Best remembered as the United States 26th president, naturalist and politician Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Jr. was born on October 27th, 1858, in Manhattan, New York City. From an early age, Roosevelt became interested in zoology, a passion he maintained throughout his life, and learned taxidermy as well. In 1876, after being homeschooled his entire life, Theodore attended Harvard College with the intention of becoming a naturalist and an ornithologist. He later gave up this dream and enrolled at Columbia Law School, which he left before graduating to start a career in politics as part of the Republican Party in his home state.
From 1882 to 1884, Roosevelt was part of the New York State Assembly, where he handled corporate corruption cases. In 1884, interested in the western lifestyle and intent on becoming a cattle rancher, Theodore built a ranch named Elkhorn in North Dakota, and began traveling back and forth from New York to his ranch. There, he learnt the ways of the western life, promoted the conservation of large animals and their habitats, and continued to write about the front life for national magazines. Roosevelt also published three books: Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail, and The Wilderness Hunter. After his efforts to become a cattle rancher failed, he returned to New York in 1886. His fellow Republicans convinced him to run for mayor in that year’s election, to which he agreed despite not being confident that he would win. He came in third in the election, with 27% of the votes. Theodore turned away from his political career and focused on writing The Winning of the West, a book that sold well upon publication and brought him a lot of success.
In 1894, Roosevelt became the president of the board of the New York City Police Commissioners and introduced big reforms to the force. In 1897, he was appointed by President McKinley as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and, roughly a year later, a war in Cuba broke out, in which the U.S. fought against the Spanish. Roosevelt resigned from his position, determined to participate in the war, and formed the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment (informally known as “The Rough Riders.”) During the war, he rose to the rank of Colonel and, for his action in the battlefront, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2001.
Upon his return from the war, Roosevelt was once again persuaded to run for office by the Republican Party, this time for governor of New York—a position he won in 1989. A year later, he was nominated to run for the vice presidency after the post became vacant. Roosevelt at first rejected the idea, but later conceded; in 1901, he took office as vice president under President McKinley. Less than six months later, however, the president was assassinated while attending a convention in New York, and Roosevelt was quickly sworn in as the United States 26th president.
Upon becoming president, Theodore promised to continue with his predecessor’s policies, while also working on his own political power. He soon emerged as leader of the Republican Party, and implemented several policies, such as the Square Deal domestic policy, the use of the Antitrust Act and Progressive policies, all focused on themes of conservation and citizen fairness. The construction of the Panama Canal began under his presidency as well. In 1904, Roosevelt was elected as president for another term, and he continued to push forward with his policies. In 1906, Theodore won the Nobel Peace Prize for successfully mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese War.
After leaving the presidency in 1908, Roosevelt set out a year later on a safari around east and central Africa, the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition, and also visited the Belgian Congo. The trip was followed by a tour of Egypt and Europe. Upon his return to the U.S., after escalating the rivalry with former ally and current president William Taft, Roosevelt decided to run for the 1912 election through his own, newly-formed Progressive party, in an attempt to deter Taft. After failing to secure the election, he embarked on an expedition to South America in 1913, in which he traveled to Brazil to explore the Amazonian River. During the expedition, Roosevelt suffered from tropical disease due to an infected cut and nearly died. Although he survived, he returned to the U.S. in 1914 in poor health and continued to be plagued by bouts of the disease until his final days. Colonel Theodore Roosevelt died in his sleep on January 5th, 1919, in his house in New York City. Leaving behind an extensive legacy in writing, he is regarded as one of the best presidents of the United States.