National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Joanna Sturm
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When this photograph was taken, the president’s family was preparing to leave the White House and Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor, William Taft, was expected to become president. Immediately after his presidency, Roosevelt would travel to British East Africa (present-day Kenya). He had been planning, in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution, a large safari to collect specimens for the national museum. Roosevelt would just be fifty, young for an ex-president but not for the formidable risks of hunting big game. He had decided to take along his nineteen-year-old bookish son Kermit (second from left), as he wanted to toughen up the fragile young man and remove him from the influence of his mother. Edith Roosevelt had reconciled herself to her husband’s craving for risk and adventure, trusting that Theodore’s seeming invincibility would protect her more vulnerable son.