Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt attended Harvard College (now Harvard University) for his undergraduate education. Harvard played a formative role in Roosevelt’s life, helping to shape the future president’s views on politics, philosophy, and public service.
Quick Facts About Teddy Roosevelt’s Education
- Born in 1858 in New York City into a wealthy family
- Suffered from asthma and poor eyesight as a child
- Developed a rigorous exercise regimen to build his physique
- Attended Harvard College from 1876-1880, studying natural history and composition
- Traveled to Germany after graduation, studying for a year at the University of Berlin
- Published his first book, The Naval War of 1812, at age 23 after graduating from Harvard
- Was deeply influenced by his Harvard professors, especially naturalist Nathaniel Shaler
- Developed a love for nature and the outdoors during his time at Harvard
Teddy Roosevelt’s Years at Harvard
Theodore Roosevelt enrolled at Harvard College in 1876 at the age of 18. He had a privileged upbringing but suffered from debilitating asthma attacks that disrupted his childhood education.
At Harvard, Roosevelt chose to pursue rigorous physical fitness along with his studies, believing that the “strenuous life” was ideal preparation for success. He took up boxing and rowing, joining the rowing club at Harvard. Roosevelt slowly built up muscular strength and stamina, overcoming the physical limitations of his childhood.
Roosevelt was an intelligent and ambitious student who studied a wide range of subjects. These included natural history, zoology, forensics, composition, German, and philosophy. He was especially drawn to natural history, joining Harvard’s prestigious Porcellian Club for this field of study.
One of Roosevelt’s most influential professors was Nathaniel Shaler, a pioneering geologist and natural historian. Shaler took Roosevelt on field trips, taught him about scientific observation and inference, and inspired his lifelong interest in the natural world.
In his free time, Roosevelt nurtured a growing fascination with politics and history. He engaged in lively debates with classmates and studied the writings of political theorists. Roosevelt was an avid reader and thinker who was deeply interested in the philosophical underpinnings of democracy and governance.
After graduating from Harvard, Roosevelt continued his studies in Germany for almost a year. He attended the University of Berlin, further developing his knowledge of history and governance. This European education rounded out Roosevelt’s academic training prior to embarking on his remarkably multifaceted career.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Net Worth
As a scion of one of New York’s wealthiest families, Roosevelt enjoyed a sizeable trust fund in his early adulthood. After graduating Harvard, his net worth was estimated at around $125,000, which is equivalent to about $3.2 million in 2023 dollars.
However, Roosevelt was not just handed his fortune. After suffering some financial losses in ranching and other investments, he aggressively built up his assets by writing bestselling books and giving paid speeches. By the time he became president in 1901 at age 42, his net worth was estimated between $1-3 million, or $30-$90 million in today’s dollars.
As president and throughout his retirement, Roosevelt commanded high fees for published works and speaking engagements. He used his platform and fame to earn substantial income while promoting his political ideas. By 1919, Roosevelt’s net worth had grown to an estimated $10 million, equivalent to over $150 million today.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Conservation Legacy
One of Roosevelt’s most impactful and enduring legacies was in conservation. He established 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments during his presidency.
Some of the national parks and monuments created under Roosevelt’s leadership include Crater Lake, Wind Cave, Mesa Verde, and the Grand Canyon. He also established the U.S. Forest Service and placed millions of acres of land under federal protection.
Roosevelt’s conservation efforts were driven by his belief that America’s wilderness and natural resources must be prudently managed and preserved. He once wrote that “the conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem. Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others.”
These words underscore Roosevelt’s foundational role in placing conservation at the forefront of America’s national agenda. His environmental policies and ethos continue to shape debates around conservation and climate change today.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Foreign Policy
Theodore Roosevelt was deeply involved in foreign affairs during his presidency, mediating the Russo-Japanese War, expanding America’s global naval power, and building the Panama Canal.
Some key aspects of Roosevelt’s foreign policy included:
- Mediating the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) through diplomatic negotiations, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906. This brought Roosevelt to global prominence.
- Sending the “Great White Fleet” of American battleships on a worldwide voyage from 1907-1909 to demonstrate U.S. naval power.
