Thousands of middle and high school students from all fifty states (and numerous other countries) compete annually in the project-based history contest called National History Day, with smaller preliminary rounds in each state leading up to a final winner. This year the theme of NHD is "Triumph & Tragedy in History." Theodore Roosevelt lived to experience a great number of triumphs and tragedies, both personally and professionally, throughout his life.
Fot those wanting to complete a research project on Theodore Roosevelt or an event from his lifetime, here are a few links that will help you get started. For an overview of Roosevelt’s life, we have created a brief biography of Roosevelt and timeline of events that happened during his life. There is also an encyclopedia that is grouped thematically.
While we have thousands of documents in our digital library that I’ll get to in a moment, keep in mind that Roosevelt wrote often about his life and times, most notaby in his Autobiography. The book contains about one chapter on each interesting piece of his life, up to 1913 (when he wrote it). Additionally, Theodore Roosevelt wrote many books throughout his life on a number of topics, available in this comprehensive bibliography. After you decide on a topic, be sure to check into whether Roosevelt himself wrote about that topic. Digital copies of many of the works on the list are available on Archive.org.
Our digital library offers the most possibilities though for finding items related to this year’s NHD theme. The collection of primary (and secondary) source documents is searchable by keywords, people, events, or dates, and includes historic letters, photographs, political cartoons, speeches, and more. While there are endless options, we have a few themes and events to get you started.
Roosevelt’s role in the Battle of San Juan Hill, the decisive battle of the Spanish American War, was considered a major triumph and put the U.S. on the map as a world power with growing imperial possessions. In addition to Roosevelt’s own words about the war in books and articles, there are many documents in our digital library about the Spanish American War. One really interesting angle would be to look at how Roosevelt and the war were memorialized in song through the dozens of sets of sheet music we have that was written about the famed events in the years following, like "Teddy Our Hero," seen above.
Spanish American War material:
Did you know that after his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt joined two scientific expeditions deemed extraordinary triumphs in American history? The Smithsonian-Roosevelt Expedition traveled through Africa collecting specimens for the national museum; then, the Roosevelt-Rondon Expedition traveled through South America to map an uncharted river!
Expedition documents links:
In addition to being the youngest president ever elected, Roosevelt had many monumental triumphs while in office, from his showcase of American naval power with the Great White Fleet, to his support of conservation efforts or his facilitation of the construction of the Panama Canal. He was also instrumental in mediating peace in the Russo-Japanese War, resulting in Roosevelt being the first American to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
There were many moments of tragedy as well though during Roosevelt’s years, both in America and internationally. Below are links to historic material we have related to a number of events that resulted in loss.
Roosevelt’s personal life was also filled with tragedy. In 1884 his first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, and his mother died on the same day, just two days after the birth of his daughter Alice, a moment of both joy and sorrow. Roosevelt’s sorrow is marked by his diary entry for that day, “The light has gone out of my life.”
Other years’ diaries, which would be interesting to compare against moments in history.
If you have specific questions, have tracked down your topic, or need further guidance, please let us know and we'll get you an answer as soon as possible. We are so glad you have chosen the Theodore Roosevelt Center to learn more about history and we wish you good luck on your National History Day project!