Theodore Roosevelt’s family became immediately famous upon his inauguration as President of the United States. This large, young, active family was not at all what Washington society was used to. The Roosevelt children often had family or friends to stay the night, and the White House was sometimes treated as a huge playground. One of these instances, wherein one of the boys had an overnight guest and they decided to explore the White House, created a bit of a fuss and got even President Roosevelt into some hot water.
In our digital library are two poems that were enclosed in a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to his son Kermit. These poems were signed by Archie and Nicholas Roosevelt, who were very often together when they were growing up. One of the poems is reprinted in a book written by Nicholas, A Front Row Seat, where it is introduced as “scarcely a promise of a successful career as a writer!” TR, on the other hand, appeared to have enjoyed the poems immensely, if his comments to Kermit are any indication.
Detail, Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Kermit Roosevelt, November 28, 1903, MS Am 1541 (66). 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.
”I enclose two original poems by Nick and Archie – I guess more by Nick than by Archie. They refer to a bit of unhappy advice I gave them, because of which I fell into richly merited disgrace with mother. Nick has been spending three days or so with Archie, and I suggested that they should explore the White House in the mirk [sic] midnight. They did, in white sheets, and, like little jacks, barefooted. Send me back the poems.”
Detail, Poem "Good morning, Mr. Roosevelt," November 27, 1903, MS Am 1541 (66), 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.
In his book, Nicholas reflects that he and Archie were caught by one of the “White House policemen,” but they convinced him not to give them up to Archie’s mother. Instead, the boys asked the policeman to wait and report to TR, who had apparently been away. The poems were composed in an attempt to enlist the president’s aid and intervention with the more severe Mrs. Roosevelt. Whether or not this attempt was successful is not made clear in Nicholas’s book, although TR’s statement that he “fell into richly merited disgrace” suggests some measure of success on the boys’ part.
Roosevelt, Nicholas. A Front Row Seat. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953. Print.