Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy encompasses a wide array of remarkable, well-documented achievements – from overseeing the construction of the Panama Canal to helping root out public corruption to dissolving a slew of monopolies as a “trust buster.” However, there’s a lot more to this titanic figure than that detailed in the history books. Below are 18 fascinating facts about the 26th U.S. President that run the gamut from special awards to his personal pet peeves.
Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919) was a man of varied interests and notable accomplishments. His name alone conjures up images of a stout, bespectacled man with a brown mustache and larger-than-life personality. Indeed, this revered figure who famously urged Americans to “speak softly and carry a big stick” is remembered as an ebullient politician who vowed to crack down on trusts and corruption, a rugged explorer and ardent lover of the outdoors who was deeply committed to the conservation of natural resources, and an intrepid Colonel who commanded the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry – otherwise known as the Rough Riders – during the Spanish-American War. He is also credited with being the driving force behind the building of the Panama Canal and the founder of the Progressive Party in 1912.
But there’s far more to Teddy Roosevelt than meets the eye. Below is a round-up of little-known facts about the 26th President of the United States that you likely didn’t learn in history class.
1. Contrary to popular belief, John F. Kennedy was not the youngest president in history to take office. Though Kennedy was the youngest ever to be elected at 43, Teddy Roosevelt was actually 42 years old when he was sworn in following the assassination of President William McKinley.
2. In 1905, Teddy Roosevelt became the first president in U.S. history to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His role in negotiating a treaty to the Russo-Japanese War garnered him this most coveted accolade. Only 3 presidents have won the Nobel Peace Prize since: Woodrow Wilson, for his work in founding the League of Nations (1919); Jimmy Carter, for his efforts to promote world peace and human rights (2002); and Barack Obama, so honored for his commitment to strengthening international diplomacy (2009).
3. Roosevelt is the only U.S. president to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest military honor. In 2001, more than a century after the Spanish-American War, President Clinton posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Roosevelt for his heroic charge up San Juan Hill. Roosevelt holds the distinction of being the only president in history to hold both the Nobel Peace Prize and Medal of Honor. Interestingly, his son, Brig. General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would later receive the Medal for being the first World War II general to land ashore during the Normandy landings on D-Day in 1944.
4. Though Theodore Roosevelt preferred to be known as “Colonel Roosevelt” or simply “The Colonel,” it was “Teddy” that ultimately stuck with the public. But Roosevelt found the nickname to be wholly unbefitting of a man of his rank.