It’s November 11, 1907, and President Roosevelt has just signed a letter to the Reverend Roland C. Dryer of Nunda, New York. In the missive, he outlines in forceful terms his reasons for not wanting the phrase “In God We Trust” emblazoned on U.S. money. But just what was it that made Roosevelt feel so strongly about this seemingly trivial matter?
Before we answer that question, though, let’s find out how Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Jr. ended up as the 26th president of the United States. Roosevelt made his entrance into a well-to-do household in New York City’s Manhattan in October 1858. His father was successful in business and philanthropy, while his mother was a socialite.
The young Roosevelt was a sickly child who was prone to severe asthma episodes that were alarming to both him and his parents. Despite his ailments, though, he was an active boy with a lively mind. Meanwhile, his father was a major influence. And indeed, in later life, Roosevelt wrote of his father in his 1913 autobiography, “He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice or untruthfulness.”