On December 10, 1906, Theodore Roosevelt became the first American to win a Nobel Prize. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work surrounding the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended the Russo-Japanese War.
Unable to be in Norway to collect the prize at the time, Roosevelt asked the United States Ambassador to Norway, Herbert H.D. Peirce, to accept the award on his behalf. In 1910, during his European tour, Roosevelt belatedly delivered his Nobel lecture in Oslo, Norway. The speech included a call for “a league of peace with international police power.” Such a league was thought too radical an idea by European newspapers at the time and was also an unwelcome proposition in a Europe actively preparing for war. Roosevelt’s vision would not be realized until 1945 and the formation of the United Nations, an effort begun by another Roosevelt, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, before his death.
Roosevelt did not keep the prize money. Though he stated privately to his son Kermit that he wished he could have kept it for his children, his wife Edith said a public figure such as Roosevelt could not keep such a reward. Instead, when he accepted his prize, Roosevelt stated he would be donating the money to Congress for the funding of a permanent Industrial Peace Committee which would address “fair dealings between classes of society.” However, Congress never organized the committee and so, during World War I, Roosevelt petitioned Congress to return the funds to him so that he could distribute the money to war relief efforts and various charities.
Image: Working for Peace - President Roosevelt and the envoys of Mikado and Czar on the Mayflower. Partial of stereograph from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs division