Blog

Letters to His Children

Nov 16, 2010

Today, President Obama’s new book, Of Thee I Sing, Letters to My Daughters, is released. In the volume, President Obama recounts stories of thirteen inspirational Americans in order to guide and inspire his own children as they grow. Theodore Roosevelt wrote letters to his children during his absences from them, often illustrated with pencil drawings and sketches. Selected letters were collected and published in 1919 as Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. In his introduction, editor Joseph Bucklin Bishop notes that Roosevelt never spoke down to his children in his letters. As they grew, he discussed more serious topics in his letters to them and helped guide them through school and career decisions, but they were first and foremost always his equals.

While the later letters are full of wisdom and advice as the children aged, I find the early letters when the children are younger to be more interesting, especially in their original manuscript forms. We received recently our first batch of images from Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. They are starting their digitization project with the Quentin Roosevelt papers. Since Quentin was the only child to never leave Sagamore Hill (he died in battle during World War I at the age of 21), many of his papers were still at Sagamore when the site was turned over to the National Park Service. Among the first batch of images we received were many of Quentin’s report cards from Groton School, letters home to his parents, both during school and during the war, as well as letters Theodore Roosevelt sent to Quentin when he was a child.

This handwritten letter, dated June 12, 1904, tells “Quenty-Quee” about a mother bird and her nest as well as about the elk his father saw on a recent walk to the zoo. What makes the letter so unique and fascinating to me, though, are the drawings Roosevelt included showing Quentin what he had seen.

From the Quentin Roosevelt collection, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. For full digital record, go here.

This second letter, dated just a few weeks later, tells Quentin how Roosevelt saw “B’rer Terrapin and B’rer Rabbit” when he was out riding. Joel Chandler Harris’s stories of Uncle Remus were favorites of the Roosevelt children and in Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children, there are several letters to Harris from Roosevelt, telling him how much the children enjoyed new stories from him.

From the Quentin Roosevelt collection, Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. For full digital record, go here.

Through his letters to his children, you see a very different side of Theodore Roosevelt. Historians often note his playfulness with his children and his willingness to be included in their games, and I think that through his own pen one really begins to understand this side of Roosevelt as well as enjoy his obvious delight in his family as they grew.

Posted by Krystal Thomas on Nov 16, 2010 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

Add A Comment

*
Required Fields
*
 
*