TR and Ethel Blog Re-Size

This is a photograph from the Apperson collection that has been needling my mind for nearly three months.  When it first appeared in a group of photos I was processing, I immediately thought: That’s Teddy Roosevelt! However, one does not claim to have found a candid image of a U.S. President willy-nilly. Especially since the annotation, which had been added by a previous processor, described the image as: “Date, People, Unknown, 1920s”.  Moreover my colleague, Kimberly Kunker, and I could find no evidence of Theodore Roosevelt appearing in Apperson’s papers. Despite my curiosity, I put the photo away and continued working on the collection, hoping to revisit the topic once we finished processing the papers as a whole.

When we started processing the Apperson papers in August of last year, the collection had been sorted, arranged and annotated by multiple earlier archival processors. Thus, the original order[1] and provenance[2] of the photographic collection naturally had been affected as new filing schemes were introduced to the organization of the images.

While many captions that were noted on the photos led to a mountain of fantastic information around topics such as the Dome Island and Apperson’s decades-long fight against the International Paper Company, I also noticed that the annotations on many of the photos would need to be researched further for authentication.

Later in the year as I was preparing for the John S. Apperson Papers Uncovered, a presentation featuring hidden treasures in the collection, I came upon the photograph in question once more. Again, the man in dappled shadow looked familiar, but, this time another face jumped out at me: the little girl glaring on the pack basket. I knew that glare.

Years ago, in a previous position at the New York State Library, I processed a large collection of photos of Theodore Roosevelt and his family.  The face of Theodore’s notoriously sassy daughter, Ethel, stayed in my mind. It occurred to me that there is more than one way to identify a photograph!

Ethel Roosevelt 1900   Ethel   Ethel Roosevelt Fall 1901

From the left: portrait of Ethel Roosevelt 1900[3], close up of the Apperson photograph, portrait of Ethel Roosevelt 1901[4].  By comparing Ethel’s official portraits we may identify the both the young girl and an approximate date range.



Theodore Roosevelt was an outstanding champion of early American conservationism and outdoor recreation, a great proselytizer for “the strenuous life”, and a known family man.  His activity in the Adirondacks has been well documented from his 12-year-old awe and wonder of the wild region in his 1871 diary to the American legend that he had to be brought down from a family camping trip on Mt. Marcy in 1901 to be sworn in as president after the assassination of President McKinley. By dating this photograph with Ethel Roosevelt’s age and appearance, it is possible that this image was captured on that very same 1901 Adirondack excursion!  Sadly, because as no supporting documentation was found in the collection I cannot say for sure.  I can say though, that this photograph is one more reason to be grateful for John S. Apperson’s avid and dedicated photographic documentation of the Adirondacks for showing us that Theodore Roosevelt strove to pass along his ideals of wilderness, conservationism, and the outdoors to all of his children, even his youngest daughter.



[1] The organization and sequence of records established by the creator of the records, Society of American Archivists Glossary. <>

[2] Information regarding the origins, custody, and ownership of an item or collection, Society of American Archivists Glossary.


[3] Edith Kermit Carow Roosevelt and Ethel Roosevelt. 1900. Prints and Photographs division. Library of Congress. Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University.

[4] Ethel Roosevelt. 1901. Prints and Photographs division. Library of Congress. Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library. Dickinson State University.