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Robert Barnwell Roosevelt

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Robert Barnwell Roosevelt

Robert Barnwell Roosevelt
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
Died June 14, 1906(1906-06-14) (aged 76)
Sayville, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Ellis Roosevelt

Robert Barnwell Roosevelt, also known as Robert Barnhill Roosevelt (August 7, 1829 – June 14, 1906), was a sportsman, author and United States Congressman from New York (1871–1873).[1]


He was born in New York City.[2] Roosevelt studied law and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1850. He commenced practice in New York City.[1] During the Civil War he was an active Democrat, and a founder of the Allotment Commission and the Loyal National League.[3]


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.[3]

Roosevelt was elected as a Democrat to the 42nd Congress (March 4, 1871 – March 4, 1873).[1] Although the pressure of anti-Tammany Democratic organizations forced Tammany Hall to approve his nomination, he denounced its measures,[3] and did much to contribute to the breaking up of the latter organization.[4]

He was appointed by President Grover Cleveland as Minister to The Hague, serving from 1888 to 1890. He was treasurer of the Democratic National Committee in 1892. He was a member of the Board of Aldermen of New York City. He served as trustee representing the city of New York for the New York and Brooklyn Bridge from 1879 to 1882.[1] He was instrumental in establishing paid fire and health departments in New York City.[3]


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,[1] 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.[3] As a member of the U.S. Congress, he originated the bill to create the United States Fish Commission.[5]


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.[6] 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).

Theodore Roosevelt, in his biography, credits Robert 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."[7]

Roosevelt died in Sayville, Suffolk County, N.Y., on June 14, 1906. His remains were interred in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.[1]


Robert Roosevelt's father was Cornelius Roosevelt (1794–1871) and his mother was Margaret Barnhill (1799–1861). He was also the nephew of James I. Roosevelt. He was the brother of Theodore Roosevelt, Sr., the uncle of President Theodore Roosevelt and the great-uncle of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was to father many children. Some children were born from his marriage and others were born from his relationship with a long-term mistress. After the death of his first wife, he married his mistress. The offspring of his second wife were recognized as his stepsons.

First wife. The three children born to Elizabeth Ellis Roosevelt were Margaret Barnhill Roosevelt, John Ellis Roosevelt, and Robert Roosevelt Jr..[8] He purchased the Meadowcroft property at Sayville, New York in 1873 and it was later developed by his son as the John Ellis Roosevelt Estate.[9] It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.[10]

Second wife. The two children born out of wedlock to Minnie O'Shea Fortescue were Kenyon Fortescue and Granville Roland Fortescue.


External links

  • Template:CongBio
  • Find a Grave
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

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