Theodore Roosevelt's Obituary
page 1 of The New York Times, January 7, 1919]
[With grateful thanks to Michael
Elsner for transcription!]
Theodore Roosevelt Dies Suddenly at Oyster Bay Home;
Nation Shocked, Pays Tribute to Former President;
Our Flag on All Seas and in All Lands at Half Mast
Special to the New York Times.
EMBOLISM CAUSED DEATH
Blood Clot, Physicians Announce, Killed Col. Roosevelt
in His Sleep
WORKED UP TO THE LAST
Worn by Illness, Former President with Indomitable
Will Kept Up Activities
WAS IN PERIL IN HOSPITAL
Embolism Then Threatened His Life--Rheumatism Traced
to Tooth Infected 20 Years Ago
Oyster Bay, L.I., Jan. 6. -- Theodore Roosevelt, former
President of the United States, died this morning
between 4 and 4:15 o'clock while asleep in his bed at
his home on Sagamore Hill, in this place.
His physicians said that the immediate cause of death
was a clot of blood which detached itself from a vein
and entered the lungs.
His sudden death took by surprise his physicians as
well as all others who had been with him lately. It
was announced that the blood clot was not directly due
to the inflammatory rheumatism from which he had been
suffering for two months, but must be traced to
earlier conditions. One of the contributing causes was
the fever which he contracted during his explorations
in Brazil, when he discovered the River of Doubt early
in 1914. This fever left a poison in the blood which
had been a partial cause of several attacks of illness
which he had suffered since that time.
Colonel Roosevelt was working hard as late as
Saturday, dictating articles and letters. He spent
Sunday quietly, but looked and felt well, until
shortly before 11 o'clock, when he had difficulty in
breathing. After treatment he felt better and returned
Mrs. Roosevelt looked in to see how he was sleeping at
2 o'clock this morning. He then appeared normal. Two
hours later, James Amos, an old negro servant of the
family, formerly with them at the White House, thought
that there was something wrong with the manner in
which Colonel Roosevelt was breathing. Amos had been
placed in the next room to keep a close watch over
Colonel Roosevelt, and went at once to the bedside. He
was alarmed at the hollow sound of his breathing and
summoned the trained nurse. When she arrived, the
breathing had stopped. Dr. George W. Faller of Oyster
Bay, the family physician, was summoned, and found
that life had left the body a few minutes before.
Statement By Physicians
Later, the following statement was given out by Dr.
Faller and Drs. John H. Richard and John A. Hartwell
of New York, who had Colonel Roosevelt under their
care at Roosevelt Hospital:
Colonel Roosevelt had been suffering from an attack of
inflammatory rheumatism for about two months. His
progress had been entirely satisfactory and his
condition had not given cause for special concern. On
Sunday he was in good spirits and spent the evening
with his family, dictating letters. He retired at 11
o'clock, and at 4 o'clock in the morning his
manservant who occupied an adjoining room, noticed
that, while sleeping quietly, Colonel Roosevelt's
breathing was hollow. He died almost immediately,
without awakening. The cause of death was an embolus.
George W. Faller, M.D. John H. Richards, M.D. John A.
An embolus is a clot of blood. Dr. Faller said that it
had probably occurred in the lungs, but might have
been in the brain.
Colonel Roosevelt was taken from Roosevelt Hospital to
Oyster Bay to spend Christmas with his family, but was
expected to return for further treatment. The
inflammatory rheumatism was due, in the opinion of his
physicians, to an infected tooth, which had originally
given trouble twenty years ago. Inflammatory
rheumatism is not known to be a cause of embolism, and
it is not believed that the rheumatism was responsible
for his death, although it may have contributed to it.
Colonel Roosevelt suffered from pulmonary embolism at
the Roosevelt Hospital three weeks ago, and was then
in a critical condition for a time, but his recovery
was thought to be thorough.
Mrs. Roosevelt was the only member of the family at
home when the death occurred. Captain Archibald
Roosevelt had left yesterday with his wife, formerly
Miss Mary S. Lockwood, for Boston, on receiving word
that her father was dying. Lieut. Col. Theodore
Roosevelt, Jr., is in France with the Army of
Occupation. Captain Kermit Roosevelt is also in
France. His daughter-in- law, Mrs. Richard H. Derby,
and her two children had been at Sagamore Hill for
Christmas, but had gone to Aiken, S.C. All the members
of Colonel Roosevelt's family now in this country at
once started for Sagamore Hill on learning of his
Colonel Roosevelt himself had no idea that he was
seriously ill, and was full of interest in everything
in the world and full of plans for the future. He was
vexed over his two months of invalidism. When he was
asked about his health by visitors his reply was a
vigorous "Bully!" He deceived not only himself, his
family, and his friends as to the seriousness of his
condition, but deceived his physicians as well.
