Losing Quentin

One hundred years ago today in France, an American first lieutenant died in a dogfight.   He was just twenty years old and had been trying hard to pilot his plane into the action of World War 1.  On July 14, 1918, close to the village of Chamery, he did.

Vive Quentin Roosevelt!


He was Theodore and Edith Roosevelt’s son, Quentin.  The youngest of six children, he was said to have been the one most like his father.   They shared the same vitality, originality and sense of humor, according to author Hermann Hagedorn.   Born just before the Spanish-American War, Quentin Roosevelt spent much of his boyhood in Washington.

Quentin’s antics with his friends in the executive mansion were later described in a book called The White House Gang.   They played hide-and-seek in the attic.  They re-enacted famous military battles in unused rooms.  They made faces at the president in his carriage, and threw spitballs at Andrew Jackson’s portrait.  TR joined in many of these (not the spitball episode, though; the “trial” for which he presided over).

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“Quentikins” was three when his father became president and almost twelve when he left.  He attended public school but sometimes his teacher didn’t know what to do with him, as a letter from TR to her reveals.  Charlie Taft, son of the secretary of war and the next president, was his best friend.

His mother called him her “fine little bad boy.”  In the summers on Long Island he competed with his older brothers Ted, Kermit, and Archie, joining in their recklessness.  He loved repairing mechanical things, especially motorcycles.  He was a New York Yankees fan.  And he completed his first year at Harvard before joining the Army Air Corps.

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Before leaving for France, Quentin asked Flora Payne Whitney, of the Vanderbilt family, to marry him.  She wanted desperately to join him there but was refused permission from the Wilson administration.

He and his fiancé wrote many tender letters across the ocean.  “Fouf,” he called her.

Prayer Booklet and Photo


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In his French Nieuport 28 decorated with newspaper comic strip character “Doc Yak” he downed an enemy plane on July 10, and subsequently wrote the news to his parents.  Four mornings later he went up again behind German lines.  A member of his squadron saw a plane shot down, but because of the fog did not realize it was Quentin’s until after he landed.

Theodore and Edith continued receiving letters their son had written before he died.  They requested that he remain buried where he fell, in the place German officers conducted an honor ceremony.  A fence was built around the grave which which stood for many years, creating a pilgrimage opportunity for soldiers and French citizens alike.

His mother had a memorial fountain and stone marker made for the site, which she visited later.  Not so for his father, who died six  months after Quentin, partly from a broken heart.  Flora, who was devastated, eventually married and took over leadership of the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York founded by her mother.

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In the 1950s, the family requested that Quentin’s body be moved to the American cemetery in Normandy adjoining his brother, Ted, who suffered a heart attack in the Second World War.  Ted, a general, had been the oldest soldier on Utah Beach in the invasion.

In late 1918 the name Quentin Roosevelt II had been given to Ted’s newborn son.  He would also tragically die in a plane crash, over Hong Kong in 1948.  He had had a family  —  one of his daughters, Susan, married former Massachusetts governor William Weld.  One of their sons is named Quentin, while several other members of the Roosevelt family have been given Quentin for a middle name.

Losing Quentin is still hard to read about a century later.  The “big, bright boy” will always be so in our memories.  Who knows where his career might have led, or what his family-to-be might have accomplished?  The same may be asked of the other sixteen million military personnel and civilians who lost their lives in the Great War.

~    ~    ~

Recommended reading: Quentin and Flora by Chip Bishop, CreateSpace Publishing, 2014.  I met this author at a gathering of the Theodore Roosevelt Association before his untimely death.  It is a masterful book.  Chip was the great-nephew of Joseph Buckland Bishop, whom Theodore Roosevelt authorized to write his biography.





The Hats of Corinne Roosevelt

Particularly close to Theodore Roosevelt was his younger sister, Corinne.  Here, decade by decade, along with some appropriate headwear, is her narrative.


Teedie!  Ellie!  Wait for me!  I’m eight years old but I just can’t keep up with my brothers!

Teedie’s asthma is so much better here in Switzerland that he walked 19 miles yesterday.  We NEVER would have imagined him doing that at home in New York City, where he spent so much time in his sick bed.

