Weird History

Theodore Roosevelt Tried To Have His Own Brother Committed And Exiled – So He Wouldn't Embarrass Him  

Stephan Roget
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There are dozens of celebratory, and occasionally apocryphal, tales about President Theodore Roosevelt - one of America’s most popular Presidents - but the story of him and his brother, Elliott, is not one worthy of celebration. Any simple biography composed of Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt facts is filled with tragedy and - although many of the troubles in his life were self-inflicted - his brother conspired to further ruin him.

Fearing a potential scandal due to Elliott’s alcoholism and womanizing, some contend that Teddy made moves to protect his reputation. He went so far as to exile Elliott to Paris and later rip him from his family and institutionalize him. This callous treatment of his younger brother helped preserve Theodore’s reputation long enough to win him the White House, but it also destroyed his brother’s life and ultimately led to his suicide at 34 years old.

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Photo:  Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Elliott Was Forcibly “Kidnapped” From His Paris Home, As His Children Watched

With Elliott Roosevelt living in Paris - having been exiled for fathering an illegitimate child in the States - and drinking heavily, Theodore Roosevelt wanted him put away permanently to avoid further scandals. To facilitate this, and to help separate Elliott from his family, Theodore had him forcibly removed from his home in 1891 while his children watched. Elliott referred to this action as a “kidnapping,” but the end result had him institutionalized under a doctor’s care in a sanitarium and prevented from reuniting with his wife and children, who had been taken to America.

Exile And Alcoholism Eventually Pushed Elliott To Commit Suicide

Looking backward, some summarize it thus: Theodore Roosevelt neatly destroyed his brother’s life all in the name of furthering his own political career. Although Theodore was successful in this endeavor, becoming the President of the United States in 1901, Elliott wasn't around to see it. After losing his family - first through exile and then from the death of his wife and son - Elliott attempted to end his own life in 1894. He leapt from the window of a building and - although the initial attempt wasn’t successful - he succumbed to his injuries a few days later. He was 34.

Elliott Embarrassed The Roosevelt Family By Fathering A Child With A Young Servant Woman

Although over the course of his life Elliott Roosevelt developed a habit of embarrassing his family, nothing prepared them for the socially devastating news that he had fathered an illegitimate child with a young chambermaid in the 1890s. He’d apparently had a short but passionate affair with a young woman named Katie Mann, and he even referred to her as his “spirit wife." He was forced to leave her behind when his actual wife found out.  

Theodore Roosevelt found out about the situation when a couple of lawyers showed up looking for money for Mann, and he recognized the news for what it was - a scandal waiting to happen that could easily derail his presidential aspirations. For Elliott’s siblings, this was the last straw, and they agreed that something needed to be done.

Theodore Ordered To Pay The Mo... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Theodore Roosevelt Tried To Have His Own Brother Committed And Exiled – So He Wouldn't Embarrass Him
Photo:  George G. Rockwood/Library of Congress/Public Domain
Theodore Ordered To Pay The Mother Of Elliott's Illegitimate Son - But The Money Never Arrived

After learning of Elliott Roosevelt's affair, Theodore Roosevelt needed to be sure his apparent illegitimate nephew was actually his brother's son before he took any drastic action. Teddy sent a police detective to take a look at the baby boy when he was born, and the detective agreed that he looked like a Roosevelt, but that wasn’t good enough.

Chambermaid Katie Mann - Elliott Roosevelt's lover - was shocked when one day Teddy showed up at her tiny apartment to see the kid for himself. Apparently, he saw the same distinguishing Roosevelt features that the police detective had, because he agreed the child was almost certainly Elliott’s. Teddy offered to pay Mann off but only if she kept quiet about the identity of the boy’s father. She agreed, and she did keep the secret, although she apparently never received any money.