Dresden Literary American Club

Theodore Roosevelt helped to create the Dresden Literary American Club (D.L.A.C.) in May or June of 1873. At that time, the youngest Roosevelt children were living in Germany with the Minkwitz family to learn the German language and imbibe German culture. The purpose of the club—besides fun—was to share the short stories and poetry written by its five members: Theodore (age 14), his siblings Elliott and Corinne, and their cousins, John and Maud Elliott. In her memoir, My Brother Theodore Roosevelt, Corinne described Theodore’s D.L.A.C. writings as falling into one of two categories: solemn pieces about nature or stories that were quite amusing. An example of the latter, “Mrs. Field Mouse’s Dinner Party,” has survived. The D.L.A.C. met every Sunday at the temporary home of the Roosevelts’ aunt, Lucy Elliott, who was also staying in Dresden that summer. The Elliott cousins dreamed up a secret motto for the club. It was always abbreviated as W.A.N.A., and it stood for “we are no asses.”

The Dresden American Literary good

When they were not studying, the Roosevelt and Elliott children explored Dresden’s museums, libraries, parks, and markets, and played with German friends. They attended the symphony or continued their language lessons in the evenings. In Dresden, Theodore first read the Nibelungenlied. He devoted much of his time to natural history, including taxidermic endeavors which neither the Minkwitz family nor their maids enjoyed. His health was poor that summer, and he suffered through several asthma attacks.

The outbreak of smallpox ended the Roosevelts’ time in Dresden. Martha (Mittie) Roosevelt left her rest cure in Frankensbad to collect her children, and they set off together for Switzerland on August 6. After three weeks, the epidemic had passed and the children returned to Dresden before sailing home to New York in October 1874. The D.L.A.C. did not last beyond the Roosevelts’ time in Dresden, although it provided the model for a later literary club, called P.O.R.E. (which stood variously for Paradise of Ravenous Eaters or Party of Renowned Eligibles) begun by Corinne (age 14) and her friend Edith Kermit Carow (who later became Theodore Roosevelt’s second wife).