Happy Birthday Teddy Roosevelt 

Happy Birthday Teddy Roosevelt 

U.S. #557 was issued on Roosevelt’s 64th birthday.
US #557 was issued on Roosevelt’s 64th birthday.

Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was born October 27, 1858, in New York City, the second of four children.

Roosevelt suffered from asthma and other sicknesses throughout his childhood.  Despite this, he was often active and mischievous, taking great joy in activities outdoors.  Roosevelt had a photographic memory and excelled in geography, history, biology, French, and German.

By the time Roosevelt was a student at Harvard, he was an accomplished naturalist, published ornithologist, and editor of The Harvard Advocate.  While at Harvard and after graduation, Roosevelt wrote a book on the role of the US Navy in the War of 1812.  The book was highly praised and established Roosevelt as a serious historian.

U.S. #830 from the popular Presidential Series.
US #830 – from the popular Presidential Series

In 1881 Roosevelt was elected to the New York Assembly and quickly became a major figure in state politics and a “rising star” in the Republican Party.  He served three terms, writing more bills than any other New York State legislator.  A fallout during the 1884 Republican National Convention disillusioned him to party politics and he decided to retire to his ranch in the Badlands in the Dakota Territory.

Roosevelt embraced the Western lifestyle – learning to ride a horse, rope, and hunt.  He also wrote three books on life there and served as a deputy sheriff.  When a particularly rough winter destroyed his $80,000 investment and herd of cattle, Roosevelt moved back East to Sagamore Hill.  In 1886, he unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York, campaigning as “The Cowboy of the Dakotas.”

US #1023 honors Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill.

During the 1888 Presidential election season, Roosevelt campaigned for Benjamin Harrison throughout the Midwest.  Upon his election, Harrison appointed Roosevelt to the US Civil Service Commission.  In that role, he fought tirelessly for the enforcement of civil service laws.

U.S. #1039 from the Liberty Series.
US #1039 – from the Liberty Series

After leaving his Civil Service post, Roosevelt became president of the board of New York City police commissioners in 1895.  He established new disciplinary rules, a bicycle squad, and required the use of pistols by officers.  He also called for regular inspections of guns, annual physical exams, service medals, installed telephones in station houses, appointed 1,600 recruits based on their physical and mental qualifications, and put an end to corrupt practices.  He made a habit of walking officers’ late night and early morning beats, to assure that they were on duty.

In 1897, President William McKinley appointed Roosevelt assistant secretary of the Navy.  Ten days after the battleship Maine exploded in Cuba, Roosevelt’s superior was unconscious for four hours, making him acting secretary.  Roosevelt told the Navy to prepare for war, ordered ammunition and supplies, and consulted experts.  He asked Congress for the authority to recruit sailors, which helped move America toward the Spanish-American War.

Item #97715 – Roosevelt Commemorative Medal Cover

With America’s declaration of war the following year, Roosevelt resigned from his post to raise a group of volunteers to fight.  He got cowboys from the West and Ivy League friends from New York, creating the First US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the “Rough Riders.”  Landing in Daiquiri, Cuba, the Rough Riders marched past the 1st Infantry Division and engaged with the Spanish forces at the Battle of Las Guasimas.  They forced their way through the Spanish lines, causing the enemy to retreat earlier than planned.

After Roosevelt was promoted to colonel, he led the riders on their now-famous charges of Kettle and San Juan Hills on July 1, 1898.  However, malaria and other diseases took a greater toll on his men than the battle and he demanded that they be returned home.  He was then nominated for a Medal of Honor but disapproved, though he was posthumously awarded it in 2001.

Returning to civilian life, Roosevelt was elected governor of New York in 1898.  His sweeping attempts to rid the state of corruption and machine politics got him placed as William McKinley’s running mate in the 1900 election.  Roosevelt campaigned around the country, leading to a landslide victory for the Republicans.

U.S. #2218g – 1986 Roosevelt First Day Cover.
US #2218g – 1986 Roosevelt First Day Cover

Roosevelt’s six months as vice president were relatively uneventful until September 6, 1901 when an assassin shot President McKinley.  At first, the doctors believed he would make a full recovery, so Roosevelt resumed his vacation in the Adirondacks at the Tahawus Club near Newcomb, NY.  McKinley’s condition worsened however, and Roosevelt left around midnight for the train station in North Creek.  It was a 35 mile journey by horse-drawn wagon that typically would take about seven hours in daylight, but was completed in less than six.  It was at the train station, in the early hours of September 14, that Roosevelt learned that McKinley had not survived.  Roosevelt was sworn-in as president later that day in Buffalo at 3:30 pm.  A few weeks before his 43rd birthday, he became the youngest man to ever hold the nation’s highest office.

Upon taking office, Roosevelt promised to uphold McKinley’s policies and retain his cabinet.  One of his first significant acts was delivering a 20,000-word address to Congress, urging them to limit the power of large corporations (also known as trusts).  His firm stance on the issue earned him the nickname “trust-buster.”  Roosevelt also established the Department of Commerce and Labor, to make labor and management issues more widely known.

