Friday, June 20, 2014

The American Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt

The following is from a work-in-progress called "The American Presidents: a Coloring Book."

Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919), the 26th President of the United States, was the most badass president of all time.  At age seven, Roosevelt and two cousins formed what they called the "Roosevelt Museum of Natural History". Having learned the rudiments of taxidermy, he filled his makeshift museum with animals that he killed or caught, then studied and prepared for display. At age nine, he codified his observation of insects with a paper entitled "The Natural History of Insects."  After graduation from Harvard, he wrote a systematic study of naval battles of the War of 1812,  complete with drawings of individual and combined ship maneuvers, charts depicting the differences in iron throw weights of cannon shot between American and British forces, and analyses of the differences between English and American leadership down to the ship-to-ship level.  While living on the banks of the Little Missouri river, Roosevelt learned to ride western style, rope and hunt, and published three books on "frontier life" – Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail, and The Wilderness Hunter.  He formed the Boone and Crockett Club, whose primary goal was the conservation of large game animals and their habitats.   As a deputy sheriff of New York, he once pursued three outlaws who had stolen a riverboat. He captured them, and assumed guard over them for forty hours without sleep, while reading Leo Tolstoy to keep himself awake. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, he resigned his role as Assistant Secretary of the Navy and he helped form the famous Rough Riders. Under his leadership, the horse-riding Rough Riders became famous for dual charges up Kettle Hill and San Juan Hill in Cuba.  He was forced to walk up the last part of Kettle Hill on foot, because of barbed wire entanglement.   As governor of New York, he boxed with sparring partners several times a week, until once being hit so hard in the face he became blind in his left eye. Thereafter, he practiced judo, attaining a third degree brown belt and continued his habit of skinny-dipping in the Potomac River during winter. He became President after McKinley was assassinated, and was inaugurated at age 42, the youngest person to become president.  For his aggressive use of United States Antitrust law he became known as the "trust-buster," bringing 40 antitrust suits, and breaking up the largest railroad and Standard Oil, the largest oil company.  He was instrumental in the creation of 5 national parks, 18 national monuments, and 150 National Forests, among other works of conservation.  In March 1909, shortly after the end of his presidency, Roosevelt left New York for an expedition in east and central Africa, to collect specimens for the Smithsonian Institute.  His party landed in Kenya, traveled to the Congo, before following the Nile to Sudan.  Among other items, Roosevelt brought with several high-powered rifles, and the famous Pigskin Library, a collection of classics bound in pig leather and transported in a single reinforced trunk. Roosevelt and his companions killed or trapped approximately 11,400 animals; the quantity was so large that it took years to mount them all.  While campaigning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1912, a saloonkeeper shot Roosevelt, and the bullet lodged in his chest.  Roosevelt, as an experienced hunter and anatomist, correctly concluded that since he was not coughing blood, the bullet had not completely penetrated the chest wall to his lung, and he declined suggestions to go to the hospital immediately. Instead, he delivered his scheduled speech with blood seeping into his shirt.  He spoke for 90 minutes.  In 1913, he led an exploratory expedition of the Brazilian Amazon.  One of the goals was to find the headwaters of the Rio da Duvida, the River of Doubt, and trace it north to the Madeira and thence to the Amazon River. It was later renamed Roosevelt River. During the trip down the River of Doubt, Roosevelt suffered a minor leg wound after he jumped into the river to try to prevent two canoes from smashing against the rocks. The flesh wound he received, however, soon gave him tropical fever.  Because the bullet lodged in his chest from the assassination attempt in 1912 was never removed, his health worsened from the infection.  Riddled with chest pains, fighting a fever that soared to 103 °F, and at times so delirious that he would repeat endlessly the opening line from Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan, Roosevelt insisted he be left behind to allow the expedition to proceed as rapidly as it could. Only an appeal by his son persuaded him to continue.   Before Roosevelt had even completed his sea voyage home, doubts were raised over his claims of exploring and navigating a completely uncharted river over 625 miles long. When he had recovered sufficiently, he addressed a standing-room-only convention organized in Washington, D.C. by the National Geographic Society and satisfactorily defended his claims.  Roosevelt died unexpectedly in his sleep in 1919.  Woodrow Wilson's vice president, Thomas R. Marshall, said that "Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight."  

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