Theodore Roosevelt 18581919

Edward S. Curtis (18681952)
Platinum print, 1904

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Although he lived in the East, Theodore Roosevelt had a lifelong interest in the American West. After his first wife died during childbirth in 1884, the young New York assemblyman relocated to a ranch in western Dakota Territory, where he contemplated leaving politics for a career as a rancher and a writer. During this period he authored several books, including a biography of Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton and his four-volume epic, The Winning of the West.

This interest in the American West continued during his presidency. Believing that America needed to utilize its natural resources more rationally, he made conservation a national issue. In a series of legislative acts, he laid the foundation for twentieth-century land-use policy. Native American history and culture also fascinated Roosevelt, and in 1907 he wrote the foreword to the first volume of Edward S. Curtis’s photographic study, The North American Indian. Curtis created this portrait of the twenty-sixth president in 1904.