Aid to the cause
of conservation in this land of abused resources was the most lasting of
Theodore Roosevelt's many contributions. During his presidency he greatly
expanded the National Forests, created Wildlife Refuges and doubled the number
of National Parks. Conservation campaigns, including the fight to save the
egrets from the plume hunters, received his ready support.
This magazine has
described T.R., the hunter (Nov. 8, 1954). Now, on the centennial of his birth,
another side of his career is presented. Theodore Roosevelt was closely
associated with The American Museum of Natural History, which is the site of a
memorial to him in stone and bronze. This month the museum's official magazine,
Natural History, publishes the following article on Roosevelt, the
conservationist and naturalist. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, considering it particularly
fitting at a time when our national resources need stronger guardians than
ever, is proud to reprint it herewith.
One Hundred years
ago, on October 27, 1858, a son was born to Martha and Theodore Roosevelt in
New York City. He grew to be a scrawny child—studious and a little lonely. He
had asthma, and his eyes were bad. "He looked so pindlin' we thought we
couldn't raise him," said Bill Sewall, a large, powerful Maine guide who
was to become a close companion and friend in later years.
Before he was 9,
this boy knew with certainty that he wanted to be a naturalist. By the end of
college, this early goal had been set aside. Yet, paradoxically, had young
Theodore Roosevelt succeeded in his childhood plans, he could neither have
contributed to science what in later years he did contribute, nor could he have
achieved what stands today as perhaps his greatest triumph, effective
conservation in America.
At 7, Theodore
Roosevelt was a serious student of animal life. By 9, he had founded—in his
room—what he called The Roosevelt Museum of Natural History. His father, two
years later, was among the founders of a larger institution with similar
purposes—The American Museum of Natural History. The elder Theodore undoubtedly
inspired and encouraged his boy's interest in nature, partly because the child
was not very strong. At 14, the weakness of his eyes was discovered, and his
father got him spectacles and his first shotgun: he was already receiving
lessons in taxidermy under the great John G. Bell, an associate of Audubon.
That same year,
1872, the family took him on an energetic and extended tour through Europe and
to Egypt. Here he collected and subsequently mounted considerably more than a
hundred bird specimens. No young naturalist ever got off to so promising a
start: no boy his age was ever surer of what he wanted to do.
Harvard just too late to be taught by Louis Agassiz and Asa Gray, but he did
have splendid teachers: Shaler, Davis, Mark, Good-ale and Faxon. However, as he
remarked later, Harvard at that time was too interested in working with dead
tissue, with microscope and dissecting tools, and the activities of the field
naturalist were regarded as comparatively unimportant. Perhaps this attitude on
the part of his teachers swayed young Roosevelt from his former goal. Later, he
wrote, "the tendency was to treat as not serious, as unscientific, any kind
of work that was not carried out with laborious minuteness in the
graduation, in 1880, he broke up his bird collection—giving the bulk of it to
the Smithsonian Institution and about 20 specimens to The American Museum of
Natural History, where several of his mountings are still displayed.
pursuing nature, Theodore now studied law under his uncle, Robert Barnhill
Roosevelt, and, as an outlet for his energies, wrote a history: The Naval War
of 1812. Apparently, he was through with natural history forever, for he next
entered politics and was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1882. The
next year, partly for sheer pleasure and partly to help his asthmatic, rundown
physical condition, he decided to go off and hunt buffalo.
In the wilds of
Dakota Territory, he got his buffalo and also found himself back with his first
love—nature. He invested in a cattle enterprise—which, in the end, cost him
$50,000, but paid him back in pleasure. He got a buckskin suit and wandered all
over this wild country; he wrote three books about his experiences—Hunting
Trips of a Ranchman, Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail and The Wilderness