The 100th Anniversary of our National Parks and Teddy

Teddy R and Adam Lindquist

Teddy R and our National Parks

There are many celebrations occurring cross the country this year for the 100th anniversary of our National Parks.   I, along with several of my TR friends, will be contributing to these events, partly because many mistakenly believe Roosevelt created the National Parks.  Here is where you might need to pull out your history books for a refresher.

The first National Park was Yellowstone, established in 1872, well before Roosevelt’s time.  During his Presidency,  Roosevelt doubled the number of National Parks  from 1901-1909.  So that begs the question, why is 2016 the 100th Anniversary?  Because it wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson that the creation of the National Park Service occurred.

So why is Teddy often credited with the parks creation?  Because it was Roosevelt’s contribution to conservation and wildlife preservation that resulted in a national awareness of the need to continue to preserve the American Landscape.  Three major contributions of Roosevelt led to this: His doubling the number of National Parks while President; The creation of Wildlife Refuges and; the Antiquities Act of 1906 which created our National Monuments.  We must also remember that it was Roosevelt who hired Gifford Pinchot as the first Chief of the United States Forest Service to help manage our forest resources.  During his Presidency, Roosevelt would help protect 230 Million acres of land.  There is a very real reason he is called the conservation President!

As part of my mission for 2016 and hopefully beyond, I encourage you to take this year to explore this amazing land.  Take your children and their children on the real kind of adventure.   One where electronic devices are used only to record the sights and sounds to remind us of our experience.  An adventure where our conversations revolve around the amazing landscape that surrounds us.  Our parks, local, state and National are our real treasures.   Preserved because you enjoy them – but enjoy them you must to keep their preservation.

Theodore Roosevelt Taxidermist and Naturalist

Born on October 27, 1858 in New York City, Roosevelt grew up in a world of wealth and privilege. Young Theodore however was found to be afflicted at a young age with Asthma as well as other illnesses. Because of his health, Roosevelt spent much of his childhood years bed ridden or at least confined to his home. He often slept propped up in bed or slouching in a chair during much of his early years. Despite his illnesses, he was hyperactive and often mischievous.

TR at Harvard

TR at Harvard

During severe bout of asthma attacks, his family would feed him strong coffee, thought in the day to be a proper treatment. His father would also would take him by carriage out of the city, so he could get fresh air. It was here that TR developed a love of nature. Some suggest this was partially psychological, as it gave him a chance to be alone with his father and also was the place where he could breath freely.

The times that young “Teedie” was healthy, he would explore the woods and trails and observe bugs, birds and animals. His lifelong interest in zoology was formed at age seven upon seeing a dead seal at a local market. After obtaining the seal’s head, the young Roosevelt and two of his cousins formed what they called the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”. Learning the rudiments of taxidermy from John Bell, (a famous taxidermist and colleague of wildlife artist John James Audubon) he filled his makeshift museum with animals that he killed or caught, studied, and prepared for display. At age nine, he codified his observation of insects with a paper titled “The Natural History of Insects”. At age 12, he donated some of them – a dozen mice, a bat, a turtle, four birds’ eggs and the skull of a red squirrel – to the American Museum of Natural History, founded by his father. Eleven years later, he presented 622 carefully preserved bird skins to the Smithsonian.

His first experience in a “public” school was when Theodore Roosevelt entered Harvard shortly before his eighteenth birthday. He originally chose to study natural history and had considered a teaching career. From the day of Theodore’s arrival in Cambridge, he failed to fit into the Harvard mold. His clothes were considered too flashy for the conservatives, who also disapproved of his recently grown sideburns. His college rooms were filled with his specimens and mounted animals. Faculty members who taught Roosevelt soon learned to treat him warily. Once Roosevelt asked so many questions during a natural history lecture that the professor exclaimed, “Now look here, Roosevelt, let me talk, I’m running this course!”

In 1878, Theodore’s world collapsed. His father and mentor, Theodore Roosevelt Sr., died shortly after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. The young man was devastated by this loss but resumed his studies. His father’s death changed the direction of Theodore’s life. When he returned to Harvard in the fall of 1878, he switched his major to history and government. He felt this would be the way for him to honor his father’s memory by pursing a career in public service. Though politics was considered “beneath” wealthy, young gentlemen, Roosevelt saw it as an opportunity to change laws for the betterment of society. He later wrote that his father influenced his life more than any other person and that he was the “greatest man he ever knew.”