If you live in or around New York City please remember that I will be speaking about the writing and publishing career of Ted Roosevelt at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace on Saturday 4 March, one week from today. I wrote about his father Theodore Roosevelt’s journalistic career last week. It is more complicated than I can go into here–that’s what the talk is for–but one thread to keep in mind when it comes to the Roosevelt clan is that the written word was important to almost all of them. Ted was an executive at Doubleday in the 1930s, after his stints in Puerto Rico and the Philippines and before he rejoined the Army in 1941. His father knew the Doubledays well and even laid the cornerstone for the publishing house’s Garden City Long Island headquarters when they relocated from New York City in 1910. If you note, in the caption he emphasizes the shift from the city to what was then rural Long Island and what he sees as the positive influence it will have for people and business–like Doubleday–who make that demographic shift. It is not reading too much into it to say he is foreseeing the post-Second World War rise of suburbia. Levittown was in Long Island.
I have been pulling my speaking material together this week and have started gathering the images as well, which I intend to put into a Powerpoint later today. The image above is from the 20 August 1910 Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Roosevelt would have just gotten back from his post-presidential safari in Africa and return swing through Europe, where he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize and attended the funeral of King Edward VII that May. Note the heaviness of Roosevelt’s dark suit, which he is wearing under no shade in the dog days of August. It is lost on us how grueling the speaking circuit can be for politicians.
As some know, when the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace reopened last October I made the decision not to return on a weekly basis. The primary focus is on getting the book done. Still, I have not completely severed my ties, contributing some for the site’s social media platforms for instance. One thing I ran past the powers-that-be way back while the renovation was still going on was talking in a more formal setting from time to time. I am happy to say that today the first of those talks got the official approval. Should you happen in New York City on Saturday March 4 come out for a presentation by yours truly about the writing and publishing career of Ted Roosevelt. This is a fascinating and relatively unknown story, which begins in March 1919 with his return from the trenches of France during the First World War and ending 25 years later with his death in France during the Second. Remember, Ted’s grandparents were the homeowners of what we now call the TRB.
I got home at around 8:30 last night after a long day’s work and there waiting in the vestibule was a package from the editor of the Theodore Roosevelt Association Journal. Inside were a dozen copies, hot off the press, of the current edition, containing my article about Ted Roosevelt and his life as a writer and editor. Ted Roosevelt’s literary story begins in 1919 when he arrived home from the Great War aboard the Mauritania and ends just prior to his rejoining the Army to fight again, this time in the Second World War. Really, however, the story is much deeper than that; so many of the clan had a literary bent and he very much fits into that aspect of the family heritage. It was long my goal to get published in the TRA Journal and I cannot express how happy I am with the experience.
As I mentioned the other day I could not make it out to Governors Island this weekend because I have some things I must catch up on. I’m sure they’re having way too much fun out there. I thought I would do the next best thing and mark Memorial Day by recognizing one of the great men to have passed through the island: Charles P. Summerall. I wrote about his frequent visits to the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace two years ago. The top photograph was taken on September 22, 1937 at a reunion of the Society of the First Division. The 16th Infantry Regiment re-enacted the 1918 Battle of Fleville that afternoon, and later that evening there was a banquet at the Hotel Pennsylvania overseen by Colonel Theodore (Ted) Roosevelt. The images of his headstone were taken in Arlington Cemetery last month.
I am out the door in a few minutes to get some things done. Whatever you do today, stop and remember this Memorial Day.
top image/A Seventeen-gun salute was accorded General Charles P. Summerall, retired (center, hat on chest), when he returned to Governor Island to see the re-enactment of the Battle of Fleville today. General Summerall was a war-time commander of the First Division. (Photo by Anthony Calvacca / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
I was in the city this morning meeting a friend for brunch. Afterwards, we were headed somewhere else when I realized we were just a block from the Roosevelt Birthplace on East 20th Street. I had not been past since it closed last April and naturally had to swing by and check things out. Work seems to be progressing on the outside of the house. When I know more about the re-opening, I will keep everyone up-to-date.
