Welcome to America Comes Alive!, a site I created to share little-known stories of America’s past. These stories are about Americans—people just like you—who have made a difference and changed the course of history. Look around the site and find what inspires you.


Teddy Roosevelt’s Dogs

Skip in Archie’s lap (center)

When Vice President Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919) assumed the presidency after William McKinley (1843-1901) died of a gunshot wound sustained in Buffalo, New York in 1901, life at the White House underwent quite a change. McKinley and his wife, Ida, had lived quietly at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with their parrot and a cat. They were childless, having lost two daughters when the children were young.

When Teddy and Edith Roosevelt arrived in Washington with six children and a host of animals, the residence was anything but quiet.  They filled the White House with life and laughter.

Many Dogs

The Roosevelt dogs included Rollo, a friendly St. Bernard, Sailor Boy, a Chesapeake retriever, and Manchu, a black Pekingese given to daughter Alice by the last empress of China.

Blackjack was a Manchester terrier who had the misfortune of being terrified of the family cat, Tom Quartz. The cat tormented Jack by chasing him away whenever the dog came near.

Pete, a bull terrier, was finally exiled from the White House for having nipped too many visitors’ ankles. The dog used up his last chance when he ripped the pants of the French ambassador. Off to Sagamore Hill he went.Edith Roosevelt favored mixed breeds, and the first lady had a mongrel named Tip, followed by one named Mutt.

Other Pets

The Roosevelt family also had many other pets. At one point there was a small bear named Jonathan Edwards, a lizard named Bill, a macaw named Eli Yale, a pig named Maude, snakes, a one-legged rooster, and a pony named Algonquin.

When son Archie was sick, his brothers wanted to cheer him up so they helped Algonquin get into the White House elevator and took him up to Archie’s room. The children were delighted. The adults, with the exception of TR, were likely less so.

TR’s Favorite

The president’s favorite dog was Skip, a small mutt (possibly a rat terrier) that Roosevelt found when he was on a bear hunt in the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt reported that Skip could stand his ground against anything–something Roosevelt felt he often had to do himself when facing Congress.

Skip was also a popular playmate of Archie’s.  When Archie was 7, he invented a game that involved racing Skip down the polished hallways of the White House.  As Roosevelt described it, Archie would place Skip between his legs and bend over holding on to the dog. Then he would count, “On your mark, Skip, ready! Go!”

And Archie gave Skip a bit of a backward shove as he propelled himself forward to run quickly down the hall. Skip would skitter on the smooth hardwood floors trying to get his footing to chase after Archie.  Skip lost every time but it didn’t seem to dampen his enthusiasm to play the game again and again.

When the children had gone to bed, Skip had one more task.  Roosevelt often read after dinner, so Skip would find the president and hop onto his lap for a nap.

Roosevelt was known to have said that perhaps no family enjoyed the White House more than they did.  He’s probably right.

 


Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly is an engaging speaker and successful author of more than 30 nonfiction titles ranging from the bestselling Organize Yourself! to Living Safe in an Unsafe World. She has recently returned to her love of history and is writing and publishing a monthly e-letter, "American Snapshots," which she describes as "making sense of today by looking at yesterday."

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This Day in History

On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France to the people of the U.S., was dedicated in New York Harbor by President Grover Cleveland.  In 1892, Ellis Island opened as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, and all the new arrivals have been welcomed by the sight of “Lady Liberty.”


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Read some of the stories on this site; you'll see that they revolve around single individuals who worked toward change.

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