- Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.
Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. (
September 22, 1831– February 9, 1878) was the father of U.S. President Theodore Rooseveltand the paternal grandfather of American first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He was the son of Cornelius Van Schaak Roosevelt and Margaret Barnhill. He was a fourth-generation Dutch New Yorker and participant in the Roosevelt family business of plate-glass importing, Roosevelt and Son.
Roosevelt Sr. was a noted
New York Cityphilanthropist. He helped found the New York City Children's Aid Society, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, and the New York Children's Orthopaedic Hospital. A participant in the dazzling New York society life, he was described by one historian as a man of both "good works and good times."
Marriage to Martha Bulloch in 1853
Theodore Roosevelt Sr.'s wife was Martha "Mittie" Bulloch of
Roswell, Georgia, who was born in 1835 and died in 1884. They were married on December 22, 1853, at Martha's historic family mansion, Bulloch Hallin Roswell, Georgia. Theodore Sr.'s son would visit Bulloch Hallin 1904 as the 26th U.S. president.
Theodore and Mittie had two daughters and two sons. His eldest child was Anna, nicknamed "Bamie" as a child and "Bye," as an adult for being always on the go. His eldest son was Theodore, Jr. born at 28 East 20th Street in the modern-day Gramercy section of
New York Cityon October 27 1858. He also had a second son, Elliott (the father of future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt) and a second daughter Corinne (grandmother to columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop).
Roosevelt founded the New York Orthopedic Hospital. Roosevelt's daughter, Corinne wrote this account of its origins: Roosevelt's daughter, Bamie, was born with a curved spine, and Roosevelt found a young doctor, Charles Fayette Taylor, who had developed groundbreaking methods of treating physical defects in children, including braces and other equipment, Roosevelt organized what appeared to be a social party for the upper crust of New York City. When the would-be revelers arrived, however, what they saw to their great surprise, were small children in new braces specially constructed for them. Moved to tears by the sight, one of the wealthiest socialites, Mrs.
John Jacob Astor IIIsaid, "Theodore, you are right; these children must be restored and made into active citizens again and I for one will help you in your work." That same day enough money was collected to start the hospital. Friends of Roosevelt used to see him coming and note the look in his eyes only to say to him, "How much is it this time, Theodore?"
An orphan given a start
Another example of the far-reaching nature of Roosevelt's work for the less fortunate of
New York Citywas his influence on a young orphan boy, found on the streets of New York City. When this boy grew up, he approached Roosevelt's son, Theodore, by that time governor of New Yorkat a conference in Portland, Oregonin 1900 when the younger Roosevelt was running for US vice president. When introduced to the young governor from New York, the former orphan said to him, "Governor Roosevelt, the other governors have greeted you with interest, simply as a fellow governor and a great American, but I greet you with infinitely more interest, as the son of your father, the first Theodore Roosevelt." When asked by Governor Roosevelt why and in what special way he had been interested in his father, Governor Brady replied, "Your father picked me up on the streets of New York, a waif and an orphan, and sent me to a Western family, paying for my transportation and early care. Years passed and I was able to repay the money which had given me my start in life, but I can never repay what he did for me, for it was through that early care and by giving me such a foster mother and father that I gradually rose in the world until I greet his son as a fellow governor of a part of our great country." That former orphan was John Green Brady, governor of Alaskafrom 1897 to 1906.
His son's recollections
Of Theodore Sr., or "Thee," as he was known, his son, in his autobiography described him in the following words:
My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness. As we grew older he made us understand that the same standard of clean living was demanded for the boys as for the girls; that what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. With great love and patience, and the most understanding sympathy and consideration, he combined insistence on discipline. He never physically punished me but once, but he was the only man of whom I was ever really afraid. I do not mean that it was a wrong fear, for he was entirely just, and we children adored him.....
I never knew any one who got greater joy out of living than did my father, or any one who more whole-heartedly performed every duty; and no one whom I have ever met approached his combination of enjoyment of life and performance of duty. He and my mother were given to a hospitality that at that time was associated more commonly with southern than northern households....
