Theodore Roosevelt on Film

About This Collection

Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film consists of 104 motion pictures, eight of which were previously featured in other American Memory collections, and four sound recordings. The majority of the motion pictures (87) are from the Theodore Roosevelt Association Collection in the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division (M/B/RS) at the Library of Congress.

Founded in 1919, the Theodore Roosevelt Association was organized to perpetuate the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt. As part of its mission, it amassed a collection of motion pictures relating to the life and times of the former president. The collection contained films of persons and events from the period in which he lived, as well as films which featured Roosevelt. Much of the footage was taken from newsreels and other actuality films of the time. The association also compiled some of this footage to make silent documentaries on various aspects of Roosevelt's life, such as his trip on the River of Doubt in Brazil or the building of the Roosevelt Dam.

In 1962, the Association gave its film collection of 381 titles to the Library of Congress, where it currently resides. A catalog for the entire collection which gave detailed information for each film was compiled in 1986 by Wendy White-Hensen and Veronica M. Gillespie. The collection as a whole serves as an important representation of the latter part of Roosevelt's life before the motion picture cameras and of political and world events of the first two decades of the twentieth century. (More detailed information about this collection is available in the essay by Veronica M. Gillespie entitled T. R. on Film.)

For the online presentation, a selection of eighty-seven films from the collection was chosen, based on the quality of the footage and the events pictured. There are numerous films in the collection with different versions, essentially the same with only slight differences in editing. In such cases, the copy determined to be the best and most complete was digitized for the online presentation. Films were also chosen to represent as many different times and phases of Roosevelt's life and career as possible.

The Theodore Roosevelt Association Collection is predominantly composed of footage made after his presidency. To amplify the few films in this collection that were made during his presidency, seventeen films from the Paper Print Film Collection in M/B/RS were added to the presentation. These films show Roosevelt in various public appearances which he made as president. Other films from the Paper Print Collection show Roosevelt in events relating to the Spanish-American War before he was elected president.

The online presentation, then, contains films of Roosevelt from 1898 to 1919, and some films composed after his death, from 1919 until approximately 1928. The films are available in MPEG, Quick Time, and RealMedia formats, and in the case of the first two formats, are segmented when longer than four minutes so that file sizes will not be prohibitively large to download. (More information about the procedure used to digitize the collection is available in Building the Digital Collection.)

The following films appear in this presentation with the kind permission of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, which produced them:

  • The Story of the Panama Canal [1]
  • T. R.'s Return from Africa, 1910 [2]
  • A Visit to Theodore Roosevelt at His Home at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, L.I., 1912
  • Roosevelt, Friend of the Birds [1]
  • The Roosevelt Dam [1]
  • The River of Doubt [2].

Permission may be needed from the association before using these films for other purposes. Contact the Theodore Roosevelt Association, P.O. Box 719, Oyster Bay, N.Y. 11771 by mail or by email at

The four sound recordings selected for this presentation were made by Roosevelt for the Edison Company in 1912. In them, he states some of his progressive political ideas for the U.S. The speeches on these recordings were mostly excerpts from addresses Roosevelt had previously given. Transcriptions of these speeches were made both by listening to the recordings and by consulting Social Justice and Popular Rule: Essays, Addresses, and Public Statements Relating to the Progressive Movement (1910-1916) by Theodore Roosevelt.

These recordings were originally made on cylinders and were then copied onto 1/4-inch magnetic tape. They were given to the Library of Congress by the Theodore Roosevelt Association in 1982. The recordings are available online in wav and RealAudio formats.