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10 Interesting Facts About Theodore Roosevelt's Childhood

Image: 10 Interesting Facts About Theodore Roosevelt's Childhood
Portrait of Theodore Roosevelt at age 10 and Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site, reconstructed home of 26th president at 28 East 20th street in Manhattan, New York City, New York. (AP Photo; dreamstime)

By    |   Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 05:46 PM

Theodore Roosevelt remains not only one of the most fascinating presidents in U.S. history, but also one of history's most fascinating human beings, due to many notable accomplishments throughout his life.

But what kind of childhood did the future American leader have, and how did it shape him? Here are 10 interesting facts about the man's early years.

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1. Roosevelt was born Oct. 27, 1858, in New York City, to a wealthy family of Dutch ancestry, the second of four children. His father, Theodore Sr., was a successful businessman and philanthropist, while his mother, Martha "Mittie" Roosevelt, had been raised on a Georgia plantation.

2. His family called him "Teedie," in part to distinguish him from his father. The name stuck until well into his late teens. Friends began calling him "Teddy" in his college years, though it has been documented that Roosevelt didn't care for that. He preferred "TR" or "Colonel."

3. He was stricken with asthma as a child, a condition that was sometimes fatal, and not well understood at the time. Prescriptions from doctors included everything from trips to the coast to smoking cigars. As a result, "Teedie" spent most of his time indoors and away from children his age. During particularly severe attacks, Theodore Sr. would take him out for rides, hoping to get air into his lungs, according to PBS.

4. In addition to asthma, a young Roosevelt was discovered to be near-sighted at age 13, and began wearing glasses.

5. Because of his early physical limitations as a teenager, Roosevelt adhered to a program of gymnastics and weightlifting to build up his body. This allowed him to participate in activities, and helped lessen the effects of his asthma over time.

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6. The Roosevelt home went through a tough period during the Civil War, as his mother, aunt and maternal grandmother were from the South and his father was for the Union. Theodore Sr. worked for President Abraham Lincoln toward improving conditions for Union soldiers and their families.

7. Roosevelt was home-schooled by private teachers, but also traveled with his family frequently to Europe and the Middle East, including trips to Austria, England, France, Holland, Hungary, Italy, Israel, Prussia (Germany), Switzerland, and modern-day Syria. He also once lived with a host family in Germany for five months, according to The Miller Center.

8. Roosevelt's niece, the daughter of brother Elliot, was future First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. She married Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a distant cousin, and shared the last name.

9. Roosevelt showed particular interest in zoology and biology, which would serve him well later as a rancher and outdoorsman.

10. While a student at Harvard, Roosevelt competed in boxing, rowing, and wrestling. Academically, he studied German, natural history, forensics, and composition. He would later graduate near the top of his class. He would enjoy physical outdoor pursuits throughout his life, and often spent time hiking, riding horses, and swimming.

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Theodore Roosevelt's childhood shaped the man he would become. Here are 10 interesting facts about the man's early years.
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2014-46-19
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