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.
- 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
- Roosevelt’s field note archives at Harvard
- The brownstone house TR grew up in NYC
- Theodore Roosevelt, Sr.
- Oyster Bay
- The Last of the Mohicans
- American Museum of Natural History
- John Bell, the taxidermist that Roosevelt worked with as a boy
- Roosevelt’s bird lists he published as a young man
- Alice Lee
- Roosevelt’s Naval War of 1812
- Roosevelt capturing the boat thieves
- African Game Trails
- John Muir
- River of Doubt
- Pic of Roosevelt writing in Africa
For an interesting look at a familiar figure from a new perspective, be sure to check out Theodore Roosevelt in the Field. The 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.
Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)
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Read the Transcript