Jack, Theodore Roosevelt’s Dog


Kermit Roosevelt, son of President Theodore Roosevelt, sits with the Manchester terrier Jack on the White House lawn in 1902. Courtesy Frances Benjamin Johnston, Library of Congress.

When President Theodore Roosevelt, his wife, and his six children left Washington, D.C. in 1909, he remarked: “I don’t think any family has enjoyed the White House more than we have.”

The lively young family did have quite the menagerie of pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and a pony.

One of the beloved family dogs was a black, smooth-haired Manchester terrier named Blackjack, or Jack for short.

Known for their alertness, Manchester terriers have been described as cat-like in their fastidiousness. Reserved with strangers but devoted to its family, the Manchester terrier generally is a well-mannered house pet.

“Absolutely a Member of the Family”

In a letter dated July 27, 1902 to a Mrs. Roswell Field, President Roosevelt wrote, “It is a real pleasure to send you a photograph of my boy Kermit, with Jack, the Manchester terrier, who is absolutely a member of the family.”

Apparently Jack did have at least one weakness: He was afraid of cats. One source, in fact, reports that the family cat, Tom Quartz, capitalized on Jack’s fear of her and terrorized him every chance she got.

According to a biography of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., Jack was the family’s first ever “inside” dog, and he slept with Ted “and would crawl under the covers and sleep alongside his feet.

The problem was that Jack sometimes enjoyed eating covers of books. But the dog’s personality still won over all of the family. President Roosevelt wrote: “Jack was human in his intelligence and affection; he learned all kinds of tricks, was a high-bred gentleman, never brawled, and was a dauntless fighter.”

Buried and Then Moved

When Jack died, the family buried him behind the White House. First Lady Edith Roosevelt had a change of heart, however, saying she couldn’t bear to have the little dog there “beneath the eyes of presidents who might care nothing for little black dogs.”

At the end of Roosevelt’s second term in 1908, Jack’s coffin was exhumed and reburied at Sagamore Hill, the Roosevelts’ Long Island estate.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. wrote in All in the Family: “Mother wished another dog as much like him as could be found — a “Jack dog.” We got another Manchester terrier, a miserable meaching creature, like Jack in nothing but color.

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