Theodore Roosevelt was our nation’s 26th President and during his time in office he accomplished great things. But perhaps one of the best things about Roosevelt was his love of animals. He and the First Family had many pets during their lifetimes. Dogs, horses, and of course, cats (along with some other, more exotic, pets.) One such cat was Tom Quartz.
This feisty kitten Roosevelt named Tom Quartz, after a character in Mark Twain’s story Roughing It. In the novel, Tom Quartz was a large, blue tom cat whose owner took up quartz mining. Roosevelt’s Tom Quartz likely didn’t do much mining, but he did cause a stir in the White House on a few occasions.
Tom regularly harassed Jack, one of the family’s terriers. Jack was reportedly afraid of cats, and Tom took full advantage of this fear. “Tom Quartz is certainly the cunningest kitten I have ever seen,” said Roosevelt to his son Kermit in a letter dated January 8th, 1903. “He is always playing pranks on Jack and I get very nervous lest Jack should grow too irritated.” Roosevelt goes on to say how a few evenings before, Tom had made a beeline for Jack and continually jumped on and over the beleaguered terrier before Jack finally had had enough and headed out. Unfortunately, Tom saw an opportunity and just as Jack was leaving, he latched onto the terrier’s rear end, sending Jack running.
Another time, Tom Quartz became “attached” to Speaker of the House Mr. Cannon, whom Roosevelt described as being “an exceedingly solemn, elderly gentleman with chin whiskers, who certainly does not look to be of a playful nature.” This meant nothing to Tom, as when he saw Mr. Cannon stroll by, he “jumped to the conclusion that he [Cannon] was a playmate escaping, and raced after him, suddenly grasping him by the leg the way he does Archie and Quentin when they play hide-and-seek with him.”
Tom apparently had a liking for politicians. A few weeks later, Roosevelt wrote son Kermit that Tom Quartz had found himself and Senator Hanna in the red room and “instantly selected him as a playmate also.” He goes out to say that “Senator Hanna, unlike Uncle Joe Cannon, quite entered into the spirit of the game himself.”
Despite his predilection for pestering politicians, Tom Quartz was affectionate with his family. At one time, he accompanied the Roosevelts for a walk outdoors in their Oyster Bay home, although he was carried the whole way by Archie Roosevelt.
There is no record of what happened to Tom during the post-Presidency years. However, given the Roosevelt family’s love of their pets, it is likely he happily lived out the rest of his days with them.