Library of Congress > Collections with Film and Videos > Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film


Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film consists of 104 motion pictures, eight of which are featured in other online 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.

Digitizing the Collection

Motion Pictures

The motion pictures chosen for digitization are all black-and-white and silent.

The films taken from the Theodore Roosevelt Association Collection were portions of newsreels and other actuality footage taken from 1898 to 1921. (For more information about the collection itself, see About the Collection.) Some of this footage was compiled by the Association into documentary films between1919 and 1928. Often, several different versions of a documentary were made, all essentially the same except for minor editing differences or the exclusion of a few scenes. In cases such as this, the copy with the best editing and footage was selected.

The films taken from the Library's Paper Print Collection were deposited for copyright from 1894 to 1912. These films were printed on paper as positive pictures frame by frame. In recent years, in order to serve the goals of access and preservation, the Library of Congress has copied the paper rolls onto 35mm motion-picture negative film. A positive film print is made from the 35mm negative and this is transferred to Betacam SP videotape to produce the master for digitization. In order to present an authentic record of the paper prints as artifacts, some of the edging and perforations evident on the originals have been left in the digital frame. Likewise, original labels, titles, and other tagging documentation have been retained, as well as other imperfections from the original.

The films were taken to Roland House in Arlington, Virginia, where they were copied to Betacam SP videotape. The original motion pictures were shot at varying frame rates; therefore, in the video mastering process, the playback speeds were adjusted to present the appearance of natural motion to the greatest degree possible. Some of the films contained intertitle frames that were too short to be read; in these cases the intertitles were extended by several frames during the videotape editing process in order make them readable. Main title frames for each film were added during the editing process as well.

During the editing process a few errors present in two of the original film reels were corrected. In King Edward's Funeral, 1910 [2], black matting was added to the top and bottom of the frame for the initial portion of the film to mask out-of-frame printing errors on the top and bottom in the original. In Last Known Home of Czar Nicholas, the film contained frames at the end which were upside down, which the video editing process corrected.

MPEG, Quick Time, and RealMedia digital versions of the films are available on the American Memory Web site. The MPEG and Quick Time versions of titles with running times greater than four minutes have been divided into segments to reduce the file sizes to 40MB or less. A typical 28.8 Internet connection achieves a theoretical maximum download rate of approximately 3.5 KB/sec (210 K/min) under ideal conditions. Therefore, a file of 40 MB would take approximately 190 minutes (3 hours, 10 minutes) in optimal conditions and possibly much longer than that (up to two to three times longer depending on Internet traffic load).

Sound Recordings

The four sound recordings included in this presentation were originally made as cylinder recordings. These recordings were copied to 1/4-inch analog tape, and then, for the purposes of this presentation, to Digital Audio Tape (DAT) to produce a master source for digitization. (The transfer to DAT was performed by the M/B/RS Recording Laboratory.) The recordings originally belonged to the Theodore Roosevelt Association and were given to the Library of Congress. Some surface noise and scratching may be apparent on the recordings since they have not been enhanced or altered in any way from their original state. RealAudio and wav versions have been supplied for each recording.

Due to the limited audio quality (bandwidth capability) of the cylinders and discs, the wav files were created from the DAT tape at 22Khz, 16-bits, and a single mono channel. The RealAudio files were derived from the wav files through means of digital processing and were created for users with at least a 14.4 modem. All digitization for the sound recordings was performed at the Library by National Digital Library Program staff.

Rights and Access

The Library of Congress is providing access to these materials for educational and research purposes and makes no warranty with regard to their use for other purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other rights holders (such as holders of publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions.

While the Library is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the materials in Theodore Roosevelt: His Life and Times on Film, there may be content protected as "works for hire" (copyright may be held by the party that commissioned the original work) and/or under the copyright or neighboring-rights laws of other nations. The Library is eager to hear from individuals or institutions that have information about these materials or know of their history.

Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. Users should consult the catalog information that accompanies each item for specific information. This catalog data provides the details known to the Library of Congress regarding the corresponding item and may assist users in making independent assessments of the legal status of these items as related to their desired uses.

The following films are made available here with permission from the Theodore Roosevelt Association, P.O. Box 719, Oyster Bay, N.Y. 11771 (Internet address:

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 Theodore Roosevelt Association before using these films for other purposes.

Suggested credit line: Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division.

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