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1136408

Hiram W. Johnson

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Johnson ironically wishes his former Senate colleague, who died a few months later,

a very happy New Year—one which will bring health and contentment in abundance.” 

Hiram Warren Johnson, 1866-1945.  Governor of California, 1911-1917; United States Senator from California, 1917-1945. Typed Letter Signed, Hiram W. Johnson, one page, 5¼” x 6¾”, with integral leaf attached, on stationery of the United States Senate, Washington, D.C., January 3, 1940.  With original envelope.

Johnson, one of the most powerful Senators of his era, thanks his former Senate colleague, former Illinois Senator William H. Dieterich, for his holiday message.  He writes:  “It was kind and thoughtful of you to send me the note of Season’s Greetings which you did, and I very greatly appreciate it.  /  I wish for you and yours a very happy New Year—one which will bring health and contentment in abundance.  /  With my personal regards, I am  /  Very truly yours . . . .”

This note has a note of irony.  Dieterich died on a business trip in late 1940.  He had served a term in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate in 1932 and then served but one Senate term and did not run for reelection in 1938.

Johnson, a popular Senator, was a leading progressive.  A Republican, he bolted the party to run for Vice President with former President Theodore Roosevelt on the Progressive, or “Bull Moose,” Party ticket in 1912.  The Republican split assured the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Johnson sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1920, but in the days of the Great Depression he supported Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 election, crossed party lines to vote with the Democrats to support many of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs, and supported Roosevelt for reelection in 1936. 

Yet despite his progressivism, Johnson was an extreme isolationist.  After World War I, he was one of the Senate’s “Irreconcilables” who opposed ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and Wilson’s effort to have the United States join the new League of Nations.  The United States’ refusal to join the League largely undercut the League’s authority and effectiveness and opened the door for Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany to ignite World War II some 20 years later.  Johnson did not later oppose the United States’ entry into the United Nations after World War II, however, although he died shortly after the Senate ratified the U.N. charter and thus did not live to see the organization formally come into existence in October 1945.  Ironically, Johnson died August 6, 1945, the date the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

This letter is in fine to very fine condition.  It has but one normal mailing fold, which does not touch Johnson’s black fountain pen signature.  It also has some toning from storage in the envelope, but the toning largely affects the integral leaf and does not show through to the front of the letter itself.  The accompanying original envelope is in fine condition.

Unframed.

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