February 26, 2013
Cold and flu season is in full swing here in North Dakota with absences noted at local schools and workplaces. This is not much different than it was in Theodore Roosevelt’s time, as evidenced by an occurrence in 1902. In early February, not even six months after TR was inaugurated as President, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., caught a cold while away at school in Groton, MA. This cold soon progressed to double pneumonia, and both parents cleared their calendars to be with their oldest son.
An illness of any President’s child would have been news, but TR’s popularity made this episode of pneumonia notorious. Articles were written throughout the nation, describing Ted’s illness with press releases sent to the AP as it progressed.
Telegram released by the Associated Press, February 8, 1902. From the Library of Congress Manuscript collection.
Many of the letters that President Roosevelt received during this trying time included messages regarding Ted’s illness. My favorite of these messages is a telegram from Abdul Hamid, Sultan of the Turks.
Telegram from Abdulhamid II, Sultan of the Turks to Theodore Roosevelt, February 11, 1902. From the Library of Congress Manuscript collection.
This message was received in French – and in cipher! – and its translation is as follows:
“Very much grieved to hear that Your Excellency’s beloved son is ailing with pneumonia. I form sincere wishes for his early and complete recovery.”