• Weird History

The 13 Most Hardcore Facts About Teddy Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, was more than the man behind the Panama Canal and the inspiration for the teddy bear. He was a cowboy. A soldier. An explorer. A badass.

When Teddy Roosevelt, or T.R. as he was commonly known, was a child, he had health issues. He overcame these by living what he called a "strenuous life." That's putting it lightly. 

These Teddy Roosevelt facts - from stories of T.R. exploring unchartered rivers to leading military battles - reveal T.R. lived far more than a strenuous life. He lived one of the most insanely cool, badass lives in American history. Here are some cool things Teddy Roosevelt did.

  • He Was a Sickly Child, but Overcame His Illnesses Through Sheer Force of Will

    Photo: Public Domain

    When young Teddy Roosevelt would have asthma attacks, his father, Theodore Sr., would take him on carriage rides to force air into his lungs. When young T.R. couldn't see a shooting target, his father gave him his iconic glasses. And when young T.R.'s illnesses would prevent him from keeping up with other children his age, it was his father who said to him: "You have the mind but you have not the body. You must make your body."

    Young T.R.'s many health ailments would soon recede as he took up athletics, hiking, and hunting - living what he would later call "a strenuous life." 

  • He Dealt with Tragedy by Going West and Becoming a Cowboy

    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / Wikimedia Commons

    After his wife and mother died - on the same day - T.R. grieved in his own unique way: by leaving the city behind for the wild of the American West to become a cowboy.

    T.R. operated a cattle ranch in Little Missouri in the Dakotas for a few years, learning to ride, rope, and hunt. He worked alongside men who made him tougher, stating that they "took the snob out of him." During his years in the West, he wrote several books on the subject, before returning home and running for office. 

    "I never would have been President if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota." - Teddy Roosevelt

  • He Captured Three Outlaws as a Deputy Sheriff

    Photo: USFWS Headquarters / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    While living in North Dakota, T.R. became a deputy sheriff. During this time, he once pursued three boat thieves through a frozen river. After capturing them, he personally took them to Dickinson for trial, rather than allow them to be hanged by vigilantes. On the journey, he watched them for forty hours straight without sleep - reading Tolstoy to keep himself occupied.

    “I kept guard over the three prisoners, who were huddled into a sullen group some twenty yards off, just the right distance for the buckshot in the double-barrel.” - Teddy Roosevelt

  • He took on Vice, Political Machines, and Corrupt Cops as New York Police Commissioner

    Photo: The Library of Congress / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    In 1895, T.R. became the New York City Police Commissioner. In his two years in the post, he made quite the impact. He fired the police chief. He took on political bosses. He strongly enforced vice laws. And he created what would become the basis for the modern day police academy. 

    T.R. also made a habit of going on walks in the middle of the night, in disguise, to check that his officers were on duty. His secret midnight walks were so successful that journalists began to follow him everywhere - making the secret walks a bit less secret.

    "These midnight rambles are great fun." - Teddy Roosevelt