The New York Roosevelts, the Presidency, and Moments that Made History

Theodore Roosevelt was a New Yorker through and through from one of New York’s oldest and most powerful families; but he was also known as a great lover of the ‘great outdoors.’ In a note penned by Roosevelt from his home at 689 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, and which is part of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection, he declared his affinity for some of the most colorful leaders of the post-Civil War Western settlement expansion.

Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt

“I am very nearly as much of a Dakota man as New Yorker; I like pioneer life; and the part of our history for which I most care is that dealing with the expansion of our frontier and the building up of the nation. Sevier [John Sevier], Shelby [Isaac Shelby], Clarke [William Clark], Boone [Daniel Boone], Crockett [David Crockett], Houston [Sam Houston], are all figures that excite my interest and sympathy far more than do the Eastern leaders of the same time – proud though I am of some of the latter.”

The letter was written to John M. Lea on February 25th, 1888, about 13 years before Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.

On April 12, 1945 another Roosevelt, that being Franklin Delano, passed away after serving just over 12 years as the country’s 32nd president. In a unique letter written by Harry Truman, vice president under Roosevelt, we see the stark change forced upon this man when he made the transition from VP to the most powerful leader in the world when Roosevelt died.

Harry Truman
Harry Truman

The letter, which is in the Shapell Manuscript Foundation collection, was begun early in the day. It discusses in carefree style arrangements for the VP and several companions to attend a baseball game in Washington, DC. Then, added later in Truman’s own handwriting, (as opposed to the typed original message), Truman’s new job as President is revealed.

“We must postpone it [the game] now” he said. “I’m in up to my neck and must think of my terrible responsibilities for some days to come.”

Truman’s “terrible responsibilities” continued for more than just a few days. He turned out to be the 33rd President of the United States from that fateful day in April until January 20th, 1953.


James Allenby is the editor of Gowanus Lounge, bringing to his position a vast background on New York, and especially Brooklyn history, culture and lifestyle. Born and bred in the heart of "the County of Kings" James Allenby knows what it means to be a Brooklynite, and imparts this meaning at all times to his readers. Contact James at info(at)