Early life and family
Theodore Roosevelt at age 11
Roosevelt's coat of arms, featuring a rose bush in reference to the name: "Roosevelt", which is Dutch for "rose field"
Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was born on October 27, 1858, at East 20th Street in New York City. He was the second of four children born to socialite Martha Stewart "Mittie" Bulloch and businessman and philanthropist Theodore Roosevelt Sr. (brother of Robert Roosevelt and James A. Roosevelt, all sons of Cornelius Roosevelt). He had an older sister, Anna (nicknamed "Bamie"), a younger brother, Elliott, and a younger sister, Corinne. Elliott was later the father of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of Theodore's distant cousin, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His paternal grandfather was of Dutch descent; his other ancestry included primarily Scottish and Scots-Irish, English and smaller amounts of German, Welsh, and French. Theodore Sr. was the fifth son of businessman Cornelius Van Schaack "C.V.S." Roosevelt and Margaret Barnhill. Theodore's fourth cousin, James Roosevelt I, who was also a businessman, was the father of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Mittie was the younger daughter of Major James Stephens Bulloch and Martha P. "Patsy" Stewart. Through the Van Schaacks, Roosevelt was a descendant of the Schuyler family.
Roosevelt's youth was largely shaped by his poor health and debilitating asthma. He repeatedly experienced sudden nighttime asthma attacks that caused the experience of being smothered to death, which terrified both Theodore and his parents. Doctors had no cure. Nevertheless, he was energetic and mischievously inquisitive. His lifelong interest in zoology began at age seven when he saw a dead seal at a local market; after obtaining the seal's head, Roosevelt and two cousins formed what they called the "Roosevelt Museum of Natural History". Having learned the rudiments of taxidermy, he filled his makeshift museum with animals that he killed or caught; he then studied the animals and prepared them for display. At age nine, he recorded his observation of insects in a paper entitled "The Natural History of Insects".
Roosevelt's father significantly influenced him. His father was a prominent leader in New York's cultural affairs; he helped to found the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and had been especially active in mobilizing support for the Union during the Civil War, even though his in-laws included Confederate leaders. Roosevelt said, "My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness." Family trips abroad, including tours of Europe in 1869 and 1870, and Egypt in 1872, shaped his cosmopolitan perspective. Hiking with his family in the Alps in 1869, Roosevelt found that he could keep pace with his father. He had discovered the significant benefits of physical exertion to minimize his asthma and bolster his spirits. Roosevelt began a heavy regime of exercise. After being manhandled by two older boys on a camping trip, he found a boxing coach to teach him to fight and strengthen his body.
Theodore and Elliot Roosevelt watch Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession passing their grandfather's mansion in New York City.
A 6-year-old Roosevelt witnessed the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln from his grandfather's mansion in Union Square, New York City where he was photographed in the window along with his brother Elliot, as confirmed by wife Edith who was also present.