In 1908, the Washington Evening Star reported:
“There is no home in Washington so full of pets of high and low degree as is the White House, and those pets not only occupy the attention of the children, but the president is himself their good friend, and has a personal interest in every one of them.”
The president in question was none other than Teddy Roosevelt, and one of the more endearing White House pet stories involves his son Archie’s pony, Algonquin.
Nine-year-old Archie, the fifth of six Roosevelt children, received the Shetland pony from Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock as a gift.
Secretary Hitchcock imported the animal from Iceland, and the 8-year-old pony was described as a beautiful specimen of his breed.
Measuring 33 inches in height at the withers and weighing in at 350 pounds, Algonquin was described by The Washington Post as “iron gray or dun with spots and compactly built with round barrel, small ears, clean pony face, and stocky limbs.”
Apparently, he was photogenic as well because the pony and Archie became favorites of White House photographers. “Algonquin is a very good-natured, though spirited little beast,” the Post went on to report. “And when carrying his youthful master, the two are a picture calculated to inspire an artist.”
- Don’t Miss: Emily Spinach in the Roosevelt White House
An Elevator Ride Fit for a Pony
The story goes that when Archie was recovering from the measles in spring 1903, he asked his mother if he could visit his pony.
After Mrs. Roosevelt said Archie was not strong enough yet to venture to the stable, White House footman Charles Reeder came up with an alternate plan. He decided to bring the pony to the boy by walking Algonquin into the White House and into the elevator.
Reeder later recalled that Algonquin shivered and looked around wildly when the elevator began to move but then settled down for his journey.
Archie was delighted to see his friend and let out a loud whoop when he saw him. One report of the encounter says the pony startled and slipped on the bedroom floor with a large crash that sent the entire family running.
That summer, Algonquin accompanied the First Family to Sagamore Hill, their home on Long Island. Once again, the press couldn’t resist the story.
One Washington, D.C. columnist wrote, “The question now agitating the mind of the groom in charge [is] whether Archie will ride in the box car with Algonquin or whether Algonquin will be accorded a section of a Pullman with Archie.”
Another Roosevelt son had a famous macaw named Eli. You can read all about it here.