the modern welfare state. At the party's convention that August, Jane Addams, the famed founder of Hull House, delivered T.R.'s seconding speech. Bull Moose supporters hailed from all walks of life—immigrants and elites, western ranchers and eastern city-dwellers. It wasn't surprising that someone tried to assassinate Roosevelt while he campaigned in Milwaukee. The kind of reform he was proposing made a lot of powerful people very uncomfortable.

    Roosevelt's candidacy was a long shot, despite his popular support. The Democrats nominated Woodrow Wilson, a progressive governor and former Princeton University president, who appealed to many of T.R.'s more moderate backers. The Republican machine worked overtime to keep Taft in contention, even though their candidate lacked T.R.'s star power or Wilson's message. When the election results came in on 5 November 1912, Wilson claimed the presidency with a majority of the electoral vote and a plurality of the popular vote. A disheartened Roosevelt came in second. (Taft, for what it's worth, only carried Utah and Vermont.) Election night did what the assassin's bullet couldn't: it stopped the Bull Moose cold in his tracks.

  • Death

    Although Roosevelt never faded from the public eye and never lost his radicalism, he spent the last years of his life responding to history instead of making it. He nursed the wounds from his 1912 defeat by going on an expedition to Brazil, where he almost lost his life. He continued to write and speak, and appreciated the public's attention. Although he campaigned for Bull Moose candidates, the party couldn't survive Roosevelt's electoral loss in 1912. Under Wilson the Democrats repositioned themselves to court the Progressive vote, while the Republicans meted out harsh punishment to Bull Moose defectors, effectively dooming the party's future.

    Besides, within a couple years, the entire country's attention had shifted to Europe. On 28 June 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was killed by a Serbian terrorist in Sarajevo. Within months, an entangling system of alliances plunged all of Europe into war. The Great War, later known as World War I, would be the most devastating military conflict the world had yet seen. Next to that, the Bull Moose Party's domestic reform agenda seemed completely irrelevant.

    Roosevelt still found a place in the national conversation, though. T.R. had always called for war, and this war was no different. Reading about the atrocities committed by the Turks in Armenia and the Germans in Belgium moved him to rage. The United States, he argued, had a moral duty to intervene, to put an end to such barbarity. When Wilson passed censorship laws to control the press, T.R. fought them, but only so that he could keep criticizing the administration for failing to go to war. When Wilson finally did ask Congress for a declaration of war, in 1917, T.R. immediately sent his sons off to the front lines, to lead in the fight their father was too old for.

    If T.R. had lived long enough, he might have made one last return to politics. By 1917, his insistent criticism of the administration's preparation for war had made him the de-facto leader of the wartime opposition. The political boss John King, eager to see a Republican back in power, had even started planning T.R.'s candidacy in 1920. History, however, wasn't to allow it. In July, Roosevelt learned that his youngest son had been killed in combat; three months later he learned he'd lost his nephew, too. The news sapped T.R.'s motivation. His health, never quite recovered after his near-death experience in Brazil, soon took a turn for the worse. On Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, World War I ended... and T.R. was rushed in ambulance to the hospital, then kept there for six weeks. He was released back to his family for Christmas morning to spend the holidays at home. It was to be his last New Year. Two weeks later, on 6 January 1919, after putting the last touches on some articles about postwar reform for The Metropolitan Magazine, Theodore Roosevelt went to sleep, and never woke up again.

    News of Roosevelt's death sent the whole country into mourning. T.R.'s stature was already great, and, after his death, it only grew greater. He was remembered, even in his time, as a visionary with a peculiarly moral orientation. As the NAACP's eulogy put it: "With the passing of THEODORE ROOSEVELT passes the world's greatest protagonist of lofty ideals and principles. Take him all in all he was a man, generous, impulsive, fearless, loving the public eye, but intent on achieving the public good. . . . We mourn with the rest of the world as is fitting, but there is too in our sorrow a quality peculiar and apart. We have lost a friend. That he was our friend proves the justice of our cause, for Roosevelt never championed a cause with was not in essence right."

    • Family

      Father: Theodore Roosevelt (Sr.), known as Thee, 1831-1878, a wealthy New Yorker, active in his father's firm, Roosevelt and Sons
      Mother: Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, known as Mittie, 1835-1884, scion of a prominent southern family
      Elder Sister: Anna Roosevelt Cowles, known as Bamie or, in later life, Bye, 1855-1931
      Younger Brother: Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt, 1860-1894, father of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt
      Younger Sister: Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, known as Conie, 1861-1933.

