Tags: theodore roosevelt | family | the roosevelts

Theodore Roosevelt Family Life in Spotlight During 'The Roosevelts'

Image: Theodore Roosevelt Family Life in Spotlight During 'The Roosevelts'
Theodore Roosevelt by Lithographed by Forbes Litho. Mfg. Co., Boston. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 05:07 PM

"The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," a new 14-hour Ken Burns documentary, chronicles the family's ascent from New York City royalty to presidential dynasty, as told through descendants of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, was born in Manhattan to wealthy parents, and would overcome asthma and other ailments to become the youngest man ever to serve as president.

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"This is an American Downton Abbey with two virtues," Burns told Gotham Magazine. "One, it's all true, and two, it's American made. These are people who, although they are bold-faced names, have an intimacy with us because of the problems they've had — divorces and traumas and deaths and more divorces, afflictions, and infidelities. These are things that we struggle with in our own lives."

The seven-part series premiered on PBS in September.

Theodore Roosevelt's first tragedy occurred when his father, Theodore Sr., died at age 46 from a gastrointestinal tumor. The future president was a 19-year-old Harvard University student at the time, and missed seeing his father one last time by hours.

"My father was the best man I ever knew," Roosevelt wrote in his autobiography. "He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness."

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A second tragedy shaped him on Feb. 14, 1884, when his beloved mother, Martha Stewart "Mittie" Roosevelt, and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, died within hours of each other. Roosevelt's mother died of typhoid fever, while his wife died two days after giving birth to their daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt.

In his diary that night, Roosevelt wrote, "The light has gone out of my life."

Burns covers many aspects of Roosevelt's family life, and the impact that he, FDR, and Eleanor Roosevelt would have on improving millions of lives.

"No other American family has touched so many lives," Burns said. "You want to go through the Lincoln Tunnel? You want to fly out of LaGuardia? You want to drive in a national park or collect Social Security? You can look to the Roosevelts for all of that. There's almost nothing you can do in this country today that isn't marked by them."

The Roosevelts were one of New York City's first settlers in the 1600s, and accumulated significant wealth through Manhattan real estate, banking, and West Indian sugar. For 10 generations, the family maintained its New York roots.

"Members of my family have been here since the 1600s, and that creates a great sense of continuity and connection to the city," Theodore Roosevelt V, the 38-year-old, great-great grandson of the 26th president, told Gotham Magazine.

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"The Roosevelts: An Intimate History," a new 14-hour Ken Burns documentary, chronicles the family's ascent from New York City royalty to presidential dynasty, as told through descendants of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor.
theodore roosevelt, family, the roosevelts
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2014-07-19
Sunday, 19 Oct 2014 05:07 PM
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