Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States from 1901 until 1909. He took over the presidency when William McKinley died in office. Before becoming president, during, and after, Teddy lived a pretty amazing life. Here are 20 little-known facts about Teddy Roosevelt that prove he was totally hardcore.
He Was a Sickly Child
Although Teddy was known as a tough guy as an adult, as a child, he was sickly. He had asthma that was so severe that it caused a great deal of anxiety for Teddy and his family. His asthma attacks would strike mostly at night, and the doctors couldn’t find a treatment. He would wake up every night, gasping for air. To treat his condition, he would force himself into vigorous activities. When he was 10-years-old, his exercise regimen paid off, and he was able to climb the Swiss Alps with his father.
When Teddy was on a camping trip, two older boys roughed him up. He never wanted to feel that humiliation that he felt that day again, so he was going to prepare himself if he were ever to find himself in that situation again. He found a trainer who taught him how to box. It was part of his exercise regimen for his asthma and played an essential role in his life later.
He Tracked Down Thieves
Teddy loved the outdoors, and he had a boat on the Little Missouri River at his Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota. When Teddy was a Billings County Deputy Sheriff, a couple of thieves made the mistake of stealing his boat. He gathered two of his ranch hands, Bill Seawall and Wilmot Dow, to find the thieves. Because they took Teddy’s only boat, he and the two ranch hands spent two days building an improvised boat. After a three day chase, they caught the thieves and arrested them. Because the incident occurred during the winter, the river was covered with ice. It took eight days for them to get the prisoners to jail.
Teddy was always amazed by the glamours life of cowboys. He wanted to be a cowboy so much that he bought his own ranch, Elkhorn, and his ranch hands taught him the tricks of the trade. The cowboys in the area had great respect for Teddy for trying so hard. They weren’t too impressed by his abilities, but over time, he learned the western style of horse riding, and also how to rope steers. He loved his life on the ranch, but he had a calling for the public life that was too strong to ignore. Being a cowboy was a short-lived passion.
The Rough Riders
When America went to war with Spain in 1898, he had a job as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He didn’t want to sit on the sidelines during the war, so he formed the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, which was called the “Rough Rider” by the press. His friends tried to talk him out of taking the risk of going into combat, but he refused. He felt that it was up to him to do his part during the war.
Teddy felt that forming a regiment to fight in the Spanish-American War wasn’t enough. He wanted to be the one to lead the troops to battle. When he achieved the rank of Colonel, Teddy had his chance to lead the troops in Cuba at the Battle of San Juan Hill in July 1898. The Spanish were waiting on top of Kettle Hill. Teddy charged his troops in an uphill charge, which led to hand-to-hand combat against the Spanish. They managed to dislodge the Spanish force from the hill. In 2001, Colonel Roosevelt, many years after his death, was awarded the Medal of Honor. He is the only U.S. President to have received this highest military bravery award.
Honeymooning On the Matterhorn
Teddy married his first wife, Alice, in 1880. After the wedding, the couple had to put their honeymoon on hold because of Teddy’s academic commitments. When they finally do go on their honeymoon, they didn’t spend it lying on a sandy beach. Instead, Teddy chose to scale one of the most challenging Swiss Mountains, the Matterhorn. A doctor told him shortly before the trip that over-exertion could be fatal. This didn’t dissuade him, and he climbed the mountain with two guides. Nobody knows what Alice did to keep herself busy while her new husband risked his life climbing the Alpine peak.
Skinny Dipping In the Winter
Teddy loved action and adventure, and that stayed with him most of his life. He often took a dip in the icy waters of the Potomac River during the cold winter months. While many people think that the people of the 20th century were prudes, Teddy wasn’t one of them. He would get into the icy waters buck naked. He even took the French Ambassador, Jusserand, with him for a swim. Someone told the Ambassador that he forgot to remove his gloves. The Ambassador said that he would leave them on just in case they met some ladies.
A Boxing Injury
Teddy boxed as a child, and he continued to box as an adult. When he was President, he would spar with young military aides in the White House. In 1908, at the age of 50, he took a severe blow to the eye, which caused a retinal detachment. The injury caused him to lose his vision in that eye. He didn’t take it too seriously; he said that he was getting too old for boxing. Instead, he took up jujitsu for a few years.
He Was Shot
America has a sad history of U.S. President assassinations and attempted assassinations. Teddy found himself at the wrong end of a bullet during a campaign rally in Milwaukee. In October 1912, a barkeep named John Schrank shot him with a .38-caliber Colt. The bullet hit him in the chest, but the force was slowed by his steel eyeglass case and the 50-page speech that he had in his pocket. Rather than going right to the hospital, he finished his 90-minute speech. The opening words to his 90-minute speech were, “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot, but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” After the speech, he allowed the medics to take him to the hospital to treat his wound.
A River Of Doubt
In 1913, the adventurous Teddy Roosevelt took a dangerous expedition through South America. The trek took him to the Rio da Duvida, which translates to, River of Doubt. During the trip, Teddy cut his leg, which quickly became infected. Soon, he developed a high fever. He could barely walk, and he lost 50 pounds during the remainder of his journey. When he returned to New York, he told a friend that his trip had taken ten years off his life. He died five years later at the age of 61. After his death, the Rio da Duvida was renamed, Roosevelt River.
He Was a Taxidermist
When Teddy was 7-years-old, he and his two cousins created The Roosevelt Museum of Natural History at their home. Teddy was at the market one day when he saw a dead seal. He asked the seller to give him the seal’s head, and he agreed. Teddy took it home and learned the basics of taxidermy. Over time, she killed and stuffed many animals for his museum. Teddy didn’t like doing this to be cruel because he was a naturalist. He took the trouble to learn as much as possible about each of the animals in his collection.
Teddy’s love for hunting didn’t end when he was a child. In 1909, when his presidency came to an end, he went on safari to Africa. His goal was to collect specimens for the Smithsonian and also for New York’s Natural History Museum. Along with his colleagues, he killed and collected over 11,000 animals from insects to elephants. They even had six white rhinos, which were very rare back then. He preserved the dead animals in salt and then sent them back to Washington. It would be many years before the animals were ready for the exhibition.
The Invention Of the Teddy Bear
Teddy was hunting one day when he came across a bear. The animal was well past his prime and tied to a tree. This wasn’t the type of animal that Teddy hunted, so he didn’t pull the trigger. Instead, he let the elderly bear out of the ropes and sent him on his way. The reason the bear was tied up was that Teddy went a few days without spotting a bear, so the guides wanted to help him. When the press caught wind of Teddy’s reluctance to shoot the bear, a cartoon resulted. A German toymaker created the “Teddy Bear,” and the bear was sold in a New York candy store. Since then, the Teddy Bear has been one of the most popular stuffed animals around the world.
Still a Warrior
When World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, Teddy decided that he was the right person to lead a force of 200,000 U.S. troops to join in on the Allied side against the Germans. At the time, he was 58-years-old and in poor health due to his trip to the River of Doubt. The public rallied for Teddy’s support, but President Woodrow Wilson declined his offer. Sadly, Teddy’s son, Quentin, a pilot in the war, was shot down and killed in France during the last year of the war. He was only 20 when he died, and according to reports, Teddy never got over his son’s death.
Nobel Peace Prize
Despite his time at war, Teddy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. He was the first United States President to do so, but he wouldn’t be the last. He was awarded the prize for his role as mediator in the talks that ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905, which ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth.
A year after Teddy became President, he found out about the corruption in the government. The Land Office, the Post Office Department, and the Indian Service were all corrupt. He was determined to root out all of the fraud among government agents. The agents who swindled Native Americans out of their land were prosecuted. The staff at the Land Office were involved, and Teddy forced the General Land Office Commissioner, Binger Hermann, to resign. At the Post Office, 44 staff members were charged with corruption. In all, there were 146 indictments.
Taking On Big Business
It wasn’t just the corruption in the government that Teddy wanted to end. It was also big business. Any business where he saw shady practices became his enemy.
Brawl At a Saloon
It isn’t too often that a U.S. President gets into a saloon brawl, but Teddy did. In 1884, he walked into a bar in Mingusville, Montana for a drink. When he entered, he saw a man holding two guns walking around the bar. Before Teddy arrived, the man was shooting the clock. When the man called Teddy, “four-eyes” because of his glassed, Teddy used his boxing skills and knocked the man out.
Seven years after the Wright Brothers took their famous flight, Teddy came across a plane in St. Louis. It was held together with string, but Teddy didn’t care because he wanted to fly. He flew around the airfield twice and was the first U.S. President to ever go up in a plane.