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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Winner of the 1982 National Book Award for Biography, Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as a masterpiece by Newsday, it is the story of a remarkable little boy -- seriously handicapped by recurrent and nearly fatal attacks of asthma -- and his struggle to manhood.
His father -- the first Theodore Roosevelt, "Greatheart," -- is a figure of unbounded energy, enormously attractive and selfless, a god in the eyes of his small, frail namesake. His mother -- Mittie Bulloch Roosevelt -- is a Southerner and celebrated beauty.
Mornings on Horseback spans seventeen years -- from 1869 when little "Teedie" is ten, to 1886 when he returns from the West a "real life cowboy" to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and begin anew, a grown man, whole in body and spirit.
This is a tale about family love and family loyalty...about courtship, childbirth and death, fathers and sons...about gutter politics and the tumultuous Republican Convention of 1884...about grizzly bears, grief and courage, and "blessed" mornings on horseback at Oyster Bay or beneath the limitless skies of the Badlands.
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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
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