While of course no one could have know it at the time Theodore Roosevelt had just eleven months to live as of February 6, 1918. For those watching Roosevelt’s activities however, it was clear that his health was failing. One hundred years ago today he was at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City for surgery to remove accesses on a thigh and in his ears. He had acquired these maladies first in Cuba during the Spanish-American War and later, more seriously, in Brazil in 1913-14 during trip down the River of Doubt. This was Roosevelt’s second procedure in less than a week; surgeons had operated on him in Oyster Bay a few days previously before bringing him into the city for more extensive tests and, ultimately, the additional surgery. There to keep him company in the coming days while he recuperated were daughters Alice and Ethel, wife Ethel, and his sister Corinne. Not present were his four sons, who by now were all in uniform and on active duty. Telegrams of support poured in from Woodrow Wilson, French President Raymond Poincaré, Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, and scores of others.
It was still an active time for Colonel Roosevelt. Remember, he was still just fifty-nine years old. In this period he was writing his columns for the Kansas City Star and speaking his mind on what he saw as the failures of the Wilson Administration in getting the United States up to speed and involved in the Great War. He had had to cancel a number of public talks that very week for the surgery itself. He was in Roosevelt Hospital for nearly a week and suffered a few set back. This is what led his physicians to inform the public that Roosevelt’s condition was “serious but not critical.” He was on the mend, at least temporarily, by mid-February. Some were still optimistic. and there was even public chatter at this time of Roosevelt running for the White House again in 1920.