Back Theodore Roosevelt, “Enjoying the Presidency”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919)
From Theodore Roosevelt: Letters & Speeches

Left: Quentin Roosevelt and Roswell Pinckney seated on the White House steps, 1902. Roswell was the son of White House Steward Henry Pinckney. Both boys were members of the White House Gang (under the names Q and Pinky), as was Charlie Taft (Taffy), the son of Secretary of War William Howard Taft. President Roosevelt was an honorary member. (Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864–1952, courtesy of Library of Congress) Right: Alice Roosevelt, daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, posing with one of the Roosevelts’ many pets, c. 1904. (Library of Congress)

Earlier this week, on Presidents Day, we found ourselves thinking about the years during which there were snakes inside the White House.

Not to mention dogs, cats, guinea pigs, a parrot, a macaw, a pig, a horned toad, a rabbit, a badger, and (very briefly) a pony.

During the eight years Theodore Roosevelt was President, White House employees became used to seeing all sorts of exotic animals roaming the halls. Little Kermit once brought three snakes to a meeting in the Oval Office between the President and the Attorney General, Alice was known to walk around with her pet snake up her sleeve, and Quentin and Kermit took one of the ponies in the elevator to the second-floor bedroom where their brother Archie was lying in bed sick. Their father was equally famous for his love of animals, his fondness of practical jokes, and his rambunctious horseplay with his children and their friends.

The White House was largely open to journalists, and the family’s adventures were often reported on the front pages of the nation’s newspapers. When they went to the “Summer White House,” the family home in Sagamore Hill, New York, however, the residence was off limits to the press, and reporters were so starved for gossip that one time the President showed up in town and told gathering newshounds: “I want you to know all the facts, so I shall give them to you at first hand. Teddy is now fishing for tadpoles, but really expects to land a whale. Archie shot three elephants this morning. Ethel at this moment is setting fire to the rear of the house; Kermit and the calico pony are having a wrestling match in the garret, and Quentin, four years old, is pulling down the windmill.”

Few presidents have brought so much fun to the White House as Theodore Roosevelt, and for our Story of the Week we present a couple of letters showcasing his enjoyment of the presidency, with an introduction presenting a few additional details about those snakes.

Read “Enjoying the Presidency” by Theodore Roosevelt

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