Owen Wister recalls, however, that a song written for the 1879 Dickey show referred to Roosevelt as "awful smart, with waxed mustache and hair in curls." Indeed, the Roosevelt of his college days looked nothing like the portly president of the 1900's. He was thin-faced and anemic, and had not yet developed the much-caricatured prominent teeth and jaw of his later years. He also wore reddish whiskers, carefully nurtured, which caused amusement in the Yard.
There are some indications that Roosevelt was not only remote, but was actually considered a queer youth. William Roscoe Thayer, a class behind T. R., could see none of the "charm that he developed later ...he was a good deal of a joke... active and enthusiastic and that was all." A contemporary Boston debutante noted that he was "studious, ambitious, eccentric--not the sort to appeal at first."
With his social background, however, Roosevelt gained acceptance, at least in the clubbie set. He climbed the social terraces at Harvard--the Dickey, the Hasty Pudding, and that loftiest of social honors, the Porcellian. But he must have been a somewhat unorthodox club member. One day he took Alice Lee to lunch at the "Porc," never before polluted by the presence of a woman. "The luncheon with Alice," Pringle notes, "caused manly indignation in the breasts of fellow members, and the true Porcellian man will deny even now that it ever could have happened."
His Other Activities
Roosevelt also joined a slew of college activities on which he spent relatively little time. His wide range of interests is shown by his membership in the Advocate, the Natural History Society, of which he was vice-president, the Art Club, the Finance Club, the Glee Club (associate member), the Harvard Rifle Corps, the O. K. Society (a group of Advocate editors), and the Harvard Athletic Association, of which he was steward.
Strangely enough, Roosevelt did not stand out at Harvard in two areas of his later success--public speaking and writing. He got two of his worst grades in forensics, he never practiced debating, and he seldom wrote for publication.
In the light of Roosevelt's later
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