Dr. Faller said that he had been paying two visits a
day regularly to Colonel Roosevelt since his return to
Oyster Bay and believed that he was improving.
Evaded Physician's Inquiries
"When I called on him last night at 8 o'clock, which
was the regular hour for one of my visits," Dr. Faller
said, "I wanted to know his condition, but I could not
get him to tell me anything about his case. He talked
about almost everything except himself and his
condition of health. His months of illness had not
made much change in his appearance. He was ruddy, and,
to outward appearances, nearly as sturdy as ever. I
left him on my first visit in the evening apparently
improving rapidly and feeling first-rate.
"I was called again at about 11 o'clock by the nurse.
I found Colonel Roosevelt looking about the same, but
he said that he was having trouble to get his breath,
and that he felt as if his heart would stop beating.
He was interested in his condition, but not worried.
He had no idea that he was in danger.
"After I had been with him for some time he said that
he felt better. When I was called again he was dead."
Colonel Roosevelt had not been confined to his bed at
all by illness since he returned from the hospital. He
had been down to the village in his automobile once
and had several times taken walks about his estate. He
felt well generally, but was considerably troubled by
pains in his right hand, which was still badly swollen
Colonel Roosevelt was considered only partially
recovered from the rheumatism when he left the
hospital on Christmas morning to have Christmas dinner
with his family. He was met on his arrival at his home
by the two Derby children. One of them hailed him by
"Come on, Grandpa, and see what Santa Claus has
Colonel Roosevelt started to be very cautious and to
take good care of himself on his return to his home,
but he was soon back in his old stride, dictating
letters and articles with his normal prolific energy.
He spent most of the afternoon on Thursday dictating,
and resumed his work on Saturday. According to his
physician, he was dictating letters only a few hours
before his death.
His last work was on editorial articles for The Kansas
City Star, and on an article for the Metropolitan
Magazine. About the last thing he did was to write a
long letter to his son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., in
which he enclosed proofs of his last article for the
The last words uttered by Colonel Roosevelt were to
his colored servant Amos after he had retired, and
"Please put out that light, James."
One of Colonel Roosevelt's last visitors, outside of
the physicians and his family, was John Gerardi, a
barber. Colonel Roosevelt usually made a practice of
shaving himself, but since he has been ill, he has
been visited regularly by Gerardi.
"He was in the sitting room in an easy chair
yesterday," said Gerardi, "when I came in. He started
to get up and said, 'Hello, John,' in the friendly way
he always spoke. Then he said:
"'You don't have to send any of your circulars to me
when you want something for the feast of Saint Rocco.
Come yourself, John.'
"He shook hands with me, when I was through. He was
one fine man. If anybody was sick or needed help in
the village, you never had to go to Colonel Roosevelt
Mourning in Oyster Bay
The village of Oyster Bay was stunned by the news of
his death. Colonel Roosevelt was appreciated by the
village as a world figure, but he also was looked upon
as much of a fellow- townsman as the village
blacksmith or any other local citizen. The Oyster Bay
flag was lowered at once to half mast, crepe went up
on the fire house, the rooms of the Masonic Lodge and
elsewhere in the village, while all the residents of
the town went about with an appearance of deep
Colonel Roosevelt was a member of the local lodge of
Masons, and never failed to keep up his interest in
it. He had made a habit for many years of visiting
Masonic lodges wherever he went, as a member of the
Oyster Bay lodge, and, returning, to tell his brother
Masons here of his visits. He found Masonic lodges
when he was in Africa at Mairobe, and in South America
he found a lodge on the Asuncion River. The Masons
here knew from Colonel Roosevelt of the doings of
Masonic lodges in all parts of the world. The members
of the local lodge suggested a Masonic funeral
yesterday, but this was dropped when the wishes of the
family became known.
When Colonel Roosevelt returned from his South
American journey in 1914, he gave the first account of
his discoveries in an address at the local church,
months ahead of the announcement of the discovery of
the mysterious Brazilian River, now the Rio Teodoro,
in a magazine. He was a village institution as the
master of ceremonies over the Christmas tree in Christ
Episcopal Church, and in the role of Santa Claus at
the Cove Neck School, near Sagamore Hill, where all of
his children learned the A B C's. Last Christmas was
the first time that Colonel Roosevelt had failed to
take charge of these functions since he left the White
House, with the exception of the Christmas of 1913,
when he was on his way to South America. His son,
Captain Archie, took his place last Christmas as the
Santa Claus of the Cove Neck School.
