Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact


  • This book was written and published as the companion piece to a biographical exhibition, "Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century," which opened at The National Portrait Gallery on October 27, 1998. The author, who is the Gallery historian, writes that the exhibition is a "portrait narrative of the man whose progressive ideas about social justice, representative democracy, and America's role as a world leader still largely define our national character." When 42-year-old Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th U. S. President in September 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley, he had already been a New York State Assemblyman, United States Civil Service Commissioner, New York City Police Commissioner, Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy, Governor of New York and war hero before becoming McKinley's Vice President.
  • After deciding not to run for President again in the 1908 election, Roosevelt planned a year-long African safari. Wishing it to be as scientific as possible, Roosevelt wooed the Smithsonian Institution to join the expedition by offering to contribute wildlife specimens for its collections. Financial backing for the safari, one of the largest ever fielded in Africa, was gained from approximately 30 sponsors; arrangements were made for the Roosevelt party to do the hunting and shooting, while the accompanying Smithsonian scientists and taxidermists supervised the preservation and shipping of the specimens back for research and exhibition.
  • Sailing in late March 1909 from New York to Kenya, the safari traveled through that country, crossed Lake Victoria and journeyed through present-day Uganda, into the Belgian Congo and then Sudan, disbanding in Khartoum in mid-March 1910. During the year, 512 specimens had been collected by the Roosevelt-Smithsonian safari; Roosevelt was later distressed to learn that the Smithsonian had room to display only 50 of the specimens. After an unsuccessful run for U. S. President in the 1912 election as nominee of the Progressive Party, Roosevelt published his autobiography in 1913. Early the next year he joined a scientific jungle expedition to Brazil, and returned home a few months later with health problems which would remain with him until he died of an embolism on January 6, 1919, at the age of 60.


  • Roosevelt, Theodore 1858-1919
  • United States National Museum
  • National Portrait Gallery (U.S.)
  • Theodore Roosevelt: Icon of the American Century (Exhibition) (1998: Washington, D.C.)
  • United States President
  • Smithsonian African Expedition (1909-1910)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


112 pages, including exhibition photographs, cartoons and illustrations from Smithsonian Institution and other sources.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Portraits
  • Exhibitions
  • National Collections
  • Presidents
  • Presidents--Portraits--Exhibitions
  • Presidents--Biography--Exhibitions
  • Biography


United States

Full Record

View Full Record