      First Wife: Alice Hathaway Lee-Roosevelt, 1861-1884, Boston Brahmin
      Daughter: Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, 1884-1980

      Second Wife: Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt, 1861-1948, childhood friend of the Roosevelts
      Eldest Son: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., 1887-1944, officer and politician
      Son: Kermit Roosevelt, 1889-1943, laborer and officer
      Daughter: Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby, 1891-1977, progressive activist and nurse
      Son: Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, known as Archie, 1894-1979, executive and officer
      Youngest Son: Quentin Roosevelt, 1897-1918, pilot

      Granddaughter: Paulina Longworth, 1925-1957, daughter of Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth and Nicholas Longworth

      Granddaughter: Grace Green Roosevelt, 1911-1993, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt
      Grandson: Theodore Roosevelt III, 1914-2001, son of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt
      Grandson: Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt, 1915-1991, son of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt
      Grandson: Quentin Roosevelt II, 1919-1948, son of Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Eleanor Butler Alexander Roosevelt

      Grandson: Kermit Roosevelt, Jr., 1916-2000, son of Kermit Roosevelt and Belle Wyatt Willard Roosevelt
      Grandson: Joseph Willard Roosevelt, 1918-2008 , son of Kermit Roosevelt and Belle Wyatt Willard Roosevelt
      Granddaughter: Belle Wyatt Roosevelt, 1919-1985, daughter of Kermit Roosevelt and Belle Wyatt Willard Roosevelt
      Grandson: Dirck Roosevelt, 1925-1952, son of Kermit Roosevelt and Belle Wyatt Willard Roosevelt

      Grandson: Richard Derby, Jr., 1914-1922, son of Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby and Dr. Richard Derby
      Granddaughter: Edith Derby, 1917-2008, daughter of Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby and Dr. Richard Derby
      Granddaughter: Sarah Alden Derby, 1920-1999, daughter of Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby and Dr. Richard Derby
      Granddaughter: Judith Quentin Derby Ames, 1923-1973, daughter of Ethel Carow Roosevelt Derby and Dr. Richard Derby

      Grandson: Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt, Jr., 1918-1990, son of Archibald Roosevelt and Grace Lockwood Roosevelt
      Granddaughter: Theodora Roosevelt, usually known as Theodora Keogh, 1919-2008, daughter of Archibald Roosevelt and Grace Lockwood Roosevelt
      Granddaughter: Nancy Dabney Roosevelt, 1923-, daughter of Archibald Roosevelt and Grace Lockwood Roosevelt
      Granddaughter: Edith Kermit Roosevelt, 1926-2003, daughter of Archibald Roosevelt and Grace Lockwood Roosevelt

    • Education

      A.B., Harvard College, 1880
      Studies at Columbia Law School, 1880-1882

    • Work Experience

      Assemblyman, New York state legislature, Albany, 1881-1884
      Rancher, Dakotas, 1884-1886
      Founder and advocate, Boone and Crockett club, New York, 1888
      Commissioner, Civil Service Commission, Washington D.C., 1889-1895
      President, Board of Police Commissioners, New York City, 1895-1897
      Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Washington D.C., 1897-1898
      Lt. Colonel (subsequently promoted to Full Colonel), Rough Riders, 1898
      Governor of New York, Albany, 1898-1901
      Vice-President of the United States, Washington D.C., 1901
      President of the United States, Washington D.C., 1901-1909
      Staff writer, The Outlook, 1909-1914
      Staff writer, The Metropolitan, 1914-1919

    • Major Works

      The Naval War of 1812, 1882
      Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, 1885
      The Winning of the West, 1889-1896
      Hero Tales from American History, with Henry Cabot Lodge, 1895
      The Rough Riders, 1899
      The Strenuous Life, 1900
      African Game Trails, 1910
      "The New Nationalism," 1910
      Autobiography, 1913
      History as Literature, 1913
      Through the Brazilian Wilderness, 1913
      A Book Lover's Holiday in the Open, 1916
      The Foes of Our Own Household, 1917

    • Awards

      Medal of Honor, nominated 1898, conferred 2001
      Nobel Peace Prize, 1906
      Honorary degrees from, among others, Oxford, Cambridge, and La Sorbonne, 1910
      Associate member, Institut de France, 1910
      President, American Historical Association, 1912