Robert Roosevelt

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Robert Barnhill Roosevelt
Robert Roosevelt - Brady-Handy.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 4th district
In office
March 4, 1871 – March 4, 1873
Preceded by John Fox
Succeeded by Archibald M. Bliss
Personal details
Born (1829-08-07)August 7, 1829
New York City, New York
Died June 14, 1906(1906-06-14) (aged 76)
Sayville, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Ellis
Marion Theresa O'Shea
Relations See Roosevelt family
  • Margaret Barnhill Roosevelt
  • John Ellis Roosevelt
  • Robert Barnhill Roosevelt, Jr.
  • Kenyon Fortescue
  • Maude Fortescue
  • Granville Roland Fortescue
Parents Cornelius Van Schaack Roosevelt
Margaret Barnhill
Occupation politician

Robert Barnhill Roosevelt,[1] also known as Robert Barnwell Roosevelt (August 7, 1829 – June 14, 1906), was a sportsman, author, and politician who served as a United States Representative from New York (1871–1873) and as Minister to the Hague (1888–1889).[2]


Robert Roosevelt was born in New York City[3] to businessman Cornelius Van Schaack "C.V.S." Roosevelt (1794–1871) and Margaret Barnhill (1799–1861). He had three elder brothers, Silas, James, and Cornelius Jr., and two younger brothers, Theodore and William. He was an uncle of President Theodore "T.R." Roosevelt, Jr. and great-uncle of First Lady Anna Eleanor Roosevelt.

After the death of his first wife Elizabeth Ellis, he married his mistress, Irish immigrant Marion Theresa "Minnie" O'Shea. Although his children with Minnie were his biological children, they had been born prior to his wedding to Minnie and were known as his stepchildren. They had been listed as having a father named "Robert Francis Fortescue", and maintained the Fortescue name throughout their lives.[4]

Children with Elizabeth:

Children with Minnie:


Roosevelt studied law and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1850. He commenced practice in New York City.[2] During the Civil War he was an active Democrat, and a founder of the Allotment Commission and the Loyal National League.[9]

His first experience in politics was in the organization of the Citizens' Association at the time of the Tweed Ring administration in New York city. For several years, he edited the organ of the Citizens' Association, the New York Citizen, at first with Charles G. Halpine, and after Halpine's death by himself. He was a founder of the Committee of Seventy, and first vice-president of the Reform Club.[9]

Roosevelt was elected as a Democrat to the 42nd Congress (March 4, 1871 – March 4, 1873).[2] Although the pressure of anti-Tammany Democratic organizations forced Tammany Hall to approve his nomination, he denounced its measures,[9] and did much to contribute to the breaking up of the latter organization.[10]

Roosevelt served as trustee representing the city of New York for the New York and Brooklyn Bridge from 1879 to 1882.[2] He was instrumental in establishing paid fire and health departments in New York City.[9] He was a member of the Board of Aldermen of New York City.

He was appointed by President Grover Cleveland as Minister to The Hague, serving from August 10, 1888 to May 17, 1889. He was treasurer of the Democratic National Committee in 1892.


Roosevelt was an early angler and conservationist. He organized several clubs to restrain the indiscriminate slaughter of game. He is credited with influencing his nephew, Theodore Roosevelt, to become a conservationist. He founded the New York State Fishery Commission in 1867, and was appointed one of the three fish commissioners. He served as fish commissioner for 20 years, 1868–1888,[2] without a salary. The reports of the commission were prepared chiefly by him, and led to the appointment of similar commissions in other states.

For many years, he served as president of the Fish Culture Association, of an association for the protection of game, of the New York Sportsman's Club, and of the International Association for the Protection of Game. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[9] As a member of the U.S. Congress, he originated the bill to create the United States Fish Commission.[11]


Roosevelt was a popular author and a friend of such writers such as Oscar Wilde. He sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Barnwell or Ira Zell.[12] His books include:

  • Superior Fishing; or The Striped Bass, Trout, Black Bass and Bluefish of the Northern States.
  • Game Fish of the Northern States and British Provinces.
  • Game Birds of the North (1866)
  • Superior Fishing (1866)
  • Florida and the Game Water Birds (1868)
  • Five Acres Too Much, a satire provoked by Edmund Morris's Ten Acres Enough (1869)
  • Progressive Petticoats, a satire on female physicians (1871)

He edited Political Works of Charles G. Halpine, supplying a memoir (1869).

Robert's nephew Theodore Jr. credited him with being the first to scribe the "Br'er Rabbit" stories (which had been passed down orally by slaves), "publishing them in Harper's, where they fell flat. This was a good many years before a genius arose who, in 'Uncle Remus,' made the stories immortal."[13]

Roosevelt died in Sayville, Suffolk County, N.Y., on June 14, 1906. His remains were interred in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.[2]


  1. Miller, Nathan (1992). Theodore Roosevelt: A Life.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Roosevelt, Robert Barnwell." Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  3.  Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). [ "Roosevelt, Robert Barnwell" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Robenalt, James David (2009). The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage during the Great War. Macmillan.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "The Vance–Roosevelt Wedding; Mr. John E. Roosevelt United to Miss Nannie Mitchell Vance—Some of the Presents," New York Times. February 20, 1879, p. 8.
  6. RootsWeb: Robert Roosevelt
  7. Robert D. Kuhn (September 1987). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: John Ellis Roosevelt Estate". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2010-02-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Staff (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Wikisource-logo.svg Isa Carrington Cabell (1900). [ "Roosevelt, Nicholas I." ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John (eds.). Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). [ "Roosevelt, Robert Barnwell" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). [ "Roosevelt, Robert Barnwell" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). Encyclopedia Americana.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Kohrman, Robert (Summer 1987). "Checklist of Angling Pseudonyms". The American Fly Fisher. Manchester, VT: American Museum of Fly Fishing. 13 (4): 22–26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Roosevelt was referring to Joel Chandler Harris, who first published the Uncle Remus stories in The Atlanta Journal in 1879.

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Fox
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 4th congressional district

March 4, 1871 – March 4, 1873
Succeeded by
Philip S. Crooke