Today I began re-reading the first third David McCullough’s Mornings on Horseback. This is the ur-text for anyone who works or volunteers at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace. I wanted to re-read this portion of the book for a few reasons. First, I felt my tours at the TRB were becoming a little too rote and formulaic. It is so easy to let the story become flat. Also, the “problem” with the Roosevelts is that the entire clan is so fascinating. Mention an aspect of American history–even international history–and the Roosevelts were probably involved in some way. This is great for a generalist such as myself but I must force myself to focus on my ultimate goals regarding the Roosevelt Birthplace, to involve myself in public history and to focus at the same time on my book about the life and times of Theodore Roosevelt Senior. The house on East 20th Street was after all the home of Theodore Senior and his wife Martha. A third reason for going back to Mornings is that I know much more about the family than I did when I began there ten months ago. I feel like I am absorbing much more of what McCullough has to say this time around.
It is interesting because Mornings on Horseback is something of a Roosevelt trilogy. The Path Between the Seas is about the construction of the Panama Canal and obviously focuses on Theodore Roosevelt. Even The Great Bridge, albeit to a lesser degree, has a Roosevelt protagonists: Robert Roosevelt, the future president’s uncle. The book about the Brooklyn Bridge does such a good job too of putting the era into a context. I don’t how McCullough does it.
So much good work has been done about the Roosevelt family and yet there is still much ground to cover and areas to explore.