Mother and Aunt Annie told him stories to pass the time, wonderful stories about growing up on a plantation: Bre’r Rabbit, the adventures of her daring brothers, and ancestors who fought the Indians!  I think that’s why Teedie likes to make up tales for me.

He does love to talk.  Here in Europe he talks to everyone: why, on the boat over he talked for hours with a man who knew all about nature.  He loves animals, and especially birds.  But we are missing our dear Grandpapa Roosevelt, our cousins, and my best friend Edie.  They are all waiting for us to come home.

I suppose we will just have to make the best of it.  I wrote in my little diary how we have a new hotel to explore tonight.  When our sister, Bamie, and the rest of the Big People are talking, maybe we’ll chase the help again, and throw more wads of newspaper at them!


This fall will be so exciting.  My big brother Theodore is getting married to Miss Alice Lee of Boston.  Weren’t we just so proud of him when he graduated from Harvard this spring, and since then we’ve been busy having teas and social engagements for the bride.  But she said to me the other day, “I do enjoy Teddy’s friends, but I don’t know why I can’t get anywhere with Edith Carow.”

Teddy is thinking he will donate his large number of stuffed birds to  museums…I remember how he and Fred Osborn used to go hunting in the Hudson Highlands.  They took such pride in their collections.   He should have become a scientist, but he didn’t like looking at specimens under a microscope; he always wanted to be outdoors,  in the field.  Now he’s talking about studying law with our uncle.

Our father, the first Theodore Roosevelt, would be so proud of him.  Dear Father.  Greatheart, as my aunt used to call him.  His sudden death stunned us two years ago.  We will never recover from the loss of his guidance and love.


No Name Hats 1890s To Early 1900s

I still don’t believe it.  I have rassled a calf!  My brother and his wife took us to his Elkhorn Ranch on a holiday.  His hired hands taught me how to rope the thing and hang over its back as it was running in the mud.  I grabbed one leg and over we went, both of our legs waving in the air.  A grand time we all had, in Dakota and the Yellowstone.  Theodore growled outside our tent like a bear to scare us.

Theodore, Edith, and the bunnies, as they call their children, will soon move to Washington D.C.  My, what a challenge to be a Civil Service Commissioner.  And what a change from the cattle business here in the west.  That WAS good for him, even though he lost a lot of money on the venture.  He built up his health after grieving for Alice Lee’s and our mother’s deaths, which most tragically happened  on the same day.  Now he has Edith, whom we have known for always, to help him.

It will be hard for them to leave their lovely home, Sagamore Hill, on Long Island.


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How exciting it is for Theodore to be elected Vice President of the United States!  I always knew he would do great things for our country.

I am sure he will make his mark, as he did in his other positions.  He began as a New York State Assemblyman.  Theodore, whom we called “Teddy” at the time, was such a young upstart.  When he was appointed to Civil Service Commissioner in Washington, he went after corruption in the Postal Service.  Next it was back to Manhattan to shake up the New York City Police Department as one of their Commissioners.

Let’s see — he became the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and influenced the beginning of the Spanish-American War.  He resigned to organize a volunteer regiment, the Rough Riders.  And he was just as vigorous as Governor of New York as he was charging up Kettle Hill.  No wonder he said, “I rose like a rocket.”

I wish our poor brother, Elliott, could see him now.  May he rest in peace.


I AM growing uncomfortable with our national leaders.  Theodore just returned from his African trip, and to the adulation of great crowds.  He’s been troubled, I know, by President Taft’s actions and especially his  inactions on conservation.

I believe Theodore’s accomplishments in that office from 1901 to 1909 will stand firm for many years.  After the tragic assassination of President McKinley, he proved himself a true leader.   He negotiated settlement of the coal strike when the mines were shut down and people were shivering from lack of fuel.  He sued the business trusts to break up their monopoly.   He sought to make life better for the poor with the Food and Drug Act.

The little boy who toured Europe with us three decades ago understood the dynamics of monarchies, and stopped Russia and Japan from going to war.  For this he earned the Nobel Peace Prize.  He strengthened our navy and sent the Great White Fleet on a world tour to show other nations we “speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Many times we joined him for supper in the White House — oh, and he was responsible for changing the name people used for the executive mansion, which he and Edith remodeled so beautifully.  Theodore thought he should use the power he had  to do what was best for the American people.  He called it a “square deal.”  He wanted to protect the natural world which we began our love affair with  so many many years ago at our summer homes in the country.


