My fledgling knowledge of Theodore Roosevelt grows daily and I steadily become more intrigued by this man whose picture stares down at me from my desk. I grew up in North Dakota with trips to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park units and Medora. I have seen his statue in Dickinson and his likeness scattered around the state, but until this position I never realized the man beyond the tourist caricature.
As I delve into the archives and read the books by and about Roosevelt, I have stumbled onto a man. An interesting man. A complicated man. A well-read man. A family man. A humble letter written to his beloved and fellow explorer son Kermit has struck me. It isn’t a letter of importance, no great treaties or politics are discussed. It is just a letter to a possibly homesick son off at school, but shows us a glimpse of the man.
He discusses the winter, a winter of below zero nights, freezing days and snow. These details are like many we see outside our windows right now, but Roosevelt also sees the beauty and opportunity. He comments to Kermit that his days are so filled that he rides at night. “…and as there has been a waxing moon I have had the most delightful evening and night rides imaginable,” he explains. Roosevelt describes the “glittering snow” which made the rides better than any daytime ride. Always an active man, a cold night didn’t stop him from a ride and from observing nature’s beauty.
The letter also brings up a topic on how to spend time with your children, a dilemma faced by parents which is not limited to the modern age. Roosevelt discusses reading bedtime stories to Archie and Quentin, “although sometimes it is rather hard to get time.” Roosevelt also complements his “young and pretty” wife and pokes a bit of fun at Ted who has dressed up in his first tailcoat which coincides with a dinner and a pretty daughter.
My vision of Theodore Roosevelt will change as my time with the Theodore Roosevelt Center continues, but this first glimpse into this father and husband has already made me a fan.
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, December 17, 1904. 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.