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Mornings on Horseback

Mornings on Horseback

The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt

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The National Book Award–winning biography that tells the story of how young Teddy Roosevelt transformed himself from a sickly boy into the vigorous man who would become a war hero and ultimately president of the United States, told by master historian David McCullough.

Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as “a masterpiece” (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little boy, seriously handicapped by recurrent and almost fatal asthma attacks, and his struggle to manhood: an amazing metamorphosis seen in the context of the very uncommon household in which he was raised.

The father is the first Theodore Roosevelt, a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. The mother, Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt, is a Southerner and a celebrated beauty, but also considerably more, which the book makes clear as never before. There are sisters Anna and Corinne, brother Elliott (who becomes the father of Eleanor Roosevelt), and the lovely, tragic Alice Lee, TR’s first love. All are brought to life to make “a beautifully told story, filled with fresh detail” (The New York Times Book Review).

A book to be read on many levels, it is at once an enthralling story, a brilliant social history and a work of important scholarship which does away with several old myths and breaks entirely new ground. It is a book about life intensely lived, about family love and loyalty, about grief and courage, about “blessed” mornings on horseback beneath the wide blue skies of the Badlands.
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 480 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780671447540 | 
  • May 1982
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David McCullough Wishes He Had This Talent

If David McCullough could acquire any talent, it would be this surprising ability.

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Chapter 1

Greatheart's Circle

In the year 1869, when the population of New York City had reached nearly a million, the occupants of 28 East 20th Street, a five-story brownstone, numbered six, exclusive of the servants.

The head of the household was Theodore Roosevelt (no middle name or initial), who was thirty-seven years of age, an importer and philanthropist, and the son of old Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt, one of the richest men in the city. Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt -- Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, or Mittie, as she was called -- was thirty-three, a southerner and a beauty. The children, two girls and two boys, all conceived... see more

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Reading Group Guide

Mornings on Horseback
Reader's Group Guide
1. In 1851, Theodore was sent on a Grand Tour. With a jealous sentiment, Robert critiqued Theodore's pattern of experiences saying, "it [traveling] is not to see scenery, or places," but rather to see and have conversations with men of other cultures to see their points of view. Do you agree with this statement? How do most Americans travel and why? What is your goal when you travel? What would you want your family to take from an experience over seas?
2. In exploring the effect of asthma over Teedie's life and the Roosevelt family, McCullough writes, "For a child as acutely sensitive and intelligent as he, the impact of asthma could not have been anything but profound, affecting personality, outlook self-regard, the whole course of his young life, in marked fashion...But he knows also that his particular abnormality lends a kind of power." What power is McCullough speaking of? How does Teedie's illness positively affect his life, interests, and ultimate passions and goals? Explain.
3. Teedie was encouraged by his father to build up his body as a way of overcoming his illness. His father says, "Theodore you have the mind, but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should...you must make your body." Do you think this was the correct approach in dealing with Teedie's asthma? What approach would you use in dealing with an asthmatic child? Would you see more

Articles About This Book

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Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Off the Shelf Staff

A documentary, no matter how brilliant, can only scratch the surface of the extraordinary Roosevelt family. These bookspick up where Ken Burns' filmleft off.

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About the Author

David McCullough
Photograph by William B. McCullough

David McCullough

David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

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