Last year, after my husband died, I remember Theodore talking about the severe illnesses which plagued him ever since he was a child.  “I promised myself I would work to the hilt until I was 60, and I have done it,” he told me last year, hitting his fist on the arm of his char.  And now…he is gone.

Splitting with the Republicans in 1912 was hard for him.  The political bosses betrayed him again, taking the nomination which was rightfully his, and so he campaigned under a new party, the Progressives.  Even though he received more votes than President Taft, Wilson won the election.

Being refused permission to form a volunteer regiment in the recent world war, and losing his dear son Quentin in France in the summer of 1918 were terrible blows.  He never recovered from them.

I do think I shall write a book about my brother.  I must focus now on the task at hand, to present a speech for General Wood at the Republican National Convention.  It should have been you, Theodore.  I miss you so. We will carry on for you.


At Sagamore the Chief lies low–

Above the hill in circled row

The whirring airplanes dip and fly

A guard of honor from the sky;–

Eagle to guard the Eagle, –Woe

Is on the world.  The people go

With listless footstep, blind and slow;–

For one is dead — who shall not die —

At Sagamore.


Oh!  Land he loved, at last you know

The son who served you well below,

The prophet voice, the visioned eye,

Hold him in ardent memory,

For one is gone — who shall not go —

From Sagamore!*


*Poem from My Brother Theodore Roosevelt by Corinne Roosevelt Robinson, Scribner’s, 1920.

I am available beginning in the fall to present this narrative in costume for schools and civic groups at no charge.  Contact me in the comment section if interested!

Western Wisdom

When Theodore Roosevelt was a young man, he blew a path through the untamed landscape of the arid Dakota Badlands: hunting, riding, bulldogging, and building up his health.  He would tell stories and write more than a few books on his experiences, prompting friends to travel west themselves.  One of them, Owen Wister, wrote a novel based in Wyoming called The Virginian in 1902.

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The story became a stage play two years later; when talking pictures were an option, it was made into a  movie starring Gary Cooper.   The character he played was a ranch foreman from Virginia, but that was about all we knew of his past.  We never heard his name.  Hired hands Trampas and Steve and a schoolteacher named Molly made the cattle-rustling plot more exciting.

Joel McCrea was the next reincarnation of The Virginian in 1946.  It was inevitable that the characters would join the television cowboy series  boom of the 50s and 60s.  So James Drury, Doug McClure and Gary Clarke brought us the Virginian, Trampas and Steve starting in 1962.  It had a different format than most — a weekly 90-minute movie with guest stars from Hollywood’s heyday, and others who would soon become popular.

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Steve became a nicer, funnier guy while Molly ended her tenure at the end of the first season, playing a newspaper editor rather than a schoolteacher.  But Trampas stayed for the nine-year run of the show, helping the bossman imprint an indelible image of adventure, comradery and honor of the Old West.

Recent airings via our modern multitude of networks have brought a new audience to The Virginian and its final season, Men from Shiloh.  The opportunity to meet the stars of the 50 year-old series has been made possible by western festivals, the most recent of which was in Ardmore, Oklahoma this month.

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In addition to regulars Drury, Clarke, Roberta Shore (above) and Randy Boone, other actors who greeted fans at the “Westfest” included Clu Gulager, L.Q. Jones, and Don Collier.  The latter three amassed hundreds of appearances in western TV shows and movies.  Mr. Collier said of working with John Wayne: “You got along fine with him if you did three things: show up on time, know your lines, and stay on the set until you were dismissed.”

Theodore Roosevelt once said he would not have become president if he hadn’t gone West.  He wouldn’t care much for more recent, more graphic versions of this movie genre.  But surely he would have a lot to talk about with the Virginian and his contemporaries, as he did with their creator, Owen Wister.

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Teddy Bears, TR, and the Hoosier Poet

These were my remarks for the 2018 Spring Meeting of the Indiana Chapter of the Theodore Roosevelt Association at the James Whitcomb Riley Home and Museum, Indianapolis:

Let’s start with a trivia quiz about the teddy bear (answers below).