Colonel Roosevelt's old negro servants were
inconsolable. James Amos, to whom he addressed his
last words, and his coachman, Charles Lee, had been
with him since his White House days. Charles Lee was
the son of a man who had been the personal servant of
General Robert E. Lee. Charles Lee had been an employe
of the late General Fitzhugh Lee, and left the service
of the General to go with Colonel Roosevelt when the
latter was in the White House.
"I have lost the best friend I have ever had," said
Lee, when he could find voice, "and the best friend
any man ever had."
The servants and the old personal friends of Colonel
Roosevelt, as well as the members of his family, were
especially affected by the news of his death, because
they thought he was getting well rapidly. Bulletins of
the Colonel's condition had come to the village from
Sagamore Hill by word of mouth every day since he had
been home, and the story always was that the patient
had said he was feeling "bully" and "great."
The news of his sudden death was not believed when it
first came to the village. When it was verified by the
local physicians, photographs of Colonel Roosevelt,
many of them autographed, appeared in shop and
residence windows draped in mourning.
Flood of Telegraph Messages
The telegraph office was hardly opened when telegrams
of condolence began to arrive. They were soon coming
in too fast for the single operator. Two more
telegraphers were put to work, but the volume of
messages was soon far beyond their capacity to receive
W. Emlen Roosevelt, a cousin, living near the village,
was the first relative of the family to arrive in the
morning after the news of Colonel Roosevelt's death.
He had called at Sagamore Hill yesterday and found
Colonel Roosevelt in good spirits, so that the news
staggered him. He reported that Mrs. Roosevelt had
borne the death of her husband with great fortitude.
Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., arrived during the
Others who called at the home today were Mr. and Mrs.
Theodore Douglas Robinson, Elon R. Hooker, former
Treasurer of the Progressive Party; Joseph W. Bishop,
and Miss Josephine Stryker, Colonel Roosevelt's
Five airplanes from Quentin Roosevelt Field flew in
"V" formation over Sagamore Hill in the afternoon and
dropped wreaths of laurel about the house. They flew
very low, sometimes circling just over the tops of the
trees, and letting fall the wreaths within a few feet
of the house.
The airplane squadron was under the command of
Lieutenant M. S. Harmon. Three of his fellow pilots
were Lieutenant L. G. Williams, Lieutenant Coates, and
Lieutenant Parnell. Quentin Roosevelt Field, which is
between Mineola and Westbury, was so named after the
death of Colonel Roosevelt's son in France.
Lieutenant Harmon announced that an airplane watch
would be kept over Sagamore Hill until the hour of the
funeral on Wednesday. The watch will be maintained
night and day, one plane relieving another.
Colonel Roosevelt was a personal acquaintance of
hundreds of the American air pilots, especially those
on Long Island, many of whom had been his guests at
Oyster Bay. Every week that he has been at home since
the war began he had been visited by men from all
branches of the service. The War Camp Community
Service made a practice of taking about thirty men
from Camp Mills or other military, naval, and aircraft
stations to visit Colonel Roosevelt every Saturday
afternoon. He would be on the front porch, waiting to
give them a regular Roosevelt welcome and to assure
them that they all came to Sagamore Hill on "the most
favored nation" basis. He took great pleasure in
showing these boys over his trophy rooms, where the
two most striking exhibits were the gigantic elephant
tusks presented to him by King Menelik of Abyssinia
and a great tome in which was engrossed and
illuminated the entire pedigree of ex-Emperor Wilhelm,
autographed and dedicated by him.
Colonel Roosevelt took the deepest pleasure in the
letters which he received from many of these soldiers
after they had reached the other side and gone into
action. He was in regular correspondence with some of
Broken by Quentin's Death
Only the members of Colonel Roosevelt's own family and
his most intimate friends knew how deeply he suffered
because of the death of his youngest son, Quentin, who
was killed in an airplane combat in France on July 14.
This, however, is believed to have been one of the
contributing causes of his death.
Colonel Roosevelt received his first inkling that this
had occurred when a correspondent at Oyster Bay
brought him a dispatch, censored until it was
unintelligible, but containing some reference to one
of the Roosevelt boys. As soon as he read it Colonel
Roosevelt took his visitor into another room, so that
Mrs. Roosevelt should not learn the topic that was
"Theodore and Archie are in hospitals," he said.
"Kermit is on his way from Mesopotamia to France. It
must be Quentin."