One of the first major obstacles Roosevelt faced came in 1902, when a coal strike nearly ended in a national emergency (as the coal was used to heat most homes).  Roosevelt forced the strike to end by threatening to send in the US Army to mine the coal.  He then oversaw negotiations, getting the miners and owners to agree to the findings of a commission.

President Roosevelt also took strides to improve the quality of food and medicine, by pushing Congress to pass the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act.  These laws required foods and drugs to be properly labeled, for meat to be inspected, and for meatpacking plants to maintain sanitary conditions.

U.S. #3182b from the Celebrate the Century series.
US #3182b – from the Celebrate the Century Series

Roosevelt dedicated much of his time in the White House to protecting natural resources.  He pushed for the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, which provided for federal construction of dams to irrigate farms.  It also placed 230 million acres under federal protection.  During his term, Roosevelt set aside more federal land in national parks and nature preserves than all the presidents before him combined.  He established the US Forest Service and created five new National Parks.  Roosevelt also passed the 1906 Antiquities Act, under which he established 18 new US National Monuments.  Additionally, he created America’s first 51 bird reserves, 4 game preserves, and 150 national forests.

In 1904, the president added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine.  This addition promised that the US would help Caribbean and Central American countries if they could not pay their debts to European creditors.  This move was particularly aimed at Germany, which was prepared to seize ports in Venezuela.  As a result of the corollary, Germany took no action and peace remained in the region.

U.S. #CZ138 – Canal Zone stamp honoring Roosevelt.
US #CZ138 – Canal Zone stamp honoring Roosevelt

Roosevelt considered the Panama Canal to be one of his greatest achievements.  Work began on it in 1903, when he encouraged the people of Panama to establish themselves as an independent nation from Columbia (which had refused to work with America in building a canal across the isthmus).  Roosevelt sent naval vessels to the area, allowing the Panamanian rebels to secede without major confrontation.  As a new nation, Panama sold the Canal Zone to the US for $10 million.  Roosevelt saw the canal as vital to protecting America’s interests and strengthening the US Navy.

Roosevelt left office in 1909 and embarked on an African safari, collecting specimens for the Smithsonian Institution and American Museum of Natural History.  He ran for president in 1912, was shot by an assassin moments before delivering a speech, and failed to win the election that year.  He remained active despite the shooting, but died in his sleep on January 6, 1919, following a two-month illness.  Then-US Vice President Thomas R. Marshall said, “Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

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15 responses to "Happy Birthday Teddy Roosevelt "

15 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Teddy Roosevelt ”

  1. The business on Panama was a bit more complicated. But Roosevelt did get the Canal Zone. You do what you have to do in his case.

    Reply
  2. More than anything, it was losing his mother to typhoid fever and his wife in childbirth, both within hours of each other that sent the deeply stricken Roosevelt to the North Dakota Badlands where he attempted to burry his grief in the hard work of ranching. And, thankfully for our nation, he succeeded.

    Reply
    • Teddy Roosevelt was quite a man. I am now reading a book about his Amazon basin explorations with the Brazilian government. His son Kermit went with him and they traveled the uncharted River of Doubt (Duvida). The book mentioned the speech given in Milwaukee after the attempted assasination. With the bullet still in him he gave the speech. He was quite a man!

      Reply
  3. We sure could use a leader like TR today! Don’t make them like that anymore, just light weight wimps!!! The last GREAT President was Reagan!

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  4. My Father was born in 1879 (yes, my Father!) and joined the Rough Riders in 1898. Told me a story about finding a really nice horse, a white horse, on the island, that he wanted to keep for himself, but had to give it to his commander instead. My Father was 68 when I was born, and died 13 years later, at age 81.I was really too young to appreciate fully the things my Father accomplished – would have liked now to know more stories about his commander (was it TR?, etc.).

    Reply
    • Quintin’s grave was moved to the American cemetery at Colleville sur Mer just above Omaha Beach in Normandie. His grave is just beside his brother’s grave, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. who died shortly after the D-Day landings.

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      • TR, Jr. received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on D-Day. When Teddy was awarded the MoH during Clinton’s administration (for action at the Battle of San Juan Hill) they became only the second father and son recipients after Arthur MacArthur and Douglas MacArthur.

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  5. One of our greatest presidents. His public service of fighting corruption, from president of the New York City police commissioners to governor of New York, is most admirable. A great lesson for anyone entering public service.

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  6. I never tire of reading about TR & his contributions to our country. Many thanks Mystic Stamp for this wonderful segment on his life.

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    • Isn’t that refreshing…an actual intelligent adult as President of the United States. We haven’t had that since, how long ago? Oh yes, almost four years ago.

      Reply
  7. Of course, NYC’s Museum of Natural History decided to remove his statue in the wake of this year’s anti-racism protests because the Native American in the statue was deemed sub-servient!

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