  • Which state’s governor invited Theodore Roosevelt to a hunting trip in 1902?
  • Why did TR refuse to shoot the only bear to be found?
  • In which newspaper did Clifford Berryman publish his famous cartoon about TR and the bear?
  • Mrs. Morris Michton soon made two stuffed bears to display in her husband’s store in Brooklyn, after which he asked TR permission to name them after him.  What kind of store was it?
  • What toy company evolved from the teddy bears?

Our meeting tonight is next door to the residence of James Whitcomb Riley.  You have seen firsthand that it is a lovely preserved, not restored, late Victorian home, one of very few in the United States.  We are also having a silent auction fundraiser for the Teddy Bears for Kids program of the Theodore Roosevelt Association.  We will donate the teddy bears we buy to Riley Hospital for Children, so it seemed a very appropriate venue for the evening.

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Besides the teddy bear, the two subjects of this presentation are obvious: Theodore Roosevelt, our twenty-sixth president; and James Whitcomb Riley, the Hoosier Poet.  They are remembered today as literary men of the same era, both best-selling authors with massive bodies of work.  Roosevelt wrote 36 books, the most highly-acclaimed being The Winning of the West series, while Riley composed over 1,000 poems, including Little Orphant Annie and The Frost is on the Punkin.

They were both born in the month of October, Riley in 1849 and Roosevelt in 1858.  Roosevelt grew up in the east; Riley in the midwest.  Their fathers were involved in the Civil War, leaving their wives and children at home.  Mr. Riley enlisted in the army; Mr. Roosevelt was head of the Allotment Commission which sent home soldiers’ pay to their families.

Roosevelt and  Riley were both taught at home in early childhood.  Their mothers reading aloud to them were some of their fondest memories.  Though their careers took different pathways, they both went on public tours, Riley with readings and Roosevelt with political speeches.  Both received honorary degrees from Indiana University.   They had their portraits painted by John Singer Sargent in the same year.  It seems Riley was the more cooperative subject, however.  TR just never liked to sit still.

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But there were decided differences.  Roosevelt came from a privileged family; Riley did not.  Roosevelt graduated from Harvard University; Riley went right to work, selling patent medicine, painting signs, and writing for newspapers.  TR was married twice and had six boisterous children; James Whitcomb Riley never married.  And while the Roosevelts’ musical talent was limited to playing the Victrola, as Edith liked to say, Riley was an accomplished violinist.

James Whitcomb Riley was an alcoholic whose addiction affected his public engagements, while Theodore Roosevelt was a teetotaler who saw his brother destroyed by drink.

The Library of Congress Manuscript Division includes a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to James Whitcomb Riley dated November 3, 1902.  It says, “My Dear Mr. Riley: I value the book greatly, and of course what you have written in the fly-leaf not merely adds to the value of the book, but puts me under obligation to you.  I thank you heartily.  Faithfully yours, Theodore Roosevelt.”

When I checked with the National Park Service, they confirmed that in Theodore Roosevelt’s extensive library at his home, Sagamore Hill, on Long Island, there is a six-volume Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley.  It was in the inventory from 1919, which was the year TR died.  Two more Riley books were added later, so it seems Edith liked his poems, too.

Theodore Roosevelt visited Indiana many times.  Here is a photograph taken at the dedication of the Henry Lawton Statue in 1907 (Major General Lawton was known for capturing Geronimo, fighting with the regular army in the Spanish-American War, and for his peacemaking efforts in the Philippines, where he was killed in the Insurrection of 1899).  When this picture was taken, the award-winning statue was close to the Marion County Courthouse; it was later moved to Garfield Park.  James Whitcomb Riley and Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana are seated on the speaker’s platform in this scene.  Riley composed and read a poem for the occasion, one of his last public events before the stroke which inhibited his final years.

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But here we come back to the reasons both men are famous in the literary world.  They appealed to the people, Riley with his dialect of common folk; and Roosevelt with his intense love of history and justice for every citizen.  People, especially children, came in droves to visit them at their homes.  Their common values manifested themselves in a Riley poem.  Larry Marple has agreed to read Our Kind of a Man for us.

