Roosevelt's Libraries

Theodore Roosevelt was known to be a voracious reader, reading on average a book a day even while President. He usually read several books at a time, rotating between them depending on his activities and/or his mood. Roosevelt read widely in genres ranging from classic and contemporary fiction & poetry to ancient philosophy, military histories and natural history studies. He read in many different languages, including German, French, Italian and Latin. On one day during the 1900 campaign, Roosevelt’s schedule included six different mentions of reading, totaling four and a half hours of reading for a single day. Many letters in the Roosevelt archival collections are of Roosevelt thanking someone for sending him a book or, in turn, someone asking him to read their newly published book.

Library at Sagamore Hill

Two “libraries” in particular can be seen to represent Roosevelt as a reader. The first is the library one can still visit today at his home, Sagamore Hill. The home is very much as Roosevelt left it, preserved until his wife’s death in 1948 and later turned over to the care of the National Park Service. Roosevelt’s Sagamore Hill library was inventoried on his death. Additions were made during the succeeding years of Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt’s life, and a more recent inventory of books at Sagamore Hill reflects these changes. The house still holds thousands of books amassed during Roosevelt’s lifetime.

1919 Inventory of Books at Sagamore Hill

2008 Inventory of all works held at Sagamore Hill National Historic Site

Another library which holds great importance in the story of Theodore Roosevelt is the so called “Pigskin Library”. This library was a gift of books to Roosevelt from his sister Corinne Roosevelt Robinson to take with him on his year-long African safari after he left the White House in 1909. The name comes from the fact the books were bound, or re-bound, in pigskin. The “library,” which consisted of 60 volumes, included some of Roosevelt’s favorite novels and histories. Upon his return from his travels, Roosevelt passed the library on to his daughter, Ethel Roosevelt Derby. It remained in the family until it was donated to the Theodore Roosevelt Collection at Harvard College Library.

Photo courtesy of Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.