Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was the 26th president of the United States, and he’s one of the four men that have been immortalized in the form of Mount Rushmore.
While he first became president in 1901 after the assassination of President McKinley, he won the election of 1904 for his first full term. During that time, he championed many efforts that fell under the ideology of the “Square Deal” platform, which promised fairness to the average citizen by regulating certain things, like railroads, pure food and drugs, and domestic policies.
But Roosevelt was far more than a politician. He had many jobs before and after his presidency, including being a cowboy, assistant secretary of the Navy, author of 35 books, and war hero.
Mind you, that’s just scratching the surface.
The following 12 facts about President Teddy Roosevelt’s life are sad, impressive, surprising, and incredibly unexpected. I honestly had never heard of any of these facets before.
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1. His Mother And Wife Died On The Same Day, In The Same Home
Valentine’s Day of 1884 was not a happy one for Teddy Roosevelt. His mother (pictured above) passed away from typhoid just under 12 hours before Alice, his first wife, passed away from childbirth complications. Their first child was born just two days before. On that February 14, Roosevelt wrote in his diary that all the light in his life disappeared that day.
2. After The Tragedy, He Moved West
He dealt with this horrific day by leaving Manhattan, his home, for the wild west. He became a cowboy in North Dakota, learning everything from how to ride a horse to rope cattle and hunt. He claimed that the men who taught him how to ranch took the New York snob out of him and that he never would have run for president if it weren’t for those formative years.
3. Upon His Return To New York, He Became Police Commissioner
While in this post, he essentially turned the whole system around, firing the police chief and strongly enforcing vice laws. He also created what was to become the modern day Police Academy. He held such a tight shift that he would go on midnight walks in disguise to make sure that all of his officers were doing their jobs, and wrote, “These midnight rambles are great fun.”
4. He Gave An Hour-Long Speech With A Bullet In His Ribs
While running for president in 1912 for the Bull Moose party, he was shot on his way to give a speech. Luckily, his rolled up speech and his metal glasses case deflected the bullet… mostly. He refused to divert to the hospital and insisted upon giving the speech, which lasted a full hour. During that speech, he said, “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.”
When he finally did go to the hospital, they found the bullet lodged between his ribs. It stayed there for the rest of his life.
5. An Artillery Officer Blinded Him In The Left Eye While He Was President
Roosevelt was an incredibly athletic man who used to box for Harvard. During his presidency, he continued to spar with former professional boxers and talented young men. During one of these matches, an artillery officer hit him in the left eye so hard, it ruptured a blood vessel and he was left mostly blind in that eye for the rest of his life.
6. He Had A Gigantic Tattoo
He is the only president ever known to have inked his body. Roosevelt had a large image of his family crest right across his chest.
7. He Volunteered To Lead An Infantry Unit In World War I
At age 58, he lobbied President Woodrow Wilson to let him go to France and lead 200,000 men on the ground. He was never called to action.
8. He Went Skinny Dipping As President
During his term, he took dignitaries and soldiers alike on naked swims across the Potomac river, as well as on strenuous hikes. He always chose the widest stretch of river and the steepest trail to follow, as that’s what aligned with his rough and tough lifestyle.
9. He Was A Very Sickly Child
He had asthma, he could hardly see, and he was, in general, a sickly child. But his father told him that he had the mind, not just the body. He had to make his own body.
That’s when Roosevelt started taking up athletics, like hiking and hunting. This outdoorsy, tough lifestyle made his ailments gradually disappear, and that’s what made him into the hard-working, active man he grew up to be.
10. He Organized The First U.S. Volunteer Calvary Unit
In 1898, he helped form the Rough Riders. While in this group, he led the charge on San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American war, which he would become recognized for coming out victorious.
11. He Was The First Conservationist President
During his term, he established five new national parks after founding the United States Forest Service. He also set aside 42 million acres as national forests and places of interest that were not to be developed, and rather conserved.
12. He's Responsible For The Completion Of The Panama Canal
After the French abandoned the project due to malaria, Roosevelt saw the great opportunity for America and offered to finish the project if America could reclaim ownership of the territory. In 1904, he sent surgeons and sanitation engineers to address the mosquito problem, and in 1914, the canal was finished. More than a century later, the canal still sees 14,000 ships pass through each year.
I have a newfound respect for this man. He clearly had a vision for how he wanted to live his life and change the world.
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