Visit the Maltese Cross Cabin History section to learn more about Theodore Roosevelt's life in the Dakota Territory.

Theodore Roosevelt
Rancher, Historian, and Author

On February 14, 1884, Roosevelt's first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt, died during childbirth. His mother died on the same day. After these tragedies, Roosevelt spent time during the next two years on his ranch in the Badlands of the Dakota Territory. There, he had invested $40,000 in cattle on the Maltese Cross Ranch. He also set up a second ranch, the Elkhorn and spent many years as a cattle rancher. He mastered his sorrow living in the saddle, driving cattle, and hunting big game. He even captured an outlaw. When he first arrived in the West, many questioned his cowboy capabilities, but Roosevelt quickly became highly respected by his fellow ranchers.

Roosevelt took an active part in ranch life, even looking the part of a cowboy. He had his spurs, belt buckles and his pearl-handled revolvers made for him by Tiffany's, the famous jewelry store. He also had a woman hand-make a fringed cowboy shirt for him out of a kind of buckskin. The cost of his cowboy outfit was $100. Today, this same type of personalized cowboy garb would cost over $1,000.

Besides ranching, Roosevelt hunted in the badlands and on several continents. He married Edith Carow during a visit to London in December 1886. A devoted father, he raised a family of six rambunctious children, often including them in his outdoor activities.

In addition to his family, Roosevelt had an extraordinary network of friends and contacts. He kept in touch with them mostly by mail, writing over 150,000 letters during his lifetime.

Reading and writing were two of Roosevelt's favorite pastimes. He would often read an entire book in one day. He also wrote books, authoring over 35 on many different subjects. These included hunting, the West, and politics. Look for these books by Theodore Roosevelt: Hunting Trips of a Ranchman (which he finished in 1885 while at his Maltese Cross Cabin in North Dakota), Thomas Hart Benton, Gouverneur Morris, The Winning of the West, and City of New York. (These books were published in 1887 and 1888.)

Roosevelt also established himself as historian and served as president of the American Historical Association. He was a noted naturalist and was considered the world's authority on large American mammals. He led two major scientific expeditions for prominent American museums. One expedition was to South America, and the other to Africa. Both lasted for many months. If Roosevelt had not become President of the United States, many historians feel he would best be remembered for his contributions in both of these scientific fields.

In all his pursuits-as a politician, rancher, historian, author, and later President-Theodore Roosevelt firmly believed one learned by doing. His views are summed up well in the following passage from "The Man in the Arena: Citizenship in a Republic."

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Learn more about Theodore Roosevelt:

Life Before the Presidency
Roosevelt: Rancher, Historian, and Author
Presidential Accomplishments
Did You Know?
The Father of Conservation
Life After the Presidency