Theodore Roosevelt had several dogs during his time as President, some belonging to him and others to various family members. One such pet was his daughter Alice’s black Pekingese named Manchu.
Manchu was a gift given to Alice by Chinese Empress Dowager Cixi in 1905, making him a rather unorthodox but well-loved gift. He was a match for Alice, who tended to be unorthodox herself. In an era where women faced much pressure to conform, Alice defied the norms. She could often be seen smoking in public or staying out late at parties.
In late 1905, Alice traveled with then-Secretary of War William Howard Taft and his delegation to various places in the Pacific and Asia. It was rumored that her father sent her as part of the delegation because he was aware that her antics would distract the press from possible secret negotiations between the U.S. and Japan.
In her autobiography, Alice described meeting the Dowager Empress for the first time and then their subsequent conversation in the gardens of the palace. The next morning, on September 15th, Alice was presented with Manchu as a gift. Manchu took to her new owner, and appeared to have enjoyed being a bit wild herself – Alice claimed that she once saw Manchu dancing in the moonlight on the lawn of the White House.
Luckily, Manchu took to Alice’s new husband, Nicholas Longworth III, as well. At times when the pair were apart, Nicholas would write notes to his wife. In one such note while she was away, he said “Manchu and I had a rather panting and fitful slumber. It having eschewed its basket for a distinguished and at times audible position beneath my bed whence I had not the heart to drive it because we both missed our Bubbie so much.”
Manchu is sometimes reported to be a spaniel, but this is unlikely. Given the circumstances and the person from whom he was gifted (the Chinese Dowager Empress) and their location at the time (Peking), a Pekingese is much more likely.