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Roosevelt as Reader and Writer

Jun 14, 2011

As part of their time with us, we ask our digital cataloging interns to write a blog post to share some of their experiences and “finds” while working in the Roosevelt collections. As they start to wrap up their internship hours, we will start to share their blog entries with you. This first one is from Lynn of California.

Theodore Roosevelt reading in his West Divide cabin on Colorado hunting trip, 1905.

Before I began working as a cataloging intern for the TR Center, I did not know that Theodore Roosevelt was a voracious reader and a popular author. In the documents I worked with, letters addressed to President Roosevelt spanning November 11, 1904 to December 9, 1904, the topics of reading, writing and publishing recur often.

There are examples of praise for Roosevelt’s own writing. In his letter of November 11, 1904, Earl Grey writes that he gives away copies of The Strenuous Life to “those in whose careers I take an interest.” Grey is such a fan that he asks for autographed copies of anything new that Roosevelt has published.

Publishers were contacting Roosevelt following his election to the presidency in 1904. Editor Richard Watson Gilder wrote to Roosevelt three times in four weeks. On November 30, 1904, he writes that he “is deeply desirous of publishing anything you may in the future feel like writing.” Gilder very much wants to publish Roosevelt’s own memoirs but he also suggests that Roosevelt work with the papers of President Grant or George Rogers Clark. Publisher George Haven Putnam wrote to President Roosevelt on November 18, 1904. Putnam does not propose that Roosevelt write a new book. Rather, he advocates for Roosevelt’s support for revised copyright legislation.

And what about the books he receives in just a month? Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes sent a book he thought Roosevelt would like on December 2, 1904. Roosevelt’s friends and admirers worldwide felt connected with him by their shared love of reading and writing. Two Frenchmen sent books: Frédéric Mistral, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, and Pierre de Coubertin, a fellow sports enthusiast. In fact, Coubertin dedicated his book to Roosevelt. Unkichi Kawai sent his translation of a work by Japanese author, Gensai Murai, on December 8, 1904. Kawai asks Roosevelt to think of him as “a humble brother of the pen….”

In a letter written on December 1, 1904, Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University, reminds Theodore Roosevelt of their conversation on “what busy men ought to try to read and why.” That conversation had taken place over a year before! Roosevelt’s passion for reading and writing informed all that he did as a leader, a father and an adventurer. This passion also inspired others and left lasting impressions.

Image: Theodore Roosevelt reading in his West Divide cabin on Colorado hunting trip, 1905. Detail of stereograph taken by Alexander Lambert. From Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division

Lynn O’Connor completed her M.L.I.S. at San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. She has worked as a cataloger at academic and public libraries in the Bay Area.

Posted by Lynn O'Connor on Jun 14, 2011 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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