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A Budding Naturalist

Jun 05, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt’s love affair with nature began when he was a very young child and continued throughout his life. His early journals, written in as yet untamed cursive, provide plenty of evidence that he had a keen interest in the world around him on many levels, and that he was a talented sketch artist who documented what he saw with both words and drawings. His illustrations are rudimentary, perhaps, and his descriptions sometimes barely legible, but the perceptions of his young mind are nonetheless remarkable. What ten-year-old on vacation in Europe takes the time to note the flora and fauna or to gather specimens and press them carefully into his daily diary?

pressed fern

Detail, Diary of Theodore Roosevelt from January 1 to September 14, 1869, 1869, MS Am 1454.55 (2). Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.

And what ten-year-old spends countless hours observing and recording the natural environment surrounding him at home? In a notebook created in 1869, he details the attributes and appetites of various creatures. The handwritten preface states: “All these insects are native of North America. Most of the insects are not in other books. I will write about ants first.” The budding author doesn’t stick with his subject, however. Perhaps distracted by other interesting creatures, he expands his inventory to include fish, crayfish, and salamanders.

blackfish drawing

Detail, Natural history of insects, 1869, MS Am 1541 (286). Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University. Electronic copy sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Center at Dickinson State University. For reproduction or publication permission, contact the Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Houghton Library.


Posted by Shanna Shervheim on Jun 05, 2013 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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