in: Character, Knowledge of Men, Podcast

• Last updated: September 28, 2021

Podcast #194: The Field Notes of Theodore Roosevelt

If you’ve been following the Art of Manliness for a while, you know we’re big fans of Theodore Roosevelt. His life is a truly inexhaustible repository of interest and inspiration. Well, there’s a new biography out about him that talks about one of the lesser-explored sides of that life: Roosevelt as a journaler and diarist.

It’s called Theodore Roosevelt in the Field, and on today’s show author Michael Canfield and I discuss what we can learn about Roosevelt’s approach to life and his work as a natural historian, conservationist, hunter, and soldier from TR’s own field notes. We discuss how this note-taking habit honed Roosevelt’s keen sense of observation, and of course, the lessons that men can take from his adventurous life.

Show Highlights

  • How we still have field notes from when Roosevelt was a nine-year-old boy
  • The tradition of diary keeping in the 19th century
  • Why Roosevelt kept field notes
  • How Roosevelt developed an intense love of nature despite growing up in New York City
  • How seriously Roosevelt took himself as a natural historian when he was just a boy
  • How TR’s father is an example for all fathers on how to foster your children’s interests
  • The museum and natural historical society that Roosevelt started as a boy
  • The trend of starting organizations and clubs in the 19th century
  • The actual contributions Roosevelt made to natural history as a young man
  • Why Roosevelt decided he wasn’t going to be a scientist and instead became a politician
  • How Roosevelt kept being a natural historian even as a politician
  • How living in the badlands of Dakota transformed Roosevelt
  • Theodore Roosevelt, the storyteller
  • Why there isn’t a definitive bibliography of Roosevelt’s writing (hint: because he wrote a crap ton)
  • The paradox of Roosevelt the hunter and Roosevelt the conservationist
  • Roosevelt’s last expeditions
  • How Roosevelt’s field notes changed as he aged
  • What life lessons we can gleam from Roosevelt’s field notes (hint: you gotta experience life!)

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in the Podcast

Diary entry from when TR was 9.

Roosevelt's African safari. Includes sketches of shots he took at animals.

Different types of bird sketches.

Bird sketches by TR.

Roosevelt's diary entry when his wife and mother died on the same day.

Theodore Roosevelt in the field book by Michael R. Canfield.

For an interesting look at a familiar figure from a new perspective, be sure to check out Theodore Roosevelt in the FieldThe book is filled with many more of TR’s field notes, and it’s wonderful to get to know the man better through looking at them and seeing his penmanship and observations.

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