Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt
Born:October 27, 1858, New York City
Died:January 6, 1919, Oyster Bay, New York
Theodore Roosevelt served as America's 26th President of the United States, following the assassination of William McKinley in Buffalo, New York in 1901. Roosevelt, who was 42 at the time, was the youngest person to serve as President. He left the Presidency in 1909, trying to regain it from incumbent William Howard Taft in 1912, when he waged the most successful third-party campaign in the history of the United States
Roosevelt was born in the home of Theodore and Mittie (Martha Bulloch) Roosevelt, 28 East 20th Street in Gramercy Park, one of the wealthiest families in New York. His father was a descendent of the Dutch merchants while his mother hailed from Georgia aristocracy, but was not raised on a plantation.
Stricken with nearly debilatating asthma as a youth, Roosevelt had many physical ailments, but he and his family managed a trip to Europe in 1869 and a journey to Egypt and other places in 1872. According to legend one of his tutors predicted he would be "...President of the United States."
Overcoming the illnesses of childhood, Teddy boxed at Harvard while graduating Magna Cum Laude before entering Columbia Law School. He dropped out of Columbia to run for successfully for the New York State Assembly in 1881, where the future president distinguished himself as an ardent reformer.
Roosevelt married his first wife Alice Hathaway Lee in 1880. Mrs. Roosevelt died shortly after the birth of their first child in 1884, the same day his mother died from typhoid fever. This double tragedy spawned an incredible personal odessy that took him into the old West where he purchased a ranch in the Badlands of South Dakota. It was during this time that he became a passionate hunter.
He returned to New York in 1886 marrying Edith Kermit Carow and continuing with his career in the public spotlight, losing the New York mayoral race that year. An early campaigner against the spoils system, Roosevelt led the Civil Service Commission so successfully during Benjamin Harrison's term that Democrat Grover Cleveland reappointed him in 1893. During his tenure he expanded the role of the commission, doubling the number of jobs falling under its auspices. As Commissioner of New York City Police he increased the roll-out of technology to the precincts, including telephones, the use of automobiles and certain fingerprinting techniques.
His first role under President William McKinley was as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. In 1898 Roosevelt resigned, forming and taking command of the "Rough Riders." During Battle of San Juan Hill in July 1898 they charged and took a nearby hill.
Upon his return, Teddy Roosevelt was elected governor of New York. His activist and reform policies alienated the political machine under the control of Thomas C. Platt. At the 1900 Republican Convention, Platt teamed with Matthew Quay (PA) to ensure Roosevelt would be tapped as Vice-President to replace Hobart, who died in 1899. McKinley and Roosevelt easily defeated Democrats William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson, Sr.
President McKinley was assassinated on September 14, 1901, and Teddy Roosevelt became President. From the start, Roosevelt's term of office was going to be different. He began to enforce the Sherman Anti-trust Act, so he was called a trust-buster. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle made the public aware of food handling, so he began the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). He sought to create a world power, building the Panama Canal and sending the Great White Fleet on a world-wide run. He also began purchasing public land, mostly in the Western United States.
In 1904 Roosevelt ran for President with Charles Fairbanks as his V.P., winning a landslide victory. In 1906 he became the first American to win a Nobel Prize, winning the Peace Prize for "...President Roosevelt's happy role in bringing to an end the bloody war recently waged between two of the world's great powers, Japan and Russia." Because of the constraints of being President, Roosevelt had Herbert H.D. Pierce pick up his prize, not giving a speech to the group until May 5, 1910
Dissatisfied with William Taft, in 1912 Roosevelt launched the most successful third party in history. Although technically the Progressive Party it was better known as the Bull Moose Party, after a comment Teddy Roosevelt once made about feeling as healthy as a bull moose. Roosevelt and Taft split the conservative vote, allowing Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the White House.