Born into a wealthy New York City family in 1858, Theodore Roosevelt spent the timeline of his early years battling asthma and developing a close relationship with his parents and three siblings and a passion for natural history.
Roosevelt’s father, Theodore Sr., was a businessman and philanthropist who left a strong impression on the boy. During bouts with asthma, Roosevelt’s father would walk the floor with him or drive him through the streets in his carriage for fresh air, PBS reported
. He encouraged his son to take charge of his body, inspiring a lifelong dedication to rigorous exercise.
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When Roosevelt left home for Harvard at age 17, his father encouraged him to take care of his morals first, his health next and, finally, his studies.
In a 2012 Washington Post article, presidential historian Douglas Brinkley listed Theodore Sr. as the best first father
, noting that he took his son on trips to the Amazon and provided such things as private tutors in foreign language, taxidermy lessons, and a set of weights.
The death of Theodore Sr. in 1878 devastated Roosevelt, who wrote, “I feel that if it were not for the certainty that he is not dead but gone before, I should almost perish,” PBS said. He turned to nature and exercise for relief.
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Roosevelt married Alice Hathaway Lee in 1880. She died in 1884, two days after giving birth to their child, Alice. Roosevelt’s mother died on the same day, and Roosevelt left the infant daughter with his elder sister and went to the Dakota Badlands, where he ranched for two years.
In 1886, Roosevelt married his childhood sweetheart, Edith Kermit Carow, and moved back to New York, where his political career flourished with posts as U.S. Civil Service Commissioner and president of the New York City Police Board before being appointed by President William McKinley as assistant secretary of the Navy.
Roosevelt assembled the Rough Riders and led the First Volunteer Cavalry to victory on Cuba's San Juan Hill in 1898. Upon his return, he became Governor of New York, and in 1990 campaigned as vice presidential candidate with William McKinley. McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, making Roosevelt the president.
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