The kind of a man for you and me!
He faces the world unflinchingly,
And smites, as long as the wrong resists,
With a knuckled faith and force like fists:
He lives the life he is preaching of,
And loves where most is the need of love;
His voice is clear to the deaf man’s ears,
And his face sublime through the blind man’s tears;
The light shines out where the clouds were dim,
And the widow’s prayer goes up for him;
The latch is clicked at the hovel door
And the sick man sees the sun once more,
And out o’er the barren fields he sees
Springing blossoms and waving trees,
Feeling as only the dying may,
That God’s own servant has come that way,
Smoothing the path as it still winds on
Through the golden gate where his loved have gone.

The kind of a man for me and you!
However little of worth we do
He credits full, and abides in trust
That time will teach us how more is just.
He walks abroad, and he meets all kinds
Of querulous and uneasy minds,
And sympathizing, he shares the pain
Of the doubts that rack us, heart and brain;
And knowing this, as we grasp his hand
We are surely coming to understand!
He looks on sin with pitying eyes–
E’en as the Lord, since Paradise–,
Else, should we read, Though our sins should glow
As scarlet, they shall be white as snow–?
And feeling still, with a grief half glad,
That the bad are as good as the good are bad,
He strikes straight out for the Right– and he
Is the kind of a man for you and me!

Answers to teddy bear quiz : Missouri, the Washington Star, unsportsmanlike to shoot a bear which was tied up, candy store, Ideal.

John Hay

“. . . A little after midnight as I was writing . . . , the President came into the office laughing, with a volume of Hood’s works in his hand to show Nico[lay] & me the little Caricature ‘An unfortunate Bee-ing,’ seemingly utterly unconscious that he with his short shirt hanging about his long legs & setting out behind like the tail feathers of an enormous ostrich was infinitely funnier than anything in the book he was laughing at. What a man it is. Occupied all day with matters of vast moment, deeply anxious about the fate of the greatest army of the world, with his own fame & future hanging on the events of the passing hour, he yet has such a wealth of simple bonhomie & good fellow ship that he gets out of bed & perambulates the house in his shirt to find us that we may share with him the fun. . . . ”

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The short young man whose 1862 cabinet card showed him to be even younger was foremost a writer.  His diary entries, like the one above, and poems attest to it.  A long biography of our most revered president which he co-authored quickly sold 5,000 copies.  After becoming a top government official in later life, he must have thought himself a bad luck charm, because four chief executives whom he worked for were assassinated. He was John Hay.

John’s Uncle Milton worked next door to Abraham Lincoln in Springfield, and asked his nephew to work on the 1860 campaign.  Just a few years older than Lincoln’s son Robert, Hay became a favorite with the president-elect and was hired as a second secretary, in addition to John Nicolay.  Because there was only room in the budget for one position, his official paycheck came from the Agriculture Department.
One biographer has called him the “court jester” of the administration, as he could supply a little humor to soften the hard blows of the Civil War.  “Now John, just tell that thing again,” Lincoln said once when his young friend had brought up a joke.  They would ride together in the afternoon and dine at the Soldiers’ Home in the evening.
After Lincoln’s death Hay returned to journalism and worked for newspapers.  He married a girl from a wealthy Cleveland family, Clara Stone, and so had no financial worries thereafter.  For twenty years, with their diaries and private papers loaned to them by Robert Lincoln, he and Nicolay collaborated on the biography.  When it came out in 1895 it was sold door to door, a common practice then, and became an immediate classic.
 About the same time the ten-volume biography was published, John Hay built a mansion in Washington D.C.’s Lafayette Park at the corner of H and 16th Streets.  It was adjacent to his best friend’s place of equivalent architecture and cost.  He and Henry Adams hosted a salon of the most interesting people in the capital, including Theodore Roosevelt, who’d been a family friend to both before his fast-rising career in politics.

Hay was Secretary of State under William McKinley and was asked to remain when Roosevelt inherited the top position.  He famously referred to the Spanish-American conflict as “a splendid little war,” owing to its brief length.  The achievement he is remembered for is the Open Door Policy for all nations to trade with China.