- Supporting the separatist revolt in Panama in 1903, leading to its independence from Colombia. This allowed Roosevelt to negotiate rights to build the Panama Canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
- Mediating disputes over Japanese immigration in California through the “Gentlemen’s Agreement” of 1907. This diffused tensions between the U.S. and Japan.
- Advocating for an “Open Door Policy” in China to promote equal trade access and protect Chinese territorial sovereignty.
Teddy Roosevelt’s Domestic Policy
Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency ushered in the Progressive Era of reform in America. He took on powerful business monopolies and advocated political reforms to empower ordinary citizens. Some key domestic policies under Roosevelt included:
- Trust-busting – Roosevelt dissolved monopolistic trusts under the Sherman Antitrust Act. He broke up over 40 major corporations to promote market competition.
- Regulating railroads – The Hepburn Act of 1906 gave the Interstate Commerce Commission power to set maximum railroad rates. This limited the monopoly power of robber barons.
- Pure food and drugs – The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 regulated the food and pharmaceutical industries, protecting consumer health and safety.
- Conservation – Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service and placed over 200 million acres under public protection to promote sustainable use of natural resources.
- Political reforms – Roosevelt’s “Square Deal” policies increased citizens’ political power through new campaign finance laws and primaries for nominating candidates.
These domestic policies demonstrated Roosevelt’s philosophy of strong federal oversight to rein in corporate power and empower ordinary Americans. This activist governance defined his progressive leadership in the White House.
Roosevelt’s Later Political Career
After leaving the presidency in 1909, Roosevelt went on an epic expedition to chart the River of Doubt in the Amazon rainforest. When he returned to the U.S., he became disillusioned with his successor President Taft’s conservative policies. Roosevelt challenged Taft for the Republican nomination in 1912.
When denied the nomination, Roosevelt founded the Progressive Party, also called the “Bull Moose Party.” Roosevelt ran again for president under this third party, advocating for women’s suffrage, social welfare, and more. He lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1912, but drew more votes than Republican Taft.
Roosevelt remained active in politics, writing and speaking vigorously about America’s role in World War I under Wilson. His later career showed Roosevelt’s enduring commitment to progressive reforms and internationalism.
Follow Teddy Roosevelt on Social Media
Though social media didn’t exist during Teddy Roosevelt’s lifetime, here are some accounts that regularly share quotes, facts, and history about the famous president:
- Twitter – @TeddyRoosevelt
- Facebook – @TeddyRoosevelt
- Instagram – @theodoreroosevelt
- YouTube – Theodore Roosevelt
These are great platforms to stay up-to-date on Roosevelt’s legacy and see fascinating photos and videos related to his life and career. Many also highlight his continued relevance today.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teddy Roosevelt
How did Teddy Roosevelt overcome childhood asthma?
Through rigorous physical exercise and sports like boxing, hiking, rowing, and horseback riding, Roosevelt slowly built up his physique to overcome debilitating asthma attacks he suffered as a child.
What was Teddy Roosevelt’s major field of study at Harvard?
At Harvard, Roosevelt specialized in natural history, taking courses in zoology, forestry, and biology under renowned professor Nathaniel Shaler. This nurtured his lifelong interest in nature and conservation.
Did Teddy Roosevelt write any books?
Yes, Roosevelt was a prolific author throughout his life, writing over 40 books and 150,000 letters. Some of his most famous works include The Naval War of 1812, his autobiography, The Rough Riders, and Through the Brazilian Wilderness.
How did Teddy Roosevelt help the labor movement?
As president, Roosevelt intervened in major coal and mining strikes, using federal power to broker agreements between unions and management. He saw government’s role as a mediator between labor and capital.
Was Teddy Roosevelt awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?
Yes, Roosevelt was awarded the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in mediating the end of the Russo-Japanese War. This made him the first American to receive the prize.
In closing, Teddy Roosevelt’s undergraduate years at Harvard profoundly shaped his subsequent career. His academic training combined with rigorous physical conditioning prepared him for leadership while his professors instilled in him a passion for nature and public service. Roosevelt’s presidency fundamentally changed America’s relationship to the environment, capitalism, and global affairs. His dynamism, intellect, and moral courage continue to inspire generations of Americans.