Theodore Roosevelt: The Lengthy Legacy of America’s Rough Rider

Published October 27, 2021

Article by: Tinsley Merriman, Wonders of Wildlife Marketing Intern

October 27 marks the 163rd birthday of Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States. In honor of this occasion, WOW invites guests to step back in time and walk through his life. Starting at the Wildlife Galleries, guests can venture back in time to his Maltese Cross cabin, learn the origin of our National Parks, and take in the Boone and Crockett Club’s historical collection of heads and horns. Guests will find that Teddy lived a strenuous life, pushing himself both mentally and physically—contributing to his big ambitions, and ultimately, large results.

The Early Years

To understand Teddy’s desire to make a difference, you have to start from the beginning. Teddy was born in urban New York City in 1858. A very sickly and asthmatic child, he was expected to be weakened for the rest of his life. However, Teddy had other plans. During his teen years he started exercising to improve his strength. He practiced gymnastics and weight-lifting to build his body, and was tutored privately to build his mind. He enrolled in law school, but dropped out to pursue a career in public service. Prior to presidency, Teddy split his time between his Maltese Cross cabin in North Dakota (found in the Wildlife Galleries)  and his home in New York, using the former to live off the land and work as a cowboy. 

During the Spanish-American War in 1898, Teddy became Colonel of the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry known as the “Rough Riders.” Once in Cuba, Roosevelt led his squad in a charge during the Battle of San Juan. Teddy returned home as a highly decorated hero because of his efforts during this battle.

Our Conservation President

Roosevelt ran as vice president under William McKinley, who became President of the United States in 1900. A year later, McKinley was assassinated, thrusting Teddy into the Oval Office’s main seat. Teddy still remains the youngest president at the age of 42. One of his first big projects as president was the National Reclamation Act, helping irrigation projects in the wild west. Teddy also set aside almost 200 million acres in total for national forests, reserves, and wildlife refuges. This still continues to show over 100 years later, with the U.S. and its territories having 423 different national park sites. These parks include Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore and Yosemite, just to name a few.

One of the most notable trips Teddy took was with fellow outdoorsman John Muir. The Scottish Muir had immigrated to the U.S. with his family in 1849. Similar to Teddy, Muir also fell in love with America’s scenery, constantly exploring and researching. Muir published his book, Our National Parks, in 1901, and the novel got Roosevelt’s attention. Together, the two hiked what is now Yosemite in 1903. The trip through the rugged mountains inspired Roosevelt to go on to declare the valley, alongside Mariposa Grove, as the Yosemite National Park.

The Yosemite National Park Exhibit located in the Wildlife Galleries at Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium

Lasting Legacy

While Teddy conserved the outdoors, he also enjoyed using them to the fullest. Teddy was a known big game hunter, and strove to protect animals for the next generation. He is co-founder of the Boone and Crockett Club, an organization dedicated to conserving big game and other wildlife. A recreation of both his Maltese Cross cabin and the Boone and Crockett Club’s National Collection of Heads and Horns can be found in the Wildlife Galleries. 

Teddy Roosevelt’s Cabin is located near the start of the Wildlife Galleries, leading into the Lewis and Clark Gallery. Boone and Crockett Club’s National Collection of Heads and Horns is on permanent loan, and is constructed to look exactly like the original 1922 Bronx Zoo exhibit. It can be found right after the National Parks exhibit and right before the Bucks and Bulls horn collection.

In summary, Teddy dedicated most of his life to both the country and the outdoors. He established hundreds of spaces for nature to thrive, established Yosemite National Park, and founded the Boone and Crockett Club. Here at Wonders of Wildlife, we celebrate Roosevelt and all that he did for this country every day. We encourage you to come and visit to learn even more facts about the 26th president and all that he did!

The Boone and Crockett Club’s National Heads and Horns Collection located in the Wildlife Galleries at Wonders of Wildlife