Picture of John Hay

John Hay died in 1905 at age 66.  On the occasion of Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration earlier in the year, he’d presented the president with a gold ring containing a strand of Abraham Lincoln’s hair.  He felt a responsibility to share what he’d experienced, stating in the introduction to Abraham Lincoln: A History, “The young men who have been born since Sumter was fired on have right to all their elders know of the important events they came too late to share.”
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At dinners at the Soldiers’ Home during the Civil War, Lincoln liked to read from Shakespeare’s Richard II.  Hay remembered that the terrible outbreak of grief and despair had a particular fascination for him:
“For heaven’s sake, let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories of the death of kings
All murdered from within the hollow crown that rounds the mortal temples…”
(The site of the H. H. Richardson mansions close to the White House is now occupied by the posh Hay-Adams Hotel, in which original paneling from Hay’s home may be seen in a meeting room. Theodore Roosevelt’s gold ring is on display at the Sagamore Hill Historic Site in Oyster Bay, Long Island.)

Saturday in the Park, Part 2

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We were cautioned by a ranger in the road not to stop the car, but were allowed to slow it down.  Visible among the pine trees for a moment was a mother grizzly followed by two cubs, their silver fur glinting in the sun.  I had to blink to believe I really saw them.

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Another animal I’d not seen before was the bighorn sheep.  We found some over by Roosevelt Lodge (Tower Falls), in the same area TR did in his visit in 1903.

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Bison are beautiful.  The babies like to jump and dance in the evening.

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Guess you’re never too young to play!

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A raven drops in to see the black wolf the photographers are lined up for in Lamar Valley.

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Iconic elk rest peacefully on ledges of iconic Mammoth Hot Springs.

After an expedition to Yellowstone in 1870 escorted by Captain Doane from Fort Ellis in Montana, members of Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant designated it as our first national park.  The people of the United States would now be able to experience nature in its pristine form, and look forward to their grandchildren doing the same.

In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt made Pelican Island off the coast of Florida a national bird preserve, rapidly setting aside more than 230 million acres for national parks and monuments.  In 1906 the Antiquities Act which he and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot plotted swiped treasure from under the noses of miners, loggers and developers before they could profit from it.  TR said the land could never be improved upon.

This Spring, the Antiquities Act is being tampered with.  Of course, they wouldn’t dare take away any land already preserved just to make someone richer.

Would they?


Look at these websites for a discussion of recent actions on the Antiquities Act of 1906:



The Art of TR

View of sculptures in Theodore Roosevelt library at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site


Remington’s Broncho Buster at home with several other bronzes on the mantel of the North Room at Sagamore Hill.

Two familiar western artists of Theodore Roosevelt’s lifetime, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, were intermingled with the twenty-sixth president’s life as cowboy and lover of nature and history.

A sick, asthmatic boy, “Teedie” read The Leatherstocking Tales while resting indoors.  Living on the frontier appealed to his imagination and sense of adventure.  He yearned to be a western hero like the characters in the books.

So as an adult, he bought a ranch in Dakota Territory and roughed it himself (albeit as the cowhands’ boss).  Then he began to write about it.  Theodore Roosevelt’s Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail was serialized in Century Magazine in the late 1880s, and he hand-picked Frederick Remington for the illustrations.

The National Gallery of Art, “Stampede by Lightning”

Remington lived most of his 48 years in New York.  He attended Yale and was drawn to the romance of the west, working on ranches and in saloons for a time.

Douglas Brinkley says in his massive volume Wilderness Warrior (HarperCollins 2009) “To Roosevelt, at least before the Spanish-American War, Remington (who’d once herded sheep) was a plebian, not fit to share a private club.”  The artist was assigned by William Randolph Hearst to cover the Rough Riders in 1898.

And after the brief war, the volunteer soldiers presented their colonel with Remington’s The Broncho Buster while mustering out on Long Island.  He tells in his autobiography how touched he was at the gesture.

Remington also wrote his own novel of the west, John Ermine of Yellowstone, in 1902 along with 30 illustrations.  Roosevelt liked his description of roaming Crow tribes.  “It may be true that no white man ever understood an Indian…but you convey the impression of understanding him!”

Two years before the artist’s death during an appendectomy, Roosevelt said that he had done “real work” for this country and Americans owed him a debt of gratitude. “He is, of course, one of the most typical American artists we have ever had, and he has portrayed a most characteristic yet vanishing part of American life…”

In 1888, Century Magazine published a series of articles about the West written by Roosevelt and illustrated by Remington. In a May article, Roosevelt told the story of his daring capture of three thieves who had stolen a boat from his Elkhorn Ranch. Remington depicted their capture in this painting.