When the news was confirmed next day, Colonel
Roosevelt, who had always declared that families
should accept cheerfully the sacrifice of their sons
in the war, went to his office at 347 Madison Avenue
as usual, attended to his work, and later issued a
statement in which he said that he and Mrs. Roosevelt
took pride in his death. The following day he kept his
engagement to address the unofficial Republican State
Convention at Saratoga Springs, where the enthusiasm
for him resulted in a unanimous attempt to induce him
to run for Governor.
Colonel Roosevelt's recent illness followed within a
week after his long and strenuous address at Carnegie
Hall just before the election, which he made the
occasion of a reply to President Wilson's appeal to
the people to elect a Democratic Congress. On the
Saturday night following this speech he was troubled
with a badly swollen ankle. When this continued he
went to Roosevelt Hospital, where it was found that he
had inflammatory rheumatism, complicated with other
troubles. Dr. J. H. Richards, one of his physicians
who treated him at Roosevelt Hospital, said today that
a detached clot of blood had nearly caused the death
of Colonel Roosevelt while at the hospital, and that
it was recognized that there was some danger of a
second such attack.
"Pulmonary embolism is not a usual occurrence in cases
of inflammatory rheumatism," he said. "Embolism comes
in childhood but not ordinarily in adult life."
The inflammatory rheumatism which the Colonel suffered
was traceable twenty years back to an infected tooth,
it was said. While he was at the hospital the
rheumatism spread to nearly every joint in his body.
At the time that he left the hospital, however, the
attending physicians issued a statement that the
disease was taking a normal course and nothing
extraordinary was recognized in his condition.
Carried Schrank's Bullet
At his death Colonel Roosevelt carried in his body the
bullet which was fired by Schrank, at Milwaukee during
the Presidential campaign of 1912, which nearly
resulted in Colonel Roosevelt's death, because he went
on and delivered his speech immediately after the
This and other shocks to his constitution, it was
said, might have contributed to the condition which
finally brought about his end. Colonel Roosevelt
survived innumerable accidents and dangers to his
life, which might have left some mark on his
constitution. When he first entered the White House,
his Secretary of State, John Hay, concluded a letter
of praise for Colonel Roosevelt by saying: "He will
not live long."
He referred to a series of accidents to the President,
each one of which was not far from fatal. Of all the
accidents which Colonel Roosevelt went through, that
which left the worst effects happened in South
America. He tore his leg badly when he was thrown from
a boat while descending the River of Doubt and the
wound became badly infected. While ill from this he
suffered an attack of fever. His health was never
sound for any long period since his return from South
America early in 1914.
This wound in his leg was directly responsible for the
complication of diseases which sent him to the
hospital in February of last year, where for a time
his life was despaired of. He suffered from a fistula
and from an abscess in the ear, which stopped just
before it reached the mastoid process.
Even after this illness his energy would not allow him
to lead a cautious life. Shortly after his recovery he
undertook a trip in the West for the National Security
League and made a number of speeches. It was during
this tour that he had his historic reconciliation with
ex-President Taft at the Hotel Blackstone in Chicago.
In June, while he was in the Middle West, he had a
severe attack of erysipelas, but refused to go to a
hospital. In spite of intense suffering, he made
speeches at Omaha, Indianapolis, and St. Louis. Taking
his physician with him he made a 120-mile automobile
trip to keep speaking engagements and returned to
Indianapolis leaving his physician a "wreck," while he
was fresh and vigorous physically though in a good
deal of pain. He came home by train and spent a part
of his first day chopping wood.
Besides carrying a bullet in his body, Colonel
Roosevelt was partially blind and partially deaf. The
sight of his left eye was destroyed while he was in
the White House in a boxing match. The hearing of one
ear was destroyed by the abscess in his ear last
February. He had suffered from broken ribs on numerous
occasions, mostly in falls from horses, and a strained
ligament on a rib caused him a severe attach of
pleurisy in 1916. After that attack he was ordered by
his physicians to give up violent exercise, but this
advice he would not follow.
Colonel Roosevelt would never go to a physician unless
he was in a bad way. He would not admit that he could
become ill and the idea of regular examinations and
medical care never attracted him. He was perplexed and
indignant with himself when the attack of disease came
on in February of last year which sent him to
Roosevelt Hospital. This began with a fainting spell,
the first of the kind he had ever suffered. When he
recovered consciousness and learned what had happened,
"What a Jack I am."
When he was at a farm in Stamford, Conn., in 1917,
reducing flesh by the most violent exercise
conceivable, in spite of medical advice that violent
exercise was dangerous to him, he became very angry
over a report that his health was seriously impaired
and issued a statement, in which he said:
"That is a complete fake. I haven't seen a physician
for months. No human being told me to cancel a
speaking engagement or take a complete rest."