“Teedie” to Teddy to TR: Theodore Roosevelt, 1858–1919—A Centenary Commemorative Essay (February 2019)

This essay first appeared in the February 2019 issue of Choice (volume 56 | issue 6).


TR’s New York City Knickerbocker family endearingly called the asthmatic future president “Teedie” in his prepubescence. Later, during his political ascendency, the press would jocularly refer to him by the despised nickname “Teddy,” hence the iconic “Teddy” bear. Overridingly—then, as now—the world would also attribute the sobriquet “TR” to the charismatic Theodore Roosevelt (October 27, 1858 to January 6, 1919), the first president so familiarly addressed. In attempting to characterize TR’s outsize personality, scholars have also routinely ascribed other epithets to him, such as “conservative elitist,” “progressive reformer,” “cowboy,” “warrior,” etc. For stages of TR’s extremely complicated life—a life lived not at the margins, but centrally…

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