Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt

While our manuscript by Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) comes out for every tour of the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, there are some equally fascinating pieces about our nation’s 26th president at the National Sporting Library & Museum. An intimate glimpse into Roosevelt’s private life can be found in the book Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, a 1946 publication of letters Roosevelt wrote to his son, Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943), between 1902 and 1908.

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President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt seated on lawn, surrounded by their family, 1903. From left to right: Quentin, Theodore Sr., Theodore Jr., Archie, Alice, Kermit, Edith, and Ethel. From Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Theodore Roosevelt is widely credited as a founder of the modern environmental conservation movement. He and Kermit had a close relationship, most notably in their 1913-14 adventure exploring the “River of Doubt,” today named Rio Roosevelt. Kermit, newly engaged, put off his marriage to accompany his father at the request of his mother. Both Kermit and Teddy nearly died on the expedition.

Kermit was away at boarding school during many of the years chronicled in the letters.

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“Father and Mr. Burroughs galloping up on some elk — bulls and cows. The elk are tired and have begun to open their mouths and pant. You can tell Mr. Burroughs by the beard. There are a great many rocks on the ground. The pine tree is small and Scraggly.” Letter of April 16, 1903, from Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, 1946.

Letters chronicle family illnesses and general news, as well as Teddy’s adventures touring the United States as President. Teddy would note anything of interest in his letters, such as “To-day, by the way, as I rode along the beach I saw seals, cormorants, gulls and ducks, all astonishingly tame.” Roosevelt would almost always sign, “Your loving father, T. R.”

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Kermit Roosevelt and his dog, Jack, 1902. From Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Quite a few of the letters belie Teddy’s sense of humor:

Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 23, 1903

Blessed Kermit:
The house seems very empty without you and Ted; although I cannot conscientiously say that it is quiet — Archie and Quentin attend to that. Archie, bare-footed, bareheaded, and with his usual faded blue overalls much torn and patched, has just returned from a morning with his beloved Nick. Quentin has passed the morning in sports and pastimes with the long-suffering secret service men. Allan has been associating closely with Mother and me. Yesterday, Ethel went off riding with Loraine. She rode Wyoming, who is really turning out a very good family horse. This evening, I expect Grant La Farge and Owen Wister, who are coming to spend the night. Mother is as busy as possible putting up the house; Ethel and I insist that she now eyes us both with a purely professional gaze, and secretly wishes that she could wrap us up in a neatly pinned sheet with camphor balls inside. Good by, blessed fellow!

Your loving father,
T. R.

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“Today I took Rusty jumping.” Letter of June 12, 1904, from Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, 1946.

Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt shows the sweet, funny, and affectionate relationship between the president and his second son. It can be accessed in the Main Reading Room during NSLM’s open hours.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

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1 Comment

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  1. Wow, what fantastic treasures are housed in the NSLM.

    What wonderful insight into a man, that is so much a part of this great countries history.

    And, what a great window into how very human he was! A family man, who enjoyed so many of life’s gifts to the fullest.

    Thanks for sharing this touching side of a remarkable and tough guy.

    Like

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