This weekend here in New York City is the 99th annual Theodore Roosevelt Association conference. I am not attending any of the events today but will be at the Harvard Club tomorrow for the symposium. While I have irons in many fires, at the end of the day the Roosevelts are my primary intellectual interest. What I find fascinating about them is that one can interpret pretty much any aspect of American, and often even international history, through the prism of the Roosevelt clan. One hundred years ago right now Theodore Roosevelt’s health was in rapid decline. In 1917 he seemingly sensed that the end was near and began sending his papers to the Library of Congress for posterity. It was a burdensome time, with his health in decline and five of his children in danger serving in the Great War. Quentin of course would be killed on Bastille Day 1918, and the other boys would be gassed and/or wounded before it was all done. Ethel and her surgeon husband Richard Derby were in Paris dealing with the wounded.
Roosevelt was writing his weekly newspaper column well into the later months of 1918 but eventually stopped as he reached his final illness. When he finally died in January 1919 the output from his brief sixty-year life was incredible: 100,000+ letters, 30+ books, reams of journalism, and so much more. The Library of Congress this week, coincidentally or not in time to commemorate Roosevelt’s 160th birthday, has made digitally available a significant portion of that life’s work. They have done us a yeoman’s service.
(image/Library of Congress)