Remington’s 1888 illustration for Century Magazine, accompanying TR’s story of chasing boat thieves in North Dakota.

The president also said, “The soldier, the cowboy and rancher, the Indian, the horses and the cattle of the plains, will live in his pictures and bronzes…for all time.”

L164 RUSSELL Cowboy on a bay horse


Charles M. Russell, on the other hand, was born in St. Louis and lived his adult life in Montana, providing drawings and paintings for authors Bret Harte, Owen Wister and Roosevelt.

Iconic were the ones of dying cattle on ranches in the severe blizzards of 1887.  Skulls, ribs, skin and bones.  Devastation, starvation.  And the ruin of many cattle operations, including Roosevelt’s.

Correspondence between Roosevelt and Russell is housed at libraries around the country.  On the occasion of the loss of the Progressive Party in 1912, Russell relays to his friend the disappointment felt by the school children of Great Falls.

Guardian of the Herd 1899 By Charles M Russell - Oil Paintings & Art Reproductions - Reproduction Gallery

http://www.reproduction-gallery.com “Guardian of the Herd”

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The Freer Gallery was built in Washington, D.C. in 1906 because Theodore Roosevelt, pounding on his executive desk, demanded the United States accept a large collection of art (including oriental paintings and the famous Peacock Room by James M. Whistler) and half a million dollars for the building to house it.  Smithsonian officials had been dragging their feet.

Frederic Remington     Frederic Remington    Image result for theodore roosevelt young man

                                                                             Remington, Russell, Roosevelt

TR established by Executive Order 1010 the Council on Fine Arts, a federal agency, in 1909.  President Taft replaced it with the Commission on Fine Arts the next year.

When Roosevelt saw works of cubism early in the Twentieth Century, he exclaimed “This isn’t art!”  Art was life to him, and life, especially among the landscape, people and animals of western plains and mountains, was never abstract.  It was real.

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The Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, has an extensive collection of Remington and Russell art, which may be browsed at http://www.amoncartermuseum.org.


As I sat back in the recliner thinking once more about how to maintain an exercise regimen in the year to come, I was interested in how presidents have kept fit throughout history.  Most of them did nicely, which is not surprising considering they had to stay active to deal with demands of the office.

Early leaders George Washington and Thomas Jefferson developed the skill and coordination of excellent horsemen.   A few years later, John Quincy Adams swam (naked) in the Potomac River every morning, long before it was known that this was the ultimate cardiovascular exercise.

Abraham Lincoln, who grew up guiding a horse plow and splitting wood rails for fences, once used his strong arms to throw a heckler out of a political rally.

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Theodore Roosevelt overcame his childhood frailty in the arid west as a hand on his own ranch.  He was always active in boxing, and led other dignitaries on point-to-point walks in Rock Creek Park.  One time he asked a French ambassador, when they took off their clothes to cross the river, why he did not remove his gloves.  “Why Mr. President,” he exclaimed, “We might meet ladies!”

William Howard Taft may not be remembered as athletic because of his weight and the famous custom bathtub installed in the White House, but he later trimmed 100 pounds off his frame and lived a long life as a Chief Justice.  He liked golf and tennis.  TR had cautioned him not to be photographed playing, however, because it might make him look too upper-class.

Herbert Hoover playing Hoover-ball on the White House lawn, February, 1933. Photo 1033-16A


Probably the most interesting game played by a president was named after him.  Hooverball, invented by doctor, involved two teams tossing an eight-pound medicine ball over a net every morning during the Depression.  It would have much easier for Herbert Hoover than tackling the plight of Americans at the time.

Franklin Roosevelt developed his upper body strength by pulling ropes to hoist the elevator up and down, sitting in a wheelchair, at his home.  He was also a swimmer.  Harry Truman took 120 steps per minute during his mile and a half daily walks.  This was the World War I marching pace, which would make any Fitbit happy.

Dwight Eisenhower played football for the United States Military Academy, once tackling legendary Native American star Jim Thorpe.  John Kennedy played football with his family members until his weak back prevented it.  Concerned about flabby citizens of the 1960s, he initiated a nationwide fitness program and commissioned the recording of “Chicken Fat” still used in schools today.

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At the top of the list of fit presidents is Gerald Ford, despite his reputation for being clumsy.  That was because his knees had been used up as a football player for the champion University of Michigan Wolverines.  He turned down offers from the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, and later settled for playing golf.

Ronald Reagan was a high school lifeguard who saved over 70 people from drowning.  When president he stepped up body building with specially-designed workouts after he was shot, and even wrote a fitness article for Parade Magazine.  “In my view, every exercise program should have an outdoor element to it – whether jogging, bicycling, skiing, hiking, or walking.  I prefer horseback riding and, whenever possible, hard manual labor at the ranch,” he said.

A portrait of an adolescent George H.W. Bush and a teammate in their baseball uniforms. Bush was the captain of the baseball team at Phillips Academy, where he attended from 1937 to 1942.


The George Bushes also head the fit list, with the father a high school baseball captain and a serious runner.  Dubya runs and cycles yet today.  Bill Clinton famously jogged, as Barack Obama loves to play pickup basketball games off backboards on the old Taft tennis court.

Warren G. Harding was probably in the worst shape of all of our presidents: boozing, smoking and sitting still.

Donald Trump?  His idea of burning calories is sweating in a crowded room.  He sleeps four hours a night and skips breakfast.  What will the President’s Council on Physical Fitness do about that?  It may just have to be the Council on Physical Fitness for the next four years.

I will have to slim down to give him an example.

Left to Us

After Theodore Roosevelt’s brief funeral service in January 1919,  mourners followed pallbearers up a steep grade to the burial place in Oyster Bay, Long Island.  The American flag was askew on the coffin, as Theodore’s clothes often were.  Today there are twenty-six steps on the hill, one for every president until him.  Descendants say one of their uncles used to make them recite the presidents from Washington to TR as they walked up.

We toured Youngs Cemetery on the day after the annual Theodore Roosevelt Association meeting.  Theodore and Edith, as well as many of their family members, rest here.  Since it was two days after the 158th anniversary of his birth, we were able to see the wreath from the White House.  Did you know the sitting president sends one to all former presidents’ graves on their birthdays?

Close by is the first national Audubon bird sanctuary.  Theodore’s cousin, Emlen, donated fifteen acres to honor the president’s efforts in saving America’s wildlife and their habitats.  When they were boys, the two had had their own little nature collection, the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History,” in their bedrooms.  Only it wasn’t so small, growing to about 1,000 specimens!  Now people of all ages come to enjoy the same peaceful woodsy surroundings, watch birds, and learn about things Theodore loved all of his life.  Four hundred children a month attend camps here during the summer.

We watched as a group of kids learned about turtles in the crisp autumn air.  Certainly Theodore would have liked the program when he was their age.  When he grew up, he set aside almost a quarter of a billion acres of America’s land into national parks and sanctuaries so our children, and children’s children, would be able to see them.  He left to us an amazing gift.  It is left to us to continue conserving it.

The Stars of Sagamore Hill

Last weekend my husband and I crunched on falling leaves over an expansive lawn to a special open house.  We’d been invited to tour Sagamore Hill, the home of President Theodore Roosevelt on Long Island, recently renovated over a three-year period.

The 28-room Queen Anne Victorian was built in 1884.  Theodore’s first wife Alice had just died, but his sister urged him to carry out plans for it overlooking the bay so his little daughter would have a place to call home.  Eventually, so did second wife Edith and five more children.





From the wide veranda the family had an unobstructed view of the water.  Since their time trees have grown to block it.  The family especially enjoyed adventures outdoors with friends and cousins, including young Eleanor Roosevelt.



Mrs. Roosevelt’s drawing room is decidedly different from the others in the home, but a polar bear rug presented to her by Admiral Peary does warm the floor boards.





The family’s 8,000 books were carefully wrapped and stored during the renovation.  Sagamore Hill’s furniture and possessions were left virtually intact when Edith Roosevelt died in 1948.  The property was given to the Roosevelt Memorial Association and later to the National Park Service.


An owl from TR’s amazing bird collection watches over the third floor gun room, where he liked to write.  Below, in the North Room addition of 1904, are momentos of the Roosevelt presidency.  The large book on the table was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany before World War 1.




Chairs in drafty rooms often have a throw or two over their backs.  Usually they don’t include tails, though.


A perfect end to the visit was sitting on a rocking chair on the porch, watching the flag wave against the sunset.