I came across the image above the other day via the Kansas City Star. The photograph was taken in that city at the American Legion Convention in November 1921. They are hard to make out but the VIPs on the podium are none other than General Jacques of Belgium, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Vice President Calvin Coolidge, Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, General Pershing, and British Admiral David Beatty. The photo cuts off whatever is on the far left, which is unfortunate because everyone including the big shots are looking in that direction. Of everyone present I find Foch’s presence the most interesting; later that same month he visited the still-under-reconstruction Roosevelt House on East 20th Street here in New York City. As I always point out to people at the TRB, he was on a grand tour modeled after Lafayette’s 1824-25 visit.
I searched a few online sources to see if Ted Roosevelt was present in KC for the convention. He appears not to have been, which makes sense as he was Harding’s Assistant Navy Secretary by this time. He had been in Missouri, in St. Louis, for the Legion’s founding convention two years previously. I assume these conventions were held where they were because these cities were located in the center of the country and thus easy to get to via railroad. KC is an important American city when it comes to the First World War. Theodore Roosevelt wrote for the Star for much of 1917 until his death in early 1919. So did Hemingway until he left for Italy in early 1918. Pershing was from there, which is why the Liberty Memorial and now the National World War I Museum and Memorial are in Kansas City. I have been to the Liberty Memorial once before and would love to get back during the centennial.
(image/Kansas City Star)
The Theodore Roosevelt Association’s annual conference is this weekend in Boston. Alas I will not be attending this year. I was talking to a friend the other day, an individual who is quite knowledgeable about Roosevelt, and mentioned to her that Boston is an ideal place to discuss TR and his legacy. Harvard, Alice Hathaway Lee, and Henry Cabot Lodge are all big parts of Theodore Roosevelt’s story with their roots in The Hub. Working on the article I submitted last week, I came across an individual I had never heard of previously: Nora E. Cordingley.
Ms. Cordingley was a Canadian-American who ended up working at the New York Public Library in the early 1900s. In 1923 she took a job at Roosevelt House working under director Hermann Hagedorn. She was there for two full decades; when the Roosevelt Collection moved from East 20th Street to Harvard University in 1943 she moved to Cambridge along with the collection. I was at NYPL a few weeks ago and asked the reference librarian if she had ever heard of Cordingley. She had not. The ref librarian added that NYPL had a training course in the early 1900s–this presumably in the years prior to one’s receiving an MLS from an ALA-accredited school–and that Cordingley may have been here in New York to receive this education. Then, if this is indeed the narrative, after her education and training she moved on to the Roosevelt collection that the RMA was building on East 20th Street.
Cordingley was dedicated to her job. Sadly she died in the Widener Library of a heart attack in March 1951 while editing Roosevelt’s letters. These were the letters that were published in eight volumes in the 1950s under the direction of Elting Morison. Cordingley’s is a moving story that I now think about each time I look up a Roosevelt missive in the set.
Here is something you don’t see every day. I was at the New York Public Library today doing some research. The book I am holding here is volume 1 of the Memorial Edition of Theodore Roosevelt’s collected works. For those who may not know their TR, Colonel Roosevelt authored over thirty books in his lifetime. I wrote a Facebook post for the TRB page about a year ago. Hermann Hagedorn edited Roosevelt’s books in the mid-1920s. The collected works were then published in two versions, a limited-run Memorial Edition and a larger National Edition for the general public.
There were 1050 sets of the Memorial Edition. This is 629. What really drew my attention is that it is signed by Edith Roosevelt, Theodore’s wife. This thing has been part of the NYPL collection for 90+ years now. It’s amazing to hold such a thing in your hands.
Yesterday’s New York Times had a write-up about Sunday’s reopening of Sagamore Hill. I will probably visit sometime in early fall. Like the restoration of the Lee Mansion in Arlington that took place a few years ago, much of the Sagamore restoration work was gritty and unglamorous. It was about the infrastructure–electricity, duct work, cleaning the taxidermy–and things of that nature. Sexy or not that is what needs to be done to keep such treasures functioning for future generations. The latest rehabilitation is now itself a part of the story of the 130-year-old home.
The excitement around Sagamore has been building for months. We certainly talked about it with visitors at the Roosevelt Birthplace on a daily basis.
Find your Park.
(image/Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library. “Sagamore Hill, home of President Theodore Roosevelt at Oyster Bay, L. I.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e4-83e5-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99)