Heir to the Empire City

New York and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9780465024292

USD: $32  /  CAD: $40

ON SALE: December 10th 2013

Genre: Nonfiction / History / United States / 19th Century


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Theodore Roosevelt is best remembered as America’s prototypical “cowboy” president-a Rough Rider who derived his political wisdom from a youth spent in the untamed American West. But while the great outdoors certainly shaped Roosevelt’s identity, historian Edward P. Kohn argues that it was his hometown of New York that made him the progressive president we celebrate today. During his early political career, Roosevelt took on local Republican factions and Tammany Hall Democrats alike, proving his commitment to reform at all costs. He combated the city’s rampant corruption, and helped to guide New York through the perils of rabid urbanization and the challenges of accommodating an influx of immigrants-experiences that would serve him well as president of the United States.

A riveting account of a man and a city on the brink of greatness, Heir to the Empire City reveals that Roosevelt’s true education took place not in the West but on the mean streets of nineteenth-century New York.

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Reader Reviews


"The historian Edward P. Kohn returns with a primer that corrects the 'Western image' of the Manhattan-born former police commissioner and governor."—Sam Roberts, New York Times
"Kohn's prose is snappy and engaging, and his portrayal of the city, from the economic slump of the 1850s, through the Civil War, and growth of the avenues of corruption that it would be TR's charge to cleans, is as vivid as his evocation of the man himself.... [T]his is a tight and well-argued thesis."—Daily Beast
"An intriguing portrait of Roosevelt's ascendance to power."—Kirkus Reviews
"Kohn provides a concise account of Roosevelt's early career and presents a convincing case that he should be remembered as a gentleman of the East, not a cowboy of the West."—Publishers Weekly
"Theodore Roosevelt has come down in history as the 'cowboy president,' a man whose persona was shaped by the period he spent in the Dakota badlands as a young man, riding, hunting, even owning two sizable ranches.... This claim--created in large part by Roosevelt himself--draws a healthy snort of disagreement from historian Edward Kohn.... The truth is, Mr. Kohn writes, Roosevelt is far more a product of New York City than the West."—Washington Times
"Kohn shows us the ways Roosevelt both shaped and was shaped by the city.... He was not a cowboy after all, but an adroit politician who 'carefully calculated what was practicable,' and Kohn persuades us that New York was Roosevelt's prep school for the presidency."—New York Times Book Review
"Heir to the Empire City recasts America's 26th president as what its author believes he truly was: a politician shaped mainly by his upbringing in New York City and public service in the Empire State, who in turn shaped the city at a time when it was undergoing tremendous--and tremendously rapid--change."—Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
"Focused and concise, this book is a solid choice for general readers of history not sufficiently aware of TR's cosmopolitan background in contrast to his adopted cowboy persona. It details another side of a consequential, transformative rather than transitional president."—Library Journal
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