At 70 years old, Donald Trump is the oldest president in U.S. history, but who is the youngest American president? Most people picture a fresh-faced, movie-star-handsome John F. Kennedy, but in fact it was none other than Theodore Roosevelt. Born in 1858 and taking office in 1901, Roosevelt was just 42 years old when he took the oath. Here are 12 facts about the 26th and youngest American President:
- Theodore Roosevelt is known as the first true “celebrity” president. While many of President Trump’s critics bemoan that the star of a TV show has been elected to the nation’s highest office, past presidents have historically used celebrity and fame as effective leadership tools. Roosevelt, in particular, used his “bully pulpit” to rally support for his policies and criticize greedy corporations and millionaires.
- Roosevelt was actually President William McKinley’s vice president. McKinley, however, was shot in Buffalo, New York and died of his wounds six days later. Roosevelt took the presidential oath and succeeded him on September 14, 1901.
- Although Roosevelt was known for his hyper-masculine “cowboy” persona, he actually suffered from bronchial asthma and congenital nearsightedness throughout most of his early life. In an attempt to improve his health, Roosevelt took several trips abroad, to places with dryer climates such as Paris, Italy, Egypt and Jerusalem. Although the trips had little effect on his asthma, they did encourage a young Roosevelt to expand his worldview.
- During his time at Harvard, the youngest American president made Phi Beta Kappa, an honor society whose members also include notable graduates such as the sixth American President, John Quincy Adams and actress Kerry Washington.
- For his work in helping to mediate the Russo-Japanese War, Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, becoming the first American President to be given this honor. Other Nobel laureate presidents include Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
- Among the many things for which President Roosevelt is known is his work in conservation. As a known outdoorsman, Roosevelt channeled his love of nature into his work as president by establishing the United States Forest Service and passing the 1906 American Antiquities Act, which established several national parks and reserves around the country.
- After his term as president ended in 1909, Roosevelt decided to take a break from politics and go on safari in Africa to shoot large game. Upon his return, however, he was upset at the growing rift between the conservative and progressive wings of the Republican Party. In 1912, Roosevelt began his own party, the Progressive Party, also known as the “Bull Moose Party” after journalists quoted him saying he felt “fit as a bull moose.”
- On October 14, 1912, just before he was to deliver a campaign speech, Roosevelt was shot in the chest by a fanatic outside a hotel in Milwaukee. The bullet hit him in his breast pocket, right where the transcript of his 90-minute speech and glasses case were stowed. These items, along with the thick coat he wore, were probably what slowed the bullet and saved his life. Despite having just been shot, however, Roosevelt went right on to deliver his 90-minute speech with the bullet still lodged in his chest.
- Being President of the United States is a strenuous job, but through it all, Roosevelt managed to find time to devote to exercise, though his endeavors didn’t always turn out well for him. While boxing with a sparring partner, he was hit in the left eye, and the punch caused heavy hemorrhaging and almost total blindness. A horseback riding accident nearly killed him and a string of leg injuries caused trouble for him for the rest of his life.
Besides his youth and vigor, President Roosevelt’s dedication to the American people is ultimately why he is remembered not just as the youngest American president, but as one of the greatest and most memorable.
– Mary Grace Costa