This summer the TR Center has eight interns working across the U.S. and from Scotland. Each intern is producing a digital humanities project. Chloe Elder explores a week in the life of TR by creating a detailed calendar of his week on February 8-14, 1903.
As an intern with the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library, I worked mostly with TR’s letters. Some detailed Roosevelt’s views on complex political agendas. Some arrived from family and friends sending a kind word. And some included a template response from TR’s secretary explaining that the President is far too busy to take a meeting, to make an appearance, or to respond personally.
With my visualization, I hope to understand the busy everyday schedule of Theodore Roosevelt alongside his commitment to correspondence.
The weekly schedule was informed by the currently uncatalogued “Desk Diaries,” a set of day-by-day calendars with handwritten notes about TR’s schedule. Individuals whom I could fully identify have been named with their title, as applicable, and their birth and death dates. Others have been left as they were described in the desk diary. Some items have been supplemented with notes. Those in quotation marks are taken directly from the desk diary, while others give some contextual information for specific events. Furthermore, during my research into portraitist John Singer Sargent’s visit to the White House, I learned that TR sat for his portrait for half an hour every day after lunch - information that I took the liberty of adding to the desk diary schedule. I then compared this schedule with TR’s presently cataloged correspondence from the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library during the same week.
Tableau Public allowed me to take these data sets, housed in Google Sheets, and organize them to show a veritable iCalendar - if there were such a thing in 1903! - alongside his incoming and outgoing correspondence (best viewed in full screen). The result is a glimpse into TR’s busy schedule for a sample week during his first term as President.
I included my interpretation of these data alongside the visualization, but I recognize that this schedule raises just as many questions as it answers, and I hope it encourages even more research to fill in the gaps.