Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands (Hardcover)

A Young Politician's Quest for Recovery in the American West

By Roger L. Di Silvestro

Walker Books, 9780802717214, 368pp.

Publication Date: March 18, 2011



"Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands" chronicles the turbulent years Roosevelt spent as a rancher in the Badlands of Dakota Territory, during which the character and commitment of the future president and conservationist took shape. On February 12, 1884-when Roosevelt was building a career as New York State's most promising young politician-his wife gave birth to their first child, Alice. Two days later, both his wife and his mother died in the same house on Valentine's Day. Grief-stricken-and driven by doubts about his career after failed attempts as a reformer fighting political corruption-Roosevelt left Alice in his sister's care and went to live on a Badlands ranch he had bought a year earlier. He spent much of the next three years working alongside his ranch managers and hired hands. He grew to love and respect frontier life and to find in the West both physical health and emotional stamina.

His transformation from a young, Harvard-educated New York politician to a working rancher in the mid-to-late 1880s coincided with the end of the Old West, a turning point in the cattle industry, and major changes in America's attitudes toward wildlife and wild places. Drawing on Roosevelt's own accounts and on diverse archives, Roger Di Silvestro tells the exciting story of how Roosevelt's spirit and political dynamism were forged during roundups, bronco busting, fistfights, grizzly bear hunts, and encounters with horse thieves, hostile Indians, and vigilante justice. In the dramatic life of Theodore Roosevelt, few adventures exceed those that he found in the Badlands.

About the Author

Roger Di Silvestro is a senior editor at National Wildlife magazine and author of In the Shadow of Wounded Knee and several nature books, including The Endangered Kingdom and Reclaiming the Last Wild Places. His article about Theodore Roosevelt in the West won the 2010 Western Writers of America Spur Award for short nonfiction. He lives in Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Praise For Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands: A Young Politician's Quest for Recovery in the American West

"Fascinating biographical sketch… DiSilvestro paints a vivid panorama of the fast-vanishing frontier and plays the material straight." –Publishers Weekly

"A good example of how focused biographical writing, when skillfully executed, can enlighten as well as a full-life biography." –Kirkus

"Highly recommended as useful to scholars and accessible to general readers, this work focuses on the nature of the Badlands crucible that ultimately recast Roosevelt's sense of confidence and purpose as a participant in American governance." –Library Journal