My father worked hard at his business, for he died when he was forty-six, too early to have retired. He was interested in every social reform movement, and he did an immense amount of practical charitable work himself. He was a big, powerful man, with a leonine face, and his heart filled with gentleness for those who needed help or protection, and with the possibility of much wrath against a bully or an oppressor.... [He] was greatly interested in the societies to prevent cruelty to children and cruelty to animals. On Sundays he had a mission class." [ [http://www.bartleby.com/55/ Autobiography from the Bartleby Web site] ]
upport for the Union during the Civil War
Theodore Sr. was an active supporter of the Union during the Civil War. He was one of the Charter Members of the Union League Club, which was founded to promote the Northern cause. He has not been listed as such, probably because his wife was a loyal supporter of the Confederacy. It was perhaps because of her active support of the Confederate Army that Theodore Sr. hired a replacement to fulfill his draft obligation in the
Army of the Potomac. During the war, he and two friends, William E. Dodge, Jr. and Theodore B. Bronson, drew up an Allotment System, which amounted to a soldier's payroll deduction program to support families back home. He then went to Washington, lobbied for, and won acceptance of this system, with the help of Abraham Lincoln himself. Theodore Sr. and Mr. Dodge were appointed Allotment Commissioners from NY State. At their own expense, the two men toured all NY divisions of the Army of the Potomac in the field to explain this program and sign interested men up, with a significant degree of success. In 1864, the Union League Club recruited money and food to send Thanksgiving Dinner to the entire Army of the Potomac. Theodore Sr. served as Treasurer for this generous outpouring of support for the troops. The elder Roosevelt meticulously listed every donation received in a Union League Report dated December 1864.
eeming contradiction of his avoidance of military service
Despite all these works by Thee for his country and for the northern soldiers, one aspect of his life always remained a source of regret by his son and future president, Theodore (TR). Thee never personally served in the military. Instead, Thee paid for another soldier to take his place. This was perfectly legal, but something was the one seemingly contradictory aspect of his character that Theodore Jr. could never really accept. It did not matter to his son, that Thee often was far more exposed to hostile action while visiting front-line troops than many soldiers who never saw a shot fired in anger. It would influence his son's own decision to actively seek a combat role in the
Spanish-American Warwith a volunteer cavalry regiment, that the press would call the " Rough Riders."
This lack of military service needs to be understood within its context. Thee was married to a true southern belle, the former Martha "Mittie" Bulloch a beautiful and wonderfully gay woman at her best of times, not unlike
Margaret Mitchell's fictional Scarlett O'Haraof whom Mittie was probably one real-life source; Mitchell had interviewed Mittie's best childhood friend and bridesmaid, Evelyn King, for a story in the Atlanta Journal newspaper in the early 1930s. In that interview Martha's remarkable beauty, charm and fun-loving nature was laid out in detail. At her worst, however, Mittie was a highly sensitive and emotionally fragile woman. At the least provocation, Mittie would withdraw for days into a self-imposed isolation. During these times, she would be invisible both to the family and to her social life, withdrawing to her room, taking one bath after another and suffering from a host of illnesses. Add to this the fact that his wife, Mittie was terrified for her brothers, James and Irvine Bullochwho were both involved in the Civil War on the Confederate side. James was a confederate agent in Britain and Irvine was the youngest officer on the CSS Alabama, firing the last gun before the ship sank in battle off the coast of France. These emotional crises were mitigated somewhat by the incredible maturity and management abilities of the eldest daughter, Bamie, who often stepped into a leadership role, especially when her father, "Thee" was often out of town in Washington, visiting Lincoln and lobbying Congress for programs to support the northern troops in the field and their families back home. Nevertheless, had Thee left his delicate home situation to literally fight against his wife's brothers and her southern kinfolk, the emotional consequences to his already fragile wife would probably have been catastrophic.
His death, and its impact on his eldest son
He died at the age of 46 from a gastrointestinal tumor which caused him great pain for months, and prevented him from eating. Initially, he kept the extent of his illness from his son, who was away attending Harvard. At the end, however, Theodore Jr. was informed and immediately took a train from Cambridge to New York, where he missed his father's death by a few hours. Brands has argued that this contributed heavily to the younger Theodore's psychology. [ Brands, 1997, p. 80. ]
Notes and references
*Roosevelt, Theodore. "An Autobiography." (1913)
*Beale Howard K. "Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power" (1956).
*Brands, Howard W. T.R.: The last Romantic. 1997 Basic Books ISBN 0465069592. See page 80 for the death of TR, Sr.
*Brands, H.W. "Theodore Roosevelt" (2001)
*Dalton, Kathleen. "Theodore Roosevelt: A Strenuous Life." (2002)
*Harbaugh, William Henry. "The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt." (1963)
*McCullouch, David. "Mornings on Horseback, The Story of an Extraordinary Family. a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt" (2001)
*Morris, Edmund "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" (1979)
*Morris, Edmund "Theodore Rex". (2001)
*Mowry, George. "The era of Theodore Roosevelt and the birth of modern America, 1900-1912." (1954)
*Renehan, Edward J. "The Lion's Pride: Theodore Roosevelt and His Family in Peace and War" (1998)
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