Once upon a late-October evening in antebellum New York City, Martha Bulloch Roosevelt bore her second child, an eight-pound baby boy named Theodore. “Teddy,” Martha and Theodore Roosevelt Sr.’s first son, entered an affluent, old New York family whose wealth was produced by the family’s multi-generational import-export firm. Theodore Sr., known both for his piety as a philanthropist and his boorishness at New York society balls, had already risen to the ranks of the city’s elite by Theodore’s October 27, 1858 birth. Five years his junior, twenty-two year old Martha “Mattie” Roosevelt was the daughter of a wealthy Georgia planter. The petite Southern Belle basked in the pleasures of New York high society.
Young “Teedie” endured a sickly childhood within the comfortable trappings of American luxury; he suffered from terrible asthma attacks that weakened his already undersized body. Theodore Jr. also suffered from near-sightedness, which forced him to wear eyeglasses his entire life. Teedie spent much of his boyhood reading history and zoology and collecting house mice; the sickly little boy could not gallivant around with his peers, wreaking havoc in their luxurious surroundings. Roosevelt spent his adolescence boxing, wrestling, and sprinting himself into a robust man. A combination of strenuous exercise and sheer will built the sickly Teedie into a strapping young buck by the time he entered college. Teddy encouraged young men to mimic his desire for the “strenuous life” into order to keep their bodies as well as their minds fit.
In other news: