What Is the Meaning of the Teddy Roosevelt Statue at the Museum of Natural History?

If you’ve ever visited the Museum of Natural History in New York City, you may have noticed a massive bronze statue of former President Theodore Roosevelt on horseback. This statue has been a part of the museum’s collection since 1940, but many visitors are left wondering about its significance.

The History of the Teddy Roosevelt Statue

The statue was created by sculptor James Earle Fraser and was unveiled in 1940. It stands at an impressive 17 feet tall and is located in front of the museum’s main entrance. The statue depicts Roosevelt on horseback, flanked by an African man and a Native American man on either side.

The Symbolism

The symbolism behind the statue is complex and multi-layered. At its core, the statue is meant to celebrate Roosevelt’s contributions to conservation efforts in America. During his presidency, Roosevelt established numerous national parks and wildlife refuges, and he was a vocal advocate for protecting natural habitats.

However, the inclusion of the African and Native American men next to Roosevelt has been a source of controversy over the years. Some have criticized the statue as perpetuating racist stereotypes, while others argue that it represents Roosevelt’s belief in American exceptionalism and his commitment to expanding America’s influence around the globe.

The Controversy

In recent years, there have been calls to remove or modify the statue due to its problematic racial imagery. In 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio formed a commission to review all public monuments in New York City for potential offensive content. The commission ultimately recommended keeping the Teddy Roosevelt statue but adding interpretive plaques to provide context about its historical significance.


The Teddy Roosevelt statue at the Museum of Natural History is a complex symbol that reflects both America’s conservation legacy and its complicated history with race relations. While some find it offensive or outdated, others see it as an important reminder of Roosevelt’s contributions to preserving America’s natural beauty. Regardless of your stance, the statue remains a prominent landmark in New York City and a